At a conference I attended recently, a fellow delegate asked what I did for a living. When I explained that I managed a charity and also provided a career coaching service to people in my line of business, he seemed intrigued and wanted to know more. What did coaching involve, exactly?
I explained that my approach is to encourage clients to go on an in-depth treasure-hunt for their own unique gifts and talents, and then to take time to explore tactical, practical ways of using those talents on a regular basis – either inside or outside the workplace. My thesis, I explained, was that such an approach leads to a joyful and fulfilling life, and can – in some cases – also lead to a fruitful career.
“It all sounds like a bit too much hard work to me,” was his response.
It left me wondering: since when has effort had such a bum rap? It also made me realise that many of us assume that “making an effort” means having to do “hellishly hard work”.
But that’s the beauty of pursuing what we love. When we’re on track with using our gifts and talents, the effort is at least half the fun! That’s why I encourage clients to build their careers (and their hobbies) around their talents first, and their skills second.
You can be skilled at something – but if you don’t enjoy doing it, time drags and energy drops. I can put together a mean profit and loss account, but quite frankly, I’d rather chew glass.
Working hard at what you enjoy creates a pleasant sense of timelessness, and a state of mind where expending effort actually gives you energy, instead of depleting it. When you do eventually get tired, there’s a good chance it will be a very satisfied sort of tiredness. We all know the difference between dropping into bed at the end of a frazzled, nerve-jangling day full of hassles and worries that have sucked the life out of us, and one where we’ve given every last ounce of ourselves doing something that has been deeply satisfying and thoroughly rewarding.
Best of all, we all tend to be better at doing the things we enjoy – so we can get better results much more easily. In other words, doing what you love – even when it’s on the job – doesn’t feel much like hard work at all.
Consider the lever. A lever is basically a machine which multiplies a force you apply to move a load, by turning on a pivot or fulcrum.
Working at what you love gives you first-class leverage. Think about your talents as being the fulcrum. If you are expending effort with a view to generating results that are as close to the expression of your gifts and talents as possible, you’ll find it easier to work harder at getting the desired results. If however you’re working just for results, and you’re doing it with your gifts and talents somewhere off in the distance – you’ll find yourself feeling like you have to expend a lot more effort.
Believe me, I’m all for labour-saving approaches to anything, and I certainly don’t believe in being a martyr to industry. If I have to do something and can find an easy way of doing it, I will! But I’d never cheat myself out of the fun of doing something that makes my heart sing. When we avoid all effort, we do ourselves a great disservice; we rob ourselves of the chance to experience deep satisfaction, and a lot of fun.
Why not apply this thinking to your job-hunt? Looked at like this, we can see that effort has the potential to greatly improve our enjoyment of our careers – and our lives.