It’s my ambition that in my lifetime, everyone in the UK goes to work each morning loving the work they are doing. I don’t believe this is too much to ask and just thinking about the kind of society this would foster makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!
Now I suspect, strongly, that many of you out there doubt that this is possible. I’m basing this assumption on the fact that not so very long ago, I was one of these people. I was working in a job that was sucking the life out of me and I was justifying it by telling myself that it was a justifiable means to get the money I needed to do the things I wanted to, outside of work. Five years ago I would have told you it’s irrelevant whether you love your work all the time; as long as you get paid to have holidays, hobbies and experiences that you love, it doesn’t matter if work doesn’t engage you.
But there was one big problem with this; the ‘hobbies’ were actually anaesthetic. And over time, I needed more and more of my fix to ignore the pain of having to do work that was not fulfilling my needs, was not my passion and was not from the heart.
I appeared to be highly functioning, very effective and was well rewarded for what I did. I could hold an intelligent conversation with anyone on pretty much any topic. But I was actually running to stand still, or rather, to go backwards, by the end of this stage of my life.
In fact, I was what I now refer to as a “Sleepworker”. I had taken no conscious decisions about my career up until that point. Yes, I had chosen my subjects at school, my degree course and university, to train and work as a lawyer and latterly to be a highly paid partner in an investment banking headhunting firm. But I can tell you honestly, at none of those decision points did I consider asking myself about:
i) My personal needs from my work,
ii) The activities I love doing,
iii) The environment I love being in, and
iv) Who I love being around.
Like me, other Sleepworkers have never considered these questions; instead, a Sleepworker asks “which job will pay me the most money doing something I know that I can do?”
A Sleepworker analyses job opportunities in the following way:
1) Headline – is this job within my working experience?
2) Money – is the pay high enough?
3) Criteria for the role – can I do the job, or at least, do most of it well enough to buy time to learn what I don’t know, on the job?
Corporates love employing Sleepworkers because they turn up nearly every day (even though they’re miserable), paying them a little bit extra now and then keeps them docile and providing them with just a few other perks (holiday, pension, travel expenses etc.) keeps them hard at work at their desk. It strikes me this is a ‘time for money’ trade not far removed from the employment conditions in the factories of the industrial revolution. I call these corporates “Factory Corporates”.
Sleepworkers are content to work for Factory Corporates and sit in what I call the “CAN DO” space. This is where their experience to date matches what is expected of their role. They look enviously at the people working in the “WANT TO” space; they see a lucky few who never experience work as, well, ‘work’. Sleepworkers often feel like the WANT TO space is unobtainable; it feels like a million miles away from the CAN DO space.
Here’s how a Sleepworker sees these two spaces:
Money is the primary motivator for the Sleepworker in the CAN DO space. There is little perceived purpose in the role (apart from self-interest) when in this space. The challenge of the role, pretty much, remains constant. It’s running to stand still. There’s no feeling of flow.
The WANT TO space is where productivity flows from a sense of purpose and feeling passionate about the detail and the bigger picture of the work being done. This is a space where the challenge of the role is always steadily increasing. Not so much that we can’t cope, but enough so that we always remain interested. This is the space that is tailor made to our desires and needs, not the other way around.
In order for Sleepworkers to wake up and find the work they love, they will need to embrace the following:
1) Uncovering your “Career DNA” is the foundation for all future career success.
First of all, discover your own Career DNA, your own unique building blocks to a career you love. This is your own personal checklist of what matters to you most. Each person’s Career DNA is different and unless someone has invented mind reading, only you will know what it is. The good news is that I can help you find out what yours is! Essentially, it comes down to us working through (to the point of searing authenticity) these four questions:
i) What do I love doing?
ii) What environment do I love being in?
iii) Who do I love being around?
iv) What am I truly great at?
2) The Career DNA of the individual matters more than the criteria of the role.
Once you have uncovered your Career DNA, assess every possible career opportunity against it. Seeing how the work matches up to your Career DNA is the clearest way you will find to predict your future engagement in a work role.
As a general rule, if any given work role fulfills 70% or more of your DNA, it’s worth exploring further because it has a good chance of fulfilling your needs. Ideally we should be aiming for an 80% to 90% match. But if the match is less than 50% don’t bother to apply for the role, it will soon have you back to Sleepworking.
3) Trust that the money will follow.
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that we all become hippies and go off and build mud huts in Tibet for work. For starters, there’s probably not enough spare land left in Tibet for us all to go around building mud huts there.
What I’ve noticed (personally as well as in my clients’ experiences) is that the money will flow to us far more readily, when we are doing work that we love. At the very basic level, I’ve noticed that we are far more likely to pay, for example, suppliers, who appear to us to love what they do. Catering staff have known this for a long time; who wants to leave a tip for miserable waiting staff?
I’m suggesting that placing ‘making money’ as our absolute priority actually damages our earning capacity because it prevents us from identifying our passions and purpose. Of course we want to be paid to the maximum, according to the value we deliver. It’s just that I believe that this is most likely when we sit in the space where the CAN DO (experience) circle bisects the WANT TO (passion and purpose) circle.
The Sleepworker might feel that the CAN DO and WANT TO spaces are far apart, but in actual fact, they are not; what I have found is that for everyone, there is a significant overlap. Only by waking from Sleepworking and consciously putting ourselves in the overlap do we leverage our experience in a role that we care passionately about and are most motivated about fulfilling. It’s so beautifully simple and in my experience, it works!
When the individual is working in a role that mirrors who they are, with total authenticity, the CAN DO and WANT TO spaces completely overlap. It is at this point that our personal, unique experience, not just in work but everywhere in life, equips us perfectly with everything we need to be productive in our chosen role.
What can I do if I think I’m a Sleepworker?
Phew! If you’re asking this question you’re on the pathway out of your factory!
Follow through the ideas I’ve written about in this article. Don’t listen to the Sleepworkers who tell you it’s unrealistic and work is always going to be hard. In fact, you can tell those people from me, that work has to be challenging for it to be motivating but it never has to be hard!
If you’d like to wake up from being a Sleepworker, we’d love to help you – get in touch with FlowCoacher today for a free 1 hour session to learn how we can help you.