Essay Like My Job

(CNN)More than half of Americans find their job unsatisfactory, according to an annual survey released last month by the Conference Board research group. The nationhas been hovering around the halfway mark of job dissatisfaction since at least 2000.

Think of the people you work with every day. Half of them do not like being there. Maybe you're one of them, living a life that Henry David Thoreau would have described as one of "quiet desperation."
Many of us also conflate our self-worth with our career, unhelpfully, and our job unhappiness becomes life unhappiness, which raises the stakes.
Wouldn't it be nice to stop being envious of those who love their jobs and become one of them?
There is a lot of career advice out there about how to ask for a raise, get a promotion, deal with a difficult boss, manage others and so on. But very little addresses the fundamental issue of your day-to-day happiness at work, which is a shame, since you don't need anyone else to give you that happiness.
The factors that can tip the scales one way or the other for job happiness can boil down to our innate desire for three things: control over our lives, positive daily connections, and joy and meaning in how we spend our waking time (half of which is at work, for most people).
The way to integrate our need for control, connection and meaning -- while on the clock -- is by "job crafting." That's the term used by Yale University psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski and University of Michigan professor of business administration and psychology Jane E. Dutton. It's about "taking control of, or reframing, some of these factors," they wrote in a study on the topic.

The problem is not the job

People who don't like their jobs -- i.e., most of us -- may suffer and grumble day to day. They may even be chronically stressed, a state that has serious medical consequences, from hypertension and cardiovascular disease to decreased mental health, according to a meta-analysis of studies by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School.
There are also factors connected to job happiness that we have little control over, such as your boss. About half of people who quit their job did so "to get away from their manager," according to a Gallup poll last year. Salaries are important as well.
But we don't usually decide who our boss is, and they can suddenly change. As for money, studies have showed it has only a short-term effect on happiness.
So that leaves you with one powerful recourse: Take matters into your own hands.
Wrzesniewski and Dutton's research focused on three main factors of deeper workplace satisfaction that are within your sphere of influence: 1) Refining your job to add parts you like and remove parts you don't. 2) Building better relationships with your colleagues. 3) Reframing your job to add meaning and purpose.
Wrzesniewski distilled them nicely on the excellent social science podcast The Hidden Brain. Their research isn't just theoretical. They wrote an instruction manual on how to job craft.
And -- in my own, less scientific, more DIY way -- here are exercises I've been practicing to get into better work happiness shape.
Start by making three lists. (Do this over a nice cup of coffee or tea in a quiet place, during work hours.) One list is all the things you currently like about your job, big and small. The second lists all the hassles and headaches of your job, from the petty to the systemic.
And the third lists things you'd like to be able to do in your job that you currently don't -- even if they have nothing to do with what you're paid to do. You can add "take more solo brainstorming coffee breaks" to it if you like.
Now, it's time to systematically attack items on the second two lists. Go for a few easy wins first. Some things you can start adding and subtracting today; others may take months. Some may require buy-in from your boss (who will hopefully be amenable to increasing your workplace happiness), but many won't. Some changes will be directly related to your job, while others will just be ways to increase happiness or reduce stress while there.
Be imaginative with these lists. Creativity is itself a well-being booster. Writing this wisdom column is something I added to my job. It has benefits to the company I can easily articulate but also makes me happy (and adds meaning to my job). I also try to go to the gym in our office. Again, it has the benefit of reducing stress and sick days while increasing my energy at work but also benefits me personally.
Over time, your lists will grow and, as you cross off items, shrink. But make sure that when you remove an item from the second list (things you don't like) and third list (what you want to add), you record the change on the first list (things you like about your job). Every new item on that first list is another rung in the ladder of work happiness, and it's good to look down every so often and see how high you've reached.

2) Enjoy your work neighbors

You can't do much to change the cast of characters with whom you work. But you can enhance every one of those relationships.
Learn more about what others want and help them achieve it, even if you aren't their boss. Make meetings more fun or engaging. Help reduce the length, mandatory attendance and frequency of those meetings. Instigate off-site gatherings, even in the middle of the day. Get lunches, coffees and drinks, and don't talk about work unless you really want to. Try inserting humor throughout the day.
Just getting to know your colleagues better -- which is no harder than asking them questions -- deepens your connection to them. The more you're connected, the more you're going to look forward to seeing them every day. And if you look forward to interacting with your co-workers, you're going to like your job a lot more as a result. You may not like what you do, but at least Michael, Collin and Fiona will be there!
The added benefit of this second effort is that it increases happiness for your colleagues too, perhaps helping them to tip their scale into the "satisfactory" side and beyond.

