A lot of stuff you read encourages you to pursue your passions. This, they say, is the road to contentment.
But, no, this isn't a route to fulfilment.
It's nice to do what you enjoy, but if your job doesn't embody your core beliefs and motivations it will be unsatisfying. Irrespective of whether you like the activities of your work.
On the other hand figuring out what you value and shaping your career (or other big life decisions) around that is a game-changer.
Below I explain why passion isn't key, how a focus on vales can deliver more of what you want.
Why having the right job matters
Did you know that the time you spend working across your lifetime of 77.8 years (ish) amounts to 24.5 years give or take? (https://informationisbeautiful.net)
If you don’t enjoy your work, the environment or the people you work with, that’s a pretty hefty cost. 24.5 years of sub-optimal satisfaction. Or worse, utter misery.
So what should you do if your job frustrates you? What if you feel like a round peg in a square hole? What if you aren’t proud to tell people about the activity that takes up a third of your life?
First, DON’T PANIC!
However stuck you feel it is possible to find fulfilment and to live and work in a way that provides you with satisfaction.
You can find balance.
You will look forward to your working day again. But maybe you've been looking in the wrong places.
How to exit a job you dislike
Staying in a job that isn't serving your needs and wants is a recipe for discontentment.
It’s a place that many of us find ourselves.
But the thought of changing is often fraught with fear and unknowns. It could be any of the reasons below.
Why are you stuck in a job that you don't like?
You think that work is a necessary evil, so what's the point of changing.
You think you wouldn’t like any job because work is annoying. End of.
You feel you're lucky to have a job, so should be grateful.
You're afraid you won't be able to get what you want.
You worry it'll be a catastrophically bad decision if you move.
You are doing what you have always done, and it somehow feels safer to stay than to take the risk of changing.
It's not easy getting out of a job you dislike for lots of reasons. The most important thing is that you don't jump out of the frying pan into the fire. Good planning and deep thinking can get you a long way towards changing your 24.5 years of working life for the better. But to do it, you need some sound foundations and a powerful planning structure.
But also: your concerns are just opinions and attitudes. They are not facts. They are the kinds of thoughts that will keep you stuck and unhappy.
The way to exit a job is to explore what you really want, and to understand specifically how your current situation isn't giving you what you need.
It’s only really when you understand those things that you can start moving towards what you want.
What fulfils you may not be obvious
It is so important to know that we all have blind spots about ourselves. And what you think fulfils you is not as clearcut as you thought.
When I was planning on he getting out of theatre industry I looked at what I liked about my job.
With the benefit of hindsight this was the wrong approach.
There were lots of fun and interesting elements to my work.
I liked directing theatre, working as a dramaturg on new scripts, creating systems to make our diverse work streams cohere and run smoothly, coaching and planning for personal development with staff, project managing.
I loved listening to the show relay piped into my office during Wednesday matinees, actors in full Elizabethan dress doing vocal warm-ups in the stairways, the peculiar smell of timber and paint and dust backstage.
This world was something that was entirely familiar and seemed like it had been something I was destined to do.
Despite all of this I felt sad all the time. I was anxious about going to work. I felt out of place.
All the things i loved kept me stuck in an industry that wasn’t for me.
There was a fundamental mis-match between theatre and me.
What I needed to think about was not what I enjoyed but what I valued and disvalued.
I needed to examine those things from all angles. And if you are thinking about making change, so do you.
Here’s what I found matters most to me: flexibility and autonomy; analysis and learning; fairness and equality; honesty and authenticity; wisdom; humility; aesthetic beauty and excellence.
This knowledge led me towards a change in direction. I started a masters in Ethics and Political philosophy, and later studied for a PhD on Justice and Responsibility. I taught undergrads for 5 years while I was doing my PhD, which I loved.
While it didn’t fulfil all my values (that would be a big ask), it ticked enough boxes to be absolutely the right choice for me. I didn't feel like a square peg in a round hole anymore.
