Doing What You Love? Loving What You Do?

Does your job inspire your passion – or merely occupy your attention? Our culture is wired to view work negatively (TGIF!) while paradoxically defining an individual’s success through his or her job. Here’s the mixed message: You are what you do – but don’t expect to like it!

In this Valentine’s Day month, how can you write your true work “love story” without lapsing into science fiction? Here are four L.O.V.E. lessons to consider: Learn. Optimize. Vary. Ease.

L. Learn Yourself.

You’re the main character in this romance, so start with knowing yourself: a unique combination of habits, attitudes, and values as individualized as your fingerprints. You’re more than just your job title.

Look for things you consider essential to your satisfaction (at work, home, and with yourself). Delve into the root causes, and use that knowledge to guide your priorities. Carve out time for such introspection – a calendar priority like any important meeting – and do something that brings you satisfaction: read a book, go to a movie, exercise, etc.

Our new personality assessment can help uncover what drives and drains you. You might even learn it’s time to consider a new job or different career.

O. Optimize Time.

Thinking about your current work, consider the parts of your job that sap your energy. Try delegating some draining activities to better optimize your time and mood. Realize that your teammates likely have different strengths and preferences than you; they might see such assignments as energizing, stretch opportunities or chances to earn recognition with added responsibilities.

The key to successful delegation is to communicate, set timeframes and goals, and then get out of the way. Be very clear on the what and the when, but be open regarding the how. To better foster teamwork, provide further context by also including the why.

V. Vary Expectations.

If you are feeling overcommitted and burdened by others’ great expectations of you, take charge in changing that narrative. Communicate your needs to your supervisors and team; do not assume they understand your situation.

An important step could be asking for help. Remember, this is not a sign of weakness. In fact, research on high performers shows two interesting things: One, high performers actually ask for help more than low performers. Two, people respond positively to requests for help about three times more often than most people expect.

E. Ease Up.

Superheroes are found in comic books and movie theaters – not real life. With practice you can learn to be “okay” with not doing everything or being everything to everyone. Learn to focus your energy and attention on the most important areas, while allowing yourself to be average in less important matters.

This prioritization exercise is also a good chance to cultivate humility. Demonstrate you understand that individual, team, and organizational success are interdependent, that no one person can do it alone. Resist wearing a “mask” of invincibility, but embrace opportunities to learn as readily, as enthusiastically, and as genuinely as you do your strengths.

By living out these four L.O.V.E. lessons – Learn. Optimize. Vary. Ease. – you’ll find your work life can become more engaging, satisfying, and fun.

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