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A Job Worth Having

A Job Worth Having

Although people have obvious financial needs that are a large part of what makes them seek employment, the money side of work doesn’t go far in making a job feel like something worth doing. It won’t make up for a job that is frustrating, boring, inconsequential or just plain dull.

People want more from their work. They want to be able to meet some at least of their other needs: for good social contact, for a sense of achievement, a feeling they’re doing something worthwhile, the sense of belonging to an organization they can feel proud of — even a sense of self-worth and meaning in life.

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It’s a sad fact many people find themselves disappointed in this side of their working lives. Maybe they began a job with high hopes, but now feel let down. Perhaps the work hasn’t lived up to the promises they were made during the recruitment process. Maybe there’s been a change in management and the new style of doing things no longer provides the pleasure they used to get before.

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Here are some questions it’s worth pondering to help decide whether those all-important intangibles of corporate culture and working environment will match up to your needs. Whether you’re thinking of a new job, or wondering if what you have is still what you need, it’s worth taking a little time out to run through this simple checklist.

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  1. Is the organization a community where people share the task of producing something most of them truly believe in? Or is it a profit-obsessed, hard-driving labor-camp, where rewards are high because there’s really nothing else on offer?
  2. Can you see whether managers and leaders work through trust and respect? Many organizations are command-and-control cultures where there’s little or no trust given or expected. If you don’t trust others, that may not matter. If you do — and you want to be trusted in return — it will drive you crazy.
  3. If people talk about a “team environment,” check what this means. Does it mean people happily work together when they should, and apart when that is more appropriate? Or is it a crime to stand out in any way, and a hanging offense to express dissent or question the view of the ruling majority?
  4. Does work/life balance mean employees are allowed to find suitable ways to balance job and non-job demands? Are there options like home working, flexible hours, agreed absences for family needs? If you exercise these options, will you be marked down as “not committed?” Some organizations have schemes for time off when it’s needed — but heaven help you if you ever make use of them.
  5. How does the company assess performance? Do bosses get to know their staff and work with them to achieve the best they can offer? Or is it the dreaded annual appraisal — that pointless ritual where people are coldly judged and usually found wanting? Worst of all, do they say they’re “results-oriented” and mean that you either “make the numbers” or make your way out of the building as quietly as possible?
  6. How all-pervasive are corporate politics? You won’t find an organization with none — that’s too much to expect — but the impact of politics varies from about what you would expect in any group of people to something that strongly resembles Soviet Russia under Stalin. Academic jobs are typically the most political of all.
  7. What does “commitment” mean? Is it being involved, loyal and giving an honest day’s work in return for your pay? Or does it mean selling your body, mind and soul to the corporation and never questioning any demands it places on you?

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list. Nor am I suggesting that you should seek a particular type of company to work for. One that would drive me insane might be exactly what suits you best. Even the most macho and demanding organizations have their admirers who wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. All that matters is that you should go into a job with your eyes and mind open, knowing what to expect and ready to work in that environment as happily as you can.

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Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on January 2, 2020

How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

4. Be Who You Are

It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

5. Slow Down and Let Go

Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

Final Thoughts

What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

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Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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