For me, work has always been a part of my life and I think my parents helped me develop a good work ethic from an early age. I wake up every morning ready to work. Most of the time I go to my job at Forest School but on days off I still have work to do. The list of things that I need to do within my paid employment or outside of it NEVER ends! We will come back to this slightly scary fact later!
I have to stress, these are just my view, experiences and learnings. My wife read the blog before I published it and said, “you see things so differently to me”. This, of course may not be how you see life. I just see a lot of people who seem to struggle with the drudge of life and want to share my learning so that maybe they can shift their thinking to make the process a little more enjoyable, meaningful and achieve more.
During this blog, I want you to think of ‘work’ in a different way. Not just the thing you do to earn money but the 100s of things that you do each week that you have a responsibility for; putting the rubbish out, finding a new energy supplier, helping the children with homework, booking a dentist appointment, shopping, ironing, washing, start running again, fix the leaking tap, write to your grandad…… It goes on and on and you never get to the end of the list.
If there is always work to do, our work will certainly need managing. If our ever lasting jobs list isn’t well managed, a few things start to happen; increased stress, lower self-worth, lower motivation and increased failure. These are not positive outcomes and having experienced all of them individually as well as together I spend a lot of my time managing my own and other peoples expectations of the work I am expected to do. This is how I do it…….
- Accept that you will never get to the end of the list! It sounds so easy but I only really cracked this one a few years ago. Any bouts of anxiety, depression or low motivation during my life have been caused by not learning this simple rule. My expectations were always too high. I cant do it all, just get up, work hard and smart and put the rest on tomorrows list!
- Enjoy the process. This process by the way is called life. You only get one! When you think about the list of jobs above on top of your paid employment, you are likely to spend the majority of your life working. If you think of it all as work, it is likely to feel negative and like a chore. You become resentful of everything. Flip it! Flip it in your head. Its not work, its life. Again, it sounds so easy but its a challenge, but one thing I’m sure of is that resentment is a destructive and very negative emotion that needs addressing. I try not to become resentful of anything I do anymore. If I have a responsibility for something it is because I have made a choice in the past that has created that responsibility. Example….. I hate doing the weekly shop but I also hate my wife doing the weekly shop. She spends more money than I do and we waste more. No problem, she just cares less about money and wasting things than I do (one of the reasons I love her). I have to chose, do I accept that I have less money to spend on other things or do I do the shopping myself? I have chosen to do the shopping myself and therefore cant resent it. With no resentment I can start to enjoy the job. My son and I usually do it together and have a good time doing it. Usually by playing games like seeing what random items you can sneak into other people’s trollies. If you resent any part of your life, its time to change and that change starts in your own head.
- Under promise, over deliver. A controversial statement and maybe not the best philosophy for reaching the stars. But, one I use a lot to manage other people’s and particularly my expectations of my work. I have really struggled in the past by setting my goals too high. I often don’t reach those very high expectations and then feel negative about myself. Not a good place for my head. I am learning to set more realistic expectation of myself and others and am finding that I feel happy a lot more of the time.
Live to work vs Work to live?
For me, neither! I simply have things that I want to achieve in my life. If I want to achieve them, it is going to take effort and work. For my life choices so far, I have needed a certain amount of money so have needed a job that pays enough money. I also want to earn my money by doing something that makes a difference so have had to train and learn skills that allow me to get that job. I want to have meaningful relationships with my family and friends so have to work at those relationships with time, thoughtfulness and effort. I want good health so I need to exercise, eat well and stimulate my mind. These are all choices that are part and parcel of life. Live to work/work to live….. No just life!
As I move closer to the start of my sabbatical I am starting to realise that there has been a shift in what I want from my life. Before, I wanted to be successful and have a positive impact on peoples lives. I worked hard at it and feel proud of what I have achieved. I have created jobs for 12 staff and 60 children’s lives are improved each week as a result of my efforts (with lots of help from the staff). The shift is taking me in a direction that wants to focus more on other areas that maybe I would like to improve such as the relationships with people I love. This has been neglected to some extent in the past and I now need to work to improve them. I am also realising that you cant do it all, not well anyway! I’ve tried! I have always had an endless list of things that I want to achieve and have at times given myself a really hard time for not getting it all done. If I want to do something really well, I have to make space for it and work at it. Work for me is about to look very different. Brace yourself family and friends, this is your time!