3) Create a new job title in your head

Wrzesniewski and Dutton's research focused, in part, on a group of hospital cleaning staff (PDF). It's a job that most people, without having done it, might assume would be unsatisfactory. Cleaning bed pans and interacting with the sick and dying is few people's dream job.
But what they found was that a significant factor among those who reported liking their job was how they cognitively reframed it. The work was the same for everyone, but while some thought it was comprised of uncreative tasks, those who liked the work thought of themselves as playing a critical role in healing patients. One person considered him or herself an "ambassador."
And it's not just thinking differently, because that has limited effect when nothing else changes. Thinking differently altered they way they performed the job, as well.
"It's more than just a change of mindset," Wrzesniewski explained to me. "It's a change in your behaviorapproach to your job. If you think 'I'm an ambassador to the hospital,' it changes what you do."
For example, you may be cleaning bedpans, but if you think of yourself as a caregiver, you may be looking at what's in the bedpan for signs of health problems to alert to a nurse. "You don't think, 'I can't do that,' " said Wrzesniewski. "That's where the action really comes in."
By shifting the paradigm around their job and adding meaning and purpose, thehospital staff made the tougher parts of their job tolerable, even important, and changed their behavior to support that purpose.
Can you do that with your job?
Think about the part you play in a larger framework that has a positive effect on others, or the environment. You may do data entry in a cubicle, but what's that data used for? And how is your commitment to accuracy and detail vital to the effectiveness of that data? You may perform rote tasks in a factory, but are you helping build something that people need or brings others joy?
How might your actions change when you start seeing it that way?
Beyond whatever the job itself accomplishes, there is also meaning and purpose with what you do with your wages. Providing for your family, for example, is fundamentally important to their ability to thrive. It is important -- particularly when you are stressed, put out or otherwise unhappy -- to remind yourself of the security and opportunities garnered from your wages. That alone may give you strength in difficult moments at work.
"Onboarding" is the term human resources folks use when someone starts at a new company, to get them prepared.
It's now time for you to get on board with your new start. You're prepared. You are the human resource you've been waiting for.
Here's the last takeaway: These factors -- improving how you spend time, connecting with those around you, adding meaning to your tasks -- are just as vital for your non-working hours.

Let’s face it. Jobs suck.

I spent 13 years of my life working in various jobs, and I never felt right about it. Not once did I feel like I was doing my life’s work.

There was always a little voice in the back of my head telling me “you’ll never be happy working for someone else. When are you going to get the balls to try working for yourself?

In 2006 I found those balls.

After 13 years of working on shit I didn’t care about, after the boredom, the depression, after all the crap I endured from bosses who expected 60 hour weeks and still gave me a hard time about taking a week off here or there, after feeling like there MUST be more to life than Corporate America™

I decided to ditch my well-paying but mind-numbingly-boring job and find out for myself if being self-employed was the answer to all my prayers.

I always knew my life would be incomplete until I at least tried working for myself. To see if I could do it and find out what life would be like without the rules everyone else lives under. For some reason, it took me 13 years and 5 jobs to finally take the plunge.

Finally I looked myself in the eye and asked, “why the fuck should I spend close to 50% of my waking hours during the most healthy and vibrant period of my life at a job, doing something I couldn’t care less about, contributing far less than my true potential to the world?

I decided I wanted my life to be about more than powerpoint slides and meetings, and worrying about what some boss thought of me.

Why the hell did it take me so long to ask this question and own up to what I felt was my destiny?

Mostly it was fear. Fear and comfort…

Why You Should Never Work a Job Again

Listen, if you like your job, that’s cool. I know there are some people out there who are fulfilled by their jobs. (although I suspect you might not be totally satisfied if you’re still reading this)

Most people I know pretty much hate their jobs. They complain about the work, the people, the commute, the pay, the hours, the lack of vacation time and control over their lives.

They talk about dreams and hobbies and “some day” as if it just isn’t in the cards for them. That version of life is for someone else, someone with better luck and fewer responsibilities.

99% of these people will work a job until they retire or die. Most just accept that having a job is something you simply do in life. You’re born, you grow up, you work at a job, you retire and enjoy yourself for a few years or a decade, you get old, and then you die.

Some of the poor and middle class complain about corporate control of wealth and power, and yet most of us work for those companies, buy what they sell us, watch what they create and accept their vision of the world as our reality.

But don’t get me started on that…

This isn’t about society or what other people do.

It’s about you.

It’s about asking yourself what you want your life to be all about. Do you want the next 30 years to go by, only to feel like you never tested yourself? Like you never stretched your limits and capabilities and experienced everything you possibly could in life? Like you wasted your potential because you lived under some invisible set of rules your whole life?

I’m not saying you should quit your job tomorrow (although you would probably be just fine if you did), but if you have the entrepreneurial bug like I did, you’ll never be completely satisfied until you try working for yourself.

If you feel like your job is keeping you from living the life you really want to live, here are three reasons you should never take a job again.

  1. Working a job gives someone else control over the majority of your life.
  2. These aren’t feudal times. If you live in the free world, there is no reason you have to work for someone else. The freedom to pursue happiness and live the life you desire is the greatest gift of modern society, yet most of us piss that opportunity away.

    When you work a job, someone else is ultimately in control of what you work on, what you’re responsible for, when you work, when you take time off and how much you earn.

    If you absolutely love your job, perhaps giving up that amount of control is worth it. For most people, it seems insane to accept those conditions.

  3. Working a job is dangerously comfortable.
  4. When you work for someone else, life is just comfortable enough to keep you from asking the really important questions.

    Sure, you feel like your soul is being crushed every day at work, but at least you get a paycheck, right?

