Finding a career that allows us to feel happy, satisfied, and gives us purpose is not easy.
It is not something we were taught in school or corporate training programs.
The reality is, many of us feel a disconnection between our work and how we feel. We are just slightly out of sync at work. The passion for our job was decreasing. For me, the challenge started in my 30’s. I liked my job. I liked my coworkers, but I did not feel fulfilled. I spent over 15 years searching for a career that fed my soul and gave me joy and purpose.
As with many of us, my job defined me.
I had a large amount of responsibility. I was driving products that generated millions of dollars of revenue. I was working insane hours with peers across the globe, at all hours of the day. The more I worked, the more I liked to brag about how much I accomplished. This bragging was to make myself feel good since my career was not feeding my soul.
The impact of having unfulfilling work is a large amount of stress. We end up sick, depressed, divorced and just miserable because we have the sense of unfulfillment in our job. For me, the pressure caused me to miss out of moments with my children; I was angry all of the time, and worst of all, I ended up very sick
Why do we all do this to ourselves? The answer is fairly simple…we love to be respected and have people be impressed with us. It’s called praise addiction. Throughout life, we were given praise for good grades, for being perfect, trophies for winning, and in the process, our ego started to love the praise. We felt like we belonged.
When we hit the corporate world, our salaries increased, our titles changes, and we started to earn respect and praise. And best of all, when people asked what we did, they were so impressed. For me, each time someone asked what I did, and I told them, it gave me a shot of adrenaline and just a moment of happiness that I am a rock star. I had a sense of belonging and validation from this praise. But seconds later, the emptiness was still there.
We all need to feel like we belong, that we are accepted as part of the ‘tribe’.
The more praise we get at work, the more we want to continue the rush of validation of belonging. When we are not praised, our mind starts suddenly telling ourselves we are not good enough, we are not strong, we are not worthy. To counteract this, we become addicted to praise.
How do we start to solve this problem, so we can find the career that fulfills us, gives us joy, and drives our purpose?
Step #1: Admit that you have a praise problem. For me, this revelation came in graduate school during an exercise when we were asked to visualize how we wanted our life to be. I immediately started to cry as I realized that what I was missing was fulfillment. I saw myself getting praise and then going back to unfulfilled, stressed-out Lynne.
Step #2: Find your Purpose. The next step is to understand what feeds you. What are your values? What gives you fulfillment? What gives you joy? Let your hungry soul find its real food. Experiment with new ideas. Hire a coach to help you through this process.
Step #3: Be kind to yourself. We are all so hard on ourselves. When we are not perfecting, we are beating ourselves up. When we are not seeking praise, we are judging others. We need to start to love ourselves like we love our family and friends. We need to begin to listen to our inner dialog in our head and realize it is just a story. We are enough. We are worthy.
Finding the right career is transformational. It fills us with joy and purpose. This sense of joy is so strong that the need for praise goes away. Ask anyone who has a career they are passionate about, and you can feel the emotional connection to their career.
Do what you love. Love what you do.