Is your working life in the doldrums? Do you feel stuck in a rut? Uncertain about the future? Depressed by what you can see ahead? Still looking for a job that will fully engage your interest?
If so, you're like millions of others who face each working week more with resignation than excitement. It's not that things are bad. They just aren't as good as you would like them to be.
So would you like to be doing something you truly enjoy? Something that builds on your strengths and really means something to you?
Of course you would.
It's easier than you may think.
What I've been describing is job:life alignment. When you're out of sorts with your job and your career, it's because you and the work you do are misaligned. It doesn't engage your interest fully. It doesn't play to your main strengths. It doesn't pay you enough in return for your effort - and I don't just mean money. Payment comes in many forms and the most important to you may not be financial.
What Causes Misalignment?
Put briefly, what you're doing isn't lined up with the most important values in your life.
Values are far more than simple beliefs or personal standards. The word has been hijacked by politicians and preachers and become debased in the process. Values are the source of everything that's most important in our lives. They're the inner drivers and fundamental needs that make us who we are.
You can't live without discomfort and frustration if your most cherished values are violated or ignored. Few people can even tolerate such a situation for long. When you hear about people walking away from their job, their friends or their family, that's the result of an irreconcilable mismatch between their values and the situation they're in.
Now that's an extreme and most of us don't have to face such a dramatic situation. But we may find oursevles facing continual small misalignments between what truly matters to us and the way we are currently living our lives. It's like having a pair of shoes that don't quite fit, and walking around all day with sore feet as a result. You can do it, but it isn't how you want to spend your time.
Why Tolerate It?
The obvious question is why people tolerate things being like this. Why don't they vote with their feet (sorry!) and move to another job or another employer?
For a start, people are generally far more aware of what they don't much like than what they do, so the feel the need for a change, but don't know what change to make. They aren't sure what would be better - or they assume a job they love is just a dream; they'll never be able to work anywhere that really fits them. Since they don't know how to set about changing the situation, they stay where they are. Better the devil you know. In time, they tell themselves it's how life is and convince themselves they have to put up with it.
The Way Out
But there is a way out - and it doesn't need a visit to a shrink or a postgraduate degree in psychology. Nor do you have to take up meditation or spend hours on inner searching (unless you want to, of course). All it takes is the willingness to set aside around thirty minutes and follow a few simple steps.
The result will be a clear picture of your most important values - a blueprint for what's going to provide you the greatest satisfaction in your working life and how to go about finding it.
And once you know this clearly, practical steps to get your work and your values back into alignment are far, far easier.
Let's be honest. Getting this alignment back into place may take some time and effort. I'm not going to pretend it's a slam dunk. You may have to make some changes. But you knew that, didn't you? And you aren't afraid to change a few things - provided you know the right way to go about it.
Is It Worth It?
Only you can answer that. Ask yourself whether you're prepared to spend half an hour doing some simple research on your life, in return for a clear idea of what you need to do to escape from the rut you're in. Is it worth it to be able to go to work expecting interest, excitement and fun?
You see, even if you can't imagine changing your job, or pointing your life in a new direction, there are still many ways you can make your current situation more aligned with who you really are.
Remember, we aren't talking about extremes. Just the everyday things you can do to improve the quality - and rewards - of your working life.
Here's What To Do
Take a piece of paper and write down all the things you most enjoy about your work. What you find most interesting and most exciting. What makes you feel good.
Don't agonize about your choice. Just do it without thinking too much about it.
Put this piece of paper aside and take another one. Now write down all the things you dislike most about your working life. The things you put off as long as you can. The activities that put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
Take the first sheet again and look for links and similaries. Are there items that go together naturally? Find a name for these categories. It might be “having new ideas. " Or “making my own decisions. " Or “having good working relationships. " Don't try to find a clever name. You're the only one who will see this activity, so go with whatever categories make sense to you.
Now do the same for the second sheet - the one with the things you dislike.
Look at the positive and negative categories you've assembled. Do any of these go together? Perhaps the negative is the opposite of the positive.
What you're looking for are the fundamental values that give you the most satisfaction from work and wroking life. Go for these whenever you can.
And the negatives? Just try to avoid them.
That's it. Nothing complicated or difficult. But it could transform the rest of your life.
And do it now. The greatest cause for living a boring life is constantly putting off doing anything about it.
Adrian W. Savage writes for people who want help with the daily dilemmas they face at work. He has contributed more than 25 articles to leading British and American publications and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Chicago Tribune.
You can find his blog on ethics, diversity and living life to the full at http://www.adriansavage.com.