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By Donna Stoneham
Two reasons working mothers don’t thrive: 1) they aren’t contributing their greatest gifts and talents in their jobs or 2) they feel guilty about how they’re spending their time.
The sad fact is that only 3 out of 10 people in America feel engaged at work. Far too many of us are spending a third or more of our waking lives feeling disengaged or guilty. It doesn’t have to be that way! Life is too short, and our time is too precious a commodity to squander.
One of my executive coaching clients, Amanda, decided to stop trading her passion for a paycheck. A mother of young children in her late 30s, she made the decision to leave a high-profile job that enabled her to make a lot of money, but that also made her feel guilty about the lack of time she was able to spend with her family. After a vacation in which she was on her cell phone on the beach managing a crisis at work for several days in a row, she decided to quit her job and spend the summer with her kids. Her passion, at that time in her life, was to be more present for her children, but the lure of a big paycheck held her back from making that choice for several years.
Leaving her job required that Amanda and her husband make some trade-offs, but she took the leap, quit her job and dedicated that summer to her kids. In the fall, Amanda found a job 15 minutes from home, so instead of the three-hour commute that she’d endured, she was home by 5:00. When I spoke to her a couple of years later, she told me she was much more content about her life, her work, and her relationships with her husband and her children, and on top of all that, she no longer felt guilty!
3 steps toward finding a job you love
These three strategies helped Amanda make the choice to stop trading her passion for a paycheck. If you’re struggling with this issue, they may also work for you in finding a job you love:
1. Make your choices based on your own definition of success.
It’s easy to get caught up in the cultural trance that tells us that making lots of money and having a big title is what defines success. But there’s more to life than that. How do you define success and what’s true for you? In Amanda’s case, success was feeling like she was a more integral part of her children’s everyday lives and a having a healthy relationship with her husband, while still having a career where she could make a contribution. The important thing is to be true to yourself when making the choices you make in your life and career. Remember, it’s your definition of success that matters, not anyone else’s.
2. Be clear on your non-negotiables.
To determine if you’re trading your passion for a paycheck, ask yourself if there are places in your life where you are sacrificing what’s most important to you for the sake of things that are truly less important. If you’re going against deeply held values or feel depleted at the end of the day because you find little joy in the things you’re doing, then be honest about what’s really non-negotiable. In Amanda’s case, getting home late at night after a long commute and having only 30 minutes with her kids before bedtime became a non-negotiable. Having less disposable income but more time with them was a higher value. What are 3-5 things that are non-negotiable in your life when it comes to yourself, your family, and to how you spend your time? Are there places where you are not honoring those boundaries? What steps are you willing to take to change that?
3. Be clear what you’re passionate about and find ways to express it every day.
When you think of what you’re most passionate about, what comes to mind? What are the things you love to do that bring you joy? For example, if you’re passionate about yoga and can’t find the time to go to a regular class, offer to host a class at lunch at work or invite people that share a common interest to your house once a month and bring their mats. If you’re passionate about helping people develop, but are an individual contributor, offer to be a mentor to someone new in your office and show them the ropes. Find at least one way each day to contribute your gifts and to express what you care most deeply about, regardless of your role.
Make a list of what makes you feel most alive and engaged and look for ways to contribute those gifts and talents in every role you play. If you want to thrive in work and life, focus on what’s most important and make sure your actions and choices are aligned. Live a life that brings you joy, say goodbye to guilt, and don’t deprive yourself or the world of your gifts!
Donna Stoneham, PhD, is a master executive coach, transformational leadership expert, educator and speaker with more than 25 years of experience helping Fortune 1000 and not-for profit leaders, teams, and organizations unleash their power to thrive™ in work and life. She is President of Positive Impact, LLC, and is the author of the award winning book, The Thriver’s Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead, named by BuzzFeed as one of “9 Awesome Books for Your Kick-Ass Career.”