Many years ago I participated in an “Aligned Thinking” seminar, designed by Jim Steffen. One of the exercises in the program made a big difference in my life, so I want to share it with you.
Think about how you would answer this question: What do I really want from my work?
To break this down, make a list of five things you would really like to get out of the work you do (e.g., income, skills, training, camaraderie, pride, positive feelings, etc.). Don’t rush this—think it through. Choose the five most important things you can imagine gaining from your work. Now, give each one of those items a value from 1 to 10 in terms of how well you feel your job is achieving that goal or fulfilling that particular desire right now. When you are finished, take a look at how you scored yourself.
If your current job is giving you most of the things you desire from your work, you are one of the fortunate people who have a fulfilling work life. Your job is probably providing enjoyment, excitement, energy, etc. Good on you—that’s great!
But what if the things you want from your work are different from what you feel you’re gaining in your present job? In that case, it may be time for you to ask yourself a few questions, such as “What am I getting out of my work now? How is that different from what I really want to do? Are my tasks at work connected to things that are meaningful to me? How can I adjust my actions and attitudes so that my work can better meet my needs and wants?”
When I took this quiz, I came up with these things that I know I want to gain and enjoy from my work:
1. The opportunity to serve others. I’m convinced we finally become an adult when we realize we’re here to serve, not to be served.
2. Meaning. Every day I would like to make a difference in someone’s life, even if it’s just by giving them a warm smile. I’m always looking for meaningful encounters.
3. Fun. If something’s not fun, I don’t want to do it. Of course, not everything we do can be fun—some things have to be done so that we can accomplish other more important things. But if I can squeeze some fun into my day, I will.
4. Social interaction. It’s important to me to work and play with smart, fun loving people. That’s why I have so many coauthors—I really love working with and being around people.
5. The opportunity to grow and learn. I never want to stop learning new things. As I’ve said many times before, if you stop learning, you may as well lie down and let them put dirt over you.
I made this list many years ago, and I still love doing the kind of work that provides meaning, fun, social interaction, the opportunity to serve, and the opportunity to grow and learn new things. Most days I still do pretty well at checking off those boxes.
Of course, the ebb and flow of deadlines, special projects, health concerns, etc., keep many of us from being able to say our job satisfies our wants and needs every single day. But when we determine what we really want from work, we create a purpose—an individual mission—for working. And we can start taking steps toward achieving those desires.
Life is a special occasion. Work is an important part of it. People who practice Aligned Thinking know how to get more of what they want out of work—and life.