At some point in our adult lives, most of us have a job that is absolutely soul-sucking.
I’m talking a little nauseated on the way into work (low key wondering how hard it would be to leave the country/disappear) and totally drained at the end of the day. I’ve been there in the past, and so has my friend Ashley, who graciously wrote the blog that follows.
Throughout that soul-sucking job, there are tools and strategies to make sure we show up for ourselves in the best possible way.
The following is more than just an article and includes an exercise for you to dive into and realign your priorities and passions.
Edit from 2022: Though Ashley’s gym is no longer open, her advice is sound!
Happy people are passionate people. I know this from both observation and experience. The times in my life when I have been the most unhappy have been the times when I could not see that the actions that I was taking and the path that I was walking was serving any kind of larger purpose.
I see this so often with the clients that I work with as a health & wellness coach. They feel like they should go to work and provide for themselves and their loved ones, they feel like the should eat healthy, and they feel like they should exercise. This is all true.
The issue is that the “should’s” reflect a misalignment of priorities. If you feel like you should do something, your behavior is aligned with some sort of external force that dictates your behavior rather than an internal source of motivation.
For me, I often feel like I should do my taxes. Do I want to? Absolutely not. But I know that my highest priority in life is to equip others with the tools to make healthy decisions. In order to do that, I have to run a sustainable business and do to that, I can’t get in trouble with the IRS.
Whenever I sit down to do some aspect of my job that I don’t enjoy I tell myself, “I am doing this because it’s my life’s mission to equip others with the tools to make healthy decisions.” And that particular task no longer seems as unpleasant!
Frederich Nietzsche is famous for saying, “He [or she] who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” And it is true that just about any situation is bearable if you can connect your circumstances to the service of a larger “why.”
You may hate certain aspects of your current job or even all of it. But if you can find alignment between at least some aspect of your job and your highest priorities, it’ll make your whole situation better.
Now if, like most people, you aren’t 100% clear about what your highest priorities are, let me walk you through a 5-step exercise that I take my clients through to discover and refine those priorities.
Note: You’re going to want to get out a blank sheet of paper and a pencil for this.
“You may hate certain aspects of your current job, or even all of it. But if you can find alignment between at least some aspect of your job and your highest priorities, it’ll make your whole situation better.”
Step #1: Answer the following 7 priorities alignment questions
Think about what are your personal spaces? Spaces that you don’t like other people messing with? (Don’t write it down) – Now think about elements that are common your personal spaces. Write down three things that you can typically find in that space.
My response: I don’t have a whole lot of what you would typically call “personal space,” but I do have a backpack that I carry around with me everywhere. In that backpack, I always keep a journal/book, my planner, and my phone.
What three things do you always free up time for?
My response: I protect my time around my workouts, meal planning/prep, and my sleep.
What are the top three things that make you feel most energized and alive?
My response: I am most alive when I am creating/learning & planning, and also when I am doing some sort of physical activity that I really enjoy.
Relatively speaking, in what 3 areas or aspects of your life are the most organized? (Note: even disorganized & messy people typically have at least one aspect of their lives when they are more organized than others)
My response: My planner, my kitchen, and my bookshelves are all extremely organized.
What 3 things engage you and capture your focus and attention the most?
Where does time fly by?
My response: When I’m reading a really good book, when I’m creating a piece of art or writing, and when I’m doing some sort of fun physical activity.
Think about what goals have you set that show signs that they are coming true (don’t write them down). No what are 3 things common to all those goals?
My response: All of my goals that show signs of coming true involve self-development, learning, and teaching others
What 3 things do you love talking to other people about? (Note: everyone is an “extrovert” in the areas that they are most passionate about. So even if you don’t really like talking to people, there is probably at least one thing you do involve talking about)
My response: Developing self-awareness, improving health, and things that I have read about recently.
Step #2: Make a list of all keywords used in Step 1 (there should be at least 21)
- Meal Plan/Prep
- Creating Learning
- Physical Activity Planner
- Physical Activity
Step #3: Combine words with similar meanings and place tally marks next to how many words with similar themes appeared on your list.
Self-Reflection III Learning IIIIII Planning III
Communication II Health &Wellness IIIIIIII Creating III
Step #4: Use the above exercise to determine your top 1-3 priorities
As you can see from the list, the themes that occurred most often for me were learning & health & wellness, closely followed by self-reflection, creation, and planning.
I am extremely fortunate that I have been able to create a career for myself that involves continual learning about more about health & wellness and creating tools and resources to help others with their own health & wellness journey.
Step #5: Reflect. Does your current work directly align with any those top 3 priorities?
If so, then you are definitely in the right place.
If not, you might need to complete some complicated mental gymnastics in order to connect the two, but there is always a way. Continually remind yourself that what you are doing and the uncomfortableness and unpleasantness that you may experience truly is in service of something important.
Did you learn anything new or interesting about yourself from this exercise? If so, I’d love to hear it!
Owner of Arena Health and Athletics.
Thanks again, Ashley!
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