Dancing with Transition: The journey toward meaningful work

- Worker Happiness

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by Hélène Schmit

A lot of us here have decided or are thinking about leaving the corporate world behind to build a work life on their own terms. A life where meaning, fulfillment, balance, flexibility, trust are the keywords. A life where you can be yourself in your work and are celebrated for that.

Because we are all united by one very powerful belief: Something else is possible. And we all joined Happy Melly to connect together under the belief that happiness at work can be a reality.

One day, that belief becomes stronger than the frustration, the boredom, the burn-out, the fears.

This is when you know it is time, you are ready to start your transition to a life on your own terms. And even if there are a couple decisions to be made that can be scary, you know this is the right thing to do. (Of course that kind of decision is much easier when you don’t have kids or other financial responsibilities, and you can take that leap more boldly.)

What we are running away from includes: outdated work formats and hours, guilt, that stifling feeling of never-enough-ness whatever we do, boredom or non-fulfillment, stress, repressive management where innovation and creativity are not welcomed…and the list goes on. Pick the ones that you can relate to, I am pretty sure you’ve had your share.

And then the transition to happiness at work begins

Transition. A lot of people tell me this word does not make them dream. Personally, it has brought about the most interesting times of my life. And this is why I have decided to make it my mission to help people move happily through it.

An interesting dance happens during times of transition —  surrendering, unlearning, opening up, making key encounters, facing dreams as well as fears, travelling to places and meeting people that will change your vision of work and life forever.

And more than anything, this time is about discovering the importance of having a tribe of like-minded people around you. People who are where you’re at or where you have been before, so they completely get what it implies and how it feels. It may be a cliché, but it is the truth, people can’t know what it feels like to move through uncertainty, personal and professional exploration, juggling with faith, inspirations as well as fears and limiting beliefs, until they’ve actually gone through this move from from breakdown to breakthroughs.

I’d like to tell you there is a shortcut, a secret formula, a magic pill. There is not. But it does not mean it has to be painful or constantly uncomfortable either.

The three stages of transition to a job you love

Stage One: Lower the pressure

In this space, you either just took the leap (took a sabbatical or even quit your job) or you are about to do so. It is both exciting and halting. You feel that for the first time of your life you allow yourself to be fully in charge of your decisions and where all of this might lead you. You are at the beginning of something, you just don’t know what that something is. And it feels strange to feel at the same time you can control your destiny but actually have no control!

My advice: When you are there, no need to jump on listing Plan B’s, options, connections. It’s very likely to have the opposite effect than the one you’re expecting because it will leave you making a decision from a place of unsettlement, fear, discomfort, pressure This is a moment that has to be fully dedicated to yourself. Rest, disconnect, do grounding, mindful activities, read, and in this process explore and assess your core needs, your values, get a deeper understanding of your fears. Without falling back on another cliché, travel is the ideal scenario at this stage, to take you out of your everyday familiar surroundings that always feel more charged with emotions, history, and habits. More generally, take time to nurture and pamper yourself. It can be few weeks or a few months, it can even last a year when you have pushed your body to burn out (like I did).

Stage Two: A work in process

You’ve had your rest, you have much more clarity, you got used to this new pace, you are slowly reconnecting to dreams and ideas.  Now you feel ready to do something, ready to get back in the game. You might have a few ideas, maybe five or even ten. And you don’t know what to do and how to start.

My advice: Here again, you will need time. Take a step back to try to see your own Big Picture. It is time to go back to the basics: reflect on your talents, your skills, what makes you unique, what drives you. And also what does not! To make the most of this unique opportunity, embrace that self-exploration process. You have all the answers in your past experiences, personal and professional.

There is one secret weapon to maximize the benefits of this process: travel in places where entrepreneurs, game changers, and innovators are brought together. Or surround yourself as much as possible with them if you are lucky to live in a place where there is a strong entrepreneurial culture.  This is a space where self-awareness, patience, support and inspiration comes from like-minded people, as well as embracing creative procrastination.

(Recommended Reading: Originals: How nonconformists move the world from Adam Grant)

Stage Three: The back-to-work momentum

Yes! You finally have one or several projects. You know it feels right, you know it makes sense, and now is time to go back in “real” action mode. For sure you don’t want to go back to a restricted and counterproductive work rhythm. There are tools to avoid this, even if some patterns are deeply anchored in us through culture, education and former management. You learned to follow your flow, your intuition in the past two stages.

After embracing a period of exploration and creation, turning the result into a clear project and as a consequence list of goals and tasks feels exciting and can be a bit overwhelming. Even more if it is the first time you are leading a work project on your own, outside of a traditional company. Truth is you are going to miss this sense of structure, security and shared responsibility and decision-making.

My advice: Don’t go cold turkey, take a couple weeks to get back into full working mode. Take these few weeks to plan, anticipate, identify what you need help on, and assess the energy effect of your upcoming tasks as well as the priorities.  

Also see this “back in action” time as a wonderful and unique opportunity to design your days on your own terms: redefine productivity by managing your energy and not your time. Organise your days depending on your natural rhythm, your nature, your energy level fluctuation. Try different rhythms to see what fits you the best, as well as the nature of the tasks you have to do.

When it comes to your tasks, at least 60 percent must be uplifting your energy and/or fulfill you, so you can deal with the 40 percent remaining (which can still be boring or draining) and be sustainably conscious and careful with your energy management. Develop little work routines that will help you frame your days. Normally, if you have done your self-exploration work and have designed a project that is aligned with your nature, this should not be a problem!

Also listen to Helene on our podcast!

Set the foundations of a values and inspiration based work life

Step 1: Focus on your values

List three to five core values that are important to you. For each of them, write your own definition of it, and write how it makes you feel when fulfilled, as well as why.

Step 2: Focus on your inspirations

Who are your heroes, your role models, your inspirations? List five of them and explain why briefly. What values and qualities are they embodying? How do they resonate with the person you are and the work life you want to build for yourself? They say a lot about the kind of life, projects, jobs, person you want to have or be.

Step 3: Focus on your success/fulfillment patterns

Make a list of at least three events/situations that you consider your greatest achievements/successes in the last five years, on a professional or personal point of view. Define each time if it was it teamwork or a self achievement. For each “success”, list why you think it has been a success or achievement, what value(s) has been nourished, and how you felt. And write how you in particular contributed to that success, with your uniqueness and talents, how you made a difference.

Are you seeing a pattern? How does it resonate with the two previous exercise?

Step 4: Wrap it all together

Is your current work life or project aligned with the outcomes of these exercises? If not, what small actions could you take to improve it?

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