All of us have unexamined collection of beliefs, opinions, and points of view about how life works that we trust blindly and completely. We live by a rule book we wrote (or inherited) but never read. We think we know our limits, how far we can travel from the safety of the world we know, and what would happen if we jumped off the edge of the known world. For routine issues, automatically following this internal rule book works just fine, but with regard to choosing one’s life’s work, it pays to rewrite a few of the rules.
Yes, you might have to make some compromises along the way. But don’t start off assuming you have to make them. Just because you didn’t have a stellar history at college doesn’t mean you can’t become a doctor. Just because you are a middle manager with a wife, kids, two cars, and a mortgage doesn’t mean you cannot own your own successful beach bar in Negril. You can decide what compromises you are willing to make, if any. You can choose them consciously, rather than assuming there is no other possibility. In any event, the one way to avoid making unnecessary compromises is to challenge your assumptions and throw away the ones that aren’t useful.
When the sun rises, I go to work.
When the sun goes down, I take my rest,
I dig the well from which I drink,
I farm the soil which yields my food,
I share creation. Kings can do no more.
—Anonymous, From China , 2500 B. C.
Right livelihood is an ancient Asian philosophical concept that proposes a perfect working relationship and flow between you and the world around you. Like the farmer who wrote the poem above, when you achieve right livelihood, you are in perfect harmony with creation. You have become ecologically appropriate.
Harmonious work is like breathing: In and out! In and out! On we go! There is a perfect, harmonious balance between you and the rest of the universe. What you give and what you get are balanced. All living creatures, from gorilla to mosquito express right livelihood. We humans are the exceptions. On close examination, right livelihood is really a very practical set of guidelines for living. Here’s one interpretation of the components:
1. Your work fully expresses all aspects of your nature. It fits your innate talents perfectly. It expresses your temperament and personality fully, even those parts you do not see as positive. It provides the rewards that matter to you. It fulfills your goals. It occurs in an environment that is suitable and appropriate to who you are.
2. The subject of your work is something in which you have a passionate and abiding interest. It is deeply meaningful to you. It continues to appeal to you as the years roll by.
3. Your work continually nourishes you. It provides a natural route for your evolution. Its challenges stretch you to continue to learn and grow.
4. It does no harm to anyone. It is ecologically sound. It does not oppose appropriate stewardship of the earth.
5. It serves humanity in some way. You and I cannot judge what is appropriate service for another person. In the larger scheme of things, an IRS agent is just as important a part of the fabric of humanity as is a teacher, a mother, an entrepreneur. Perhaps without IRS agents, nobody would pay their taxes, everything would crumble, and Mad Max would take over.
6. It is freely accepted. You work because you choose to, not because you are compelled to.
7. You are “being” yourself.
There have been endless articles with tips about how to get out of a rut at work. Tips don’t usually make much long-term difference. Putting a plant on your desk or going on a shopping spree isn’t going to solve anything.
The best way to deal with being stuck in a rut is to identify the problem: determine whether it is your job or your life that is stuck in the rut. Is it me or the job? Ask yourself: how much do I enjoy my life outside of work? Do I have adventure, new experiences and fun in my life? Or, do you watch the same TV shows, go to the same restaurants, have the same conversations with the same people over and over? Even movie stars have plenty of routine in their lives. All of us need to take care of the basics. Only you know if it is time to make your life a little juicier. Try new things. Think of what you would love to do but somehow never get around to. Make new friends. Visit new places. Shake out the sameness. It is impossible to know if your job is the main problem if your entire life needs a little more spice. Sometimes adding a little edge to your daily life cures the problem. What can you lose? When was the last time you had such a fabulous homework assignment?
If your life outside of work is fine, then ask, “Is it my job or my career”? Stuck in a rut is an idiom that comes from the days of unpaved roads. It was difficult to avoid the deep grooves in the road left by all the previous buggies that passed by before you.
How much do you enjoy the actual day-to-day work you perform? –the tasks and projects? Each job consists of a few very specific functions. Do most of them come easily and naturally to you? Do you care about the subject matter? If not, consider a career change rather than just moving to a new job doing the same things.
If you like the work but not the workplace environment, your co-workers, the routine, the organization or the management, you may just need a new job.
What seems like a rut may be a symptom of stress. What if you did the same work, in the same place, but were more relaxed and focused. You can train yourself to lower your stress level using a new tracking device called SPIRE (spire.io) that measures relaxation, focus and stress and coaches you to improve.
Are you in the wrong career? How about your friends and family? For the first time ever, Rockport Institute, the leading career change advisers and coaches, is giving away one $520 testing program to the winner of our social media contest. More than 14,000 people have paid full price for this program, which measures your natural talents and lets you know what careers fit you best.
This contest is to support our new social media marketing, the first marketing of any kind we have done in more than 30 years. Help us crank up our social media. We’ll help you choose a career you will love.
The giveaway starts Monday, January 12, 2015 at noon ET
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You may also want to check out our national top-10 selling career design guide, The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success