    How much of that paycheck is spent on vices and entertainment just to make yourself feel better or to cover up the fundamental lack of fulfillment you feel?

    Fear is what keeps most people from doing extraordinary things in life. Most people choose to stay in jobs they hate because they’re scared shitless of the alternative. They’re afraid they don’t have what it takes, that they’ll fail miserably and become homeless embarrassments.

    The truth is, if you get past the fear and laziness, there’s no reason you can’t accomplish anything you want.

    Jobs keep you just comfortable enough so you never have a strong enough reason to confront those fears and start living your life’s purpose.

  5. Working for yourself is one of the most challenging and rewarding things you will ever do.
  6. As a kid growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I spent a fair amount of time fishing with my dad. I used to see this phrase on t-shirts and bumper stickers a lot:

    “The Worst Day Fishin’ is Better than the Best Day at Work.”

    The same is true of working for yourself.

    During the worst days of working for yourself, you’ll be terrified, worried, anxious and full of self-doubt. You’ll think you made a huge mistake and you’ll convince yourself that you don’t have what it takes.

    But even that day will be better than the best day of working for someone else. Maybe not on the surface, but deep-down there is still a sense of purpose and satisfaction that can only come from pursuing self-reliance in it’s highest form. Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive than lions in the zoo.

There’s no better time than right now to start working for yourself.

How do I know this?

You’ll never be younger, and you’ll never be fully prepared.

The perfect day to commit to your dream will never come. There is no such thing as being fully prepared. There are things you can never learn or prepare for except by actually doing them.

Working for yourself takes a tremendous amount of courage and energy. Every day you let go by makes it less likely you’ll ever pull the trigger, and less likely you’ll persevere if you do decide to quit.

For those of you already committing to working for yourself: It’s more possible than ever to make “your thing” and earn a full time living from it, but you HAVE to start with the right mindset and process.

This means changing everything you know about business… because the wrong expectations will sink any small business idea.

So, you need something that will train you without boring you to death, something that will walk you through each step of the process without limiting you, and something you can easily afford. It didn’t exist, so we made it.

If you’re already committed to working for yourself, watch this video and learn about the 9 stage business roadmap.

Maybe you need to do some more thinking. If so, keep reading. But if you already know you’re going to step out on your own, give yourself and your business the best possible chance of success and start your roadmap today.

(P.S. in the video you’ll learn about the 3 phases of the roadmap. This idea alone can help you process and plan better.)

If you’re feeling brave enough, here’s a challenge to consider:

Make your current job the last one you ever take.

Commit to making self-employment the only alternative to the job you have right now. Don’t give yourself the option of finding another job. Ever.

If you get sick of your job and want to find another, use that drive to go freelance or build your own business. Don’t give in and take another job.

If you get laid off or fired, use that as a sign that it’s time. Take your unemployment benefits or savings and buy your freedom by jumping into self employment.

But don’t wait around until you have no job, or until you get so sick of your current job that you have no other option. Instead, commit to yourself that you’ll quit your current job by a certain date. After that date, you’ll never work a regular job again. You’ll do whatever it takes to support yourself through your own creativity and perseverance.

If you’re reading this and you don’t have a job right now, fuck looking for one. How long will you spend looking for a job that you’re going to hate in six months anyway? Use that time instead to build a life of freedom and fulfillment. Live on your parents’ couch or live off your spouse’s earnings for as long as it takes. Convince your supporters that this is the greatest gift they could ever give you, and then don’t let them down.

Don’t accept this challenge lightly.

Take a weekend by yourself to really think about this challenge. Go away for a couple of days and ask yourself life’s hard questions. Ask what you really want your life to be about. What do you want to try, to experience, to accomplish?

If you decide that working for yourself should be a big part of your future, give yourself some time to put a plan together. Then, don’t be shy about telling people your plan. Once you set a date, the world will conspire to help you make your dream happen.

And remember, the worst that can happen probably isn’t all that bad.

The journey won’t be easy, but at least you’ll be growing and pushing yourself. You’ll be testing your limits. That’s one of life’s greatest gifts.

The irony is that by at least trying self employment, you’ll learn so much and gain so many new skills that you’ll end up becoming much more employable anyway.

Whatever you decide, be honest with yourself. You don’t have to accept your current reality as how you’re “supposed” to live, or as what you really want.

Start having this conversation with yourself today, because it’s one of the most important things you can do.

You owe it to yourself to live the life you know deep down you were meant to fulfill. You know it’s there. Making it happen all starts with admitting to yourself what you want.

Learn how to set goals that actually stick!

The Top 10 Mistakes in Online Business

Every week we talk with entrepreneurs. We talk about what’s working and what isn’t. We talk about successes and failures. We spend time with complete newbies, seasoned veterans, and everything in between.

One topic that comes up over and over again with both groups is mistakes made in starting businesses. Newbies love to learn about mistakes so they can avoid them. Veterans love to talk about what they wish they had known when starting out.

These conversations have been fascinating, so we compiled a list of the 10 mistakes we hear most often into a nifty lil' guide. Get the 10 Most Common Mistakes in Starting an Online Business here »

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