It’s hard to believe it was only two months ago I published a blog Flipping of the Calendar on how key dates in your life can prompt reflection on your career. Although the Life Visioning Activity remains relevant, I want to share two activities you can consider when you have the headspace for reflection.
Turning to my bookshelf for inspiration I was reminded how a book by Mark Manson was shared amongst colleagues during a tumultuous period of organisational change. The premise is that we are bombarded with messages to do and be more, and the way out of the stress-inducing negative feedback loop this induces is to reorient ourselves to ‘only what is true and immediate and important’.
In the few weeks since the Covid-19 lockdown, my online career coaching conversations with clients took on a new form with an open question along the lines of ‘How has Covid-19 impacted on your thinking about your career?’ The answers are, as could be expected, about reprioritising time and energy, and a shift of focus to shorter term goals with longer term goals in a holding pattern until the economic impacts are clearer. For an increasing number of households, the ‘true and immediate and important’ will be about ensuring the health and wellbeing of loved ones – that there’s a roof over their head, food on the table, and supportive connections in place.
In a time of uncertainty, maintaining a strong sense of our own identity is a positive contributor to our health and wellbeing. Our identity is made up of multiple and multi-faceted career or work-life roles, roles that are likely changing in ways we didn’t anticipate.
So, what is important to you in work and life?
Identifying your values
Our career coaching work with clients continues to confirm that values need to be at the centre of every career and employment decision and yet they are often overlooked. Alignment of work with your values is strongly linked to your level of satisfaction. With many facing career and job transitions over the coming months, it is vital to understand not only what values you will and won’t compromise when seeking your next opportunity but also how your values can be met through a range of work-life roles, not just from paid work. The Career Development Company has developed a range of free career tip sheets including one on Identifying your Values . Follow the activity steps to identify the values most important to you, how they are currently being met through your work-life roles and consider them when making career and employment decisions.
What matters in your life?
Attempts to balance the different elements of our life may have seemed overwhelming and may become increasingly frustrating in the Covid-19 context. Take some time to explore what matters in your life and become clearer about your priorities at this moment. Maybe some things can drop away, leaving you less burdened.
- Relax your body and mind. When you are ready, write ‘I am …’ followed by an aspect of your identity – the key roles and activities in your life. Do this as many times from different aspects of your life e.g., … parent/ grandparent …daughter/ son … support to aged parents … sibling …friend … volunteer … neighbour … business owner/employee/ manager/ contractor … learner/ student … home maintainer …. animal lover … arts supporter … environmentalist … cyclist/runner/gym goer …
- Choose five that seem most ‘true and immediate and important’. Capture your thoughts and feelings about each of these roles and activities in whatever way you prefer – with drawings, words or symbols – working with sheets of paper or online. For each, describe why this is most important to you, what your focus has been so far, and any ideas for what you would like to do differently (start, stop, do more or less of).
- After you’ve finished, allow time for insights – take a walk or ‘sleep on it’. Some prompt questions: What roles and activities feel rich and abundant, and which feel weaker and undernourished? Can you take energy and learnings from one to give to another?
- Finally take a few minutes to note any practical resolve that comes to mind. Remember that this is about feeling less burdened and doing what matters most to you e.g.,
- ‘I am going to give more time to do the things I care most about. These are … ‘
- I am giving up doing … so I can spend more time with/on …‘
During an extended and difficult period of organisational change my colleagues and I were inspired by a book that teaches how to take inventory of your life and scrub out all but the most important items. I hope these activities help you to identify what is most important to you.
Julie Thomas is an Executive Director of The Career Development Company.