Have we changed our mindset about work? I argue that we have. In response to the pandemic, our framework for finding meaningful work has changed. Gone are the days when we strive to be “passionate” about our job. Most of us have adjusted our priorities and focused on aspects of life outside of our careers. Areas that were once neglected.
With so much change it is hard to know what to focus on! Flexibility and time with our families have replaced work and career as our main priorities. They provide more joy than hours spent slaving away at the office. Health has also jumped up the priority list alongside a focus on hobbies.
So how do we know what our personal priorities are? What questions can we reflect on to help us direct us towards a more fulfilling future?
What Are My Top 3 Values?
In Part Two of “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown there is an incredible exercise to help you figure out your values. She provides a list of values and asks you to narrow down the list to two that feel fundamental to your life. These aren’t necessarily factors that you are living in alignment with at the moment. They are traits that resonate with you on a deep level and provide you with a feeling of purpose. They should be so fundamental to your integrity that they don’t feel like a choice. For me, they are curiosity and responsibility.
Knowing your values is a great place to start so that you can consider each of your daily choices. By inspecting each choice against your values you can make clearer decisions to uncover your purpose.
You may find that your daily activities already line up! If so, great work! But if you are like me, you will see that there is likely some work to do in prioritizing your activities.
What Can’t I Live Without?
This will help with goal setting and prioritizing.
Think about the 3-5 things in your life that bring you joy or meaning and write them down. It can be helpful to talk through these lists with friends or family members. Ask them to dig deeper into your answers by asking meaningful questions. You will be able to dig deeper through your collaborative conversation.
What Would I Like to Live Without if I Could?
This question is tough to ask and exposes truths that you may not have admitted to yourself before. Try to be as specific as possible, narrowing down your answer to a few tangible items. The more specific you are, the easier it is to know what to change.
When you have a few items listed, continue to ask questions and be curious to your responses. This will help you determine how to address the areas that you would like to change. If you would like to live without your job, you may narrow it down to a specific coworker that is bothering you. You could ask to work with a new team in the company as a solution. If you would like to live without health issues from obesity, you may narrow down the problem to reducing wheezing when climbing stairs. To fix this, you might decide to avoid a specific junk food aisle in the grocery store.
What am I Good At?
This one may seem obvious. But so many of us don’t take the time to ask ourselves and others what we are good at. I am not talking about things that we have practiced a lot, but the things that we have strengths in.
Are you a curious person?
Are you especially driven?
Are you good at strategic thinking or problem solving?
If you are not sure, this is a great time to check out the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book from Gallup. I recommend using some time and money to complete the assessment. Your results will be 5 key strengths that you can then read about in the book. StrengthsFinder 2.0 has changed my thought process around the things that I’m good at. It has helped me realize that these pieces of me are valuable and helped me to realign my work with my purpose.
Where is My Association Taking Me?
This question encourages you to take a good look at the people you spend the most time with. According to Jim Rohn, we all are the product of our 5 closest connections.
It can be difficult to realize that our closest friends and family sometimes hold us back. Once in a while we need people outside of our close network that can help be a sounding board for our changes. This is especially true if you are making large shifts that will be noticed by (or disagreed with) by your close friends or family. It is important to have a few people that you can go to for encouragement and suggestions when needed. These should be people that have a similar lifestyle to what you are working towards or similar values and priorities. They can redirect your focus and navigate challenging situations with you. They are there to be a lighthouse for you when things get difficult.
If you don’t have these types of friends yet, it may be time to start extending your personal and professional network.
Examples of Networking Include:
- participating in “meet-up” style events about a topic of interest in your local area.
- volunteering for not-for-profits (bonus points for working on a board),
- attending online events
- investing time into cultural events that are important to you.
It’s Hard But…
Targeted reflection has been one of the most valuable ways to reset and refocus on my priorities.
I began long before the pandemic, but have leaned into it more as the world continues to change around me. It is challenging to take a step back and reflect. The questions in this blog are still hard for me to this day! These questions provide a compass for future decisions and will put you on a clear path to a meaningful work life.