For the first time in my working-life I felt happy telling other people what I did (a surprising number of people disagreed that it was worthwhile, and told me so – but I didn’t find this in the least bit deterring). I found my tribe: people a bit like me.
Theatre to the strictures of academic political theory might seem like a leap, but it was enriching and fulfilling because it felt like me.
Values vs. Passions
VALUES: Principles and standards. What is important in life. The importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
Moving from what you like to what you value can be a leap. The dominant narrative around finding satisfying work is to “dream big” and “live your passion”.
Value is quite a boring concept in comparison to passion. It’s not sexy. Value is solid and steady. A bit dowdy in comparison with passion to be sure.
But value is key to fulfilment.
Because if what you do matches what matters to you most, you will feel more fulfilled, more motivated, more connected, more confident.
Value is something immutable. It doesn't change with the seasons. It will be profoundly important to you for many years. Whereas passion is strongly felt, but harder to sustain.
PASSION: a powerful emotion or its expression esp. of love anger or hate; something that you are strongly interested in and enjoy.
Passion will only get you so far.
Take my example:
I was, am, always have been, passionate about theatre. It’s been my hobby and profession. There is nothing like seeing a good show. Working on a script in the rehearsal room is pure joy.
Often, when my friend Ryan and I take a trip somewhere to see a show, we’ll spend our time together on the train making top ten lists of our favourite productions, our favourite performances, our favourite plays. We’ll go watch things twice, three times sometimes, to try to recapture the euphoric feeling, so rare, but so precious, of seeing something transformative. So transporting and beautiful it’s as if it were sprinkled with magic dust.
I really do love theatre. I love it when it’s good. And I love it when it’s bad.
I still love it now, after years and years of loving it. I have a passion for theatre. Even though I hated working in it. But you know what they say: the opposite of love is indifference (not hate).
But how can that be? To feel passionate about the thing you do, but to hate the job?
Well, it’s because a job isn't just the thing you produce at work.
A job is also the culture, the values system, the processes, the conditions, the rewards, progression routes, colleagues, and the politics of a company or an industry. And what I have found is that passion for your work doesn’t necessarily translate into value. Which is not to say that passion and value are mutually exclusive. But when ardent passion wanes, value endures.
The same can't be said in reverse. Passion for a job will die away quickly if it doesn't chime with who you are and what you think is most important.
The Value of Values: Why I Start My Coaching Process with Values
Values are like the foundations of a house. They lay the groundwork for your choices, your behaviours and your motivation. They are the solid base that you build your actions and decisions on. Without values them you're on shaky ground and what you built will crumble.
For example, if you know that long-term security matters to you, you can get strategic about planning your financial future and be less focused on chasing random (arbitrary) sums of money (hello £10k months).
Money can be an instrument to facilitate many things, but amassing it for no purpose will not make you fulfilled.
People talk quite a lot about alignment. And what they mean is exactly this: that what deeply matters to you matches your goals and actions.
With a clear knowledge of the values that drive you:
· you will be a better pilot of your own life
· you will tolerate distress more easily
· you will have greater discipline and focus
· you will be less swayed by (inevitable) failures
· you will find it easier to make satisfying long-term decisions
· You will be more fulfilled
How to find your values
You may think that you are 100% sure of what you value.
Most people do think that.
As a coach I can tell you that many people don't really know.
There’s more to it than just being like, “yeah, money, I value that” and “happiness, that’s good”, or “popularity – who doesn't want everyone to like them?”.
When my clients start looking honestly at what drives them they're often quite surprised.
Once they understand their values, their lives literally change. They have this renewed sense of purpose. Not to be too dramatic or anything, but that is usually what happens and that's why I love coaching: it's a total privilege to be a part of. Bucking the prevailing narrative about passion leads them to greater satisfaction.
Here's something that happened in a recent coaching session of mine.
My client was having a hard time at work. They were close to burning out. They said that sometimes they consider taking up smoking again so that they could have breaks.
When I reflected these words back, it shocked them. Rather than make a decision to take a break every day, they were considering taking up a life-threatening habit.
There was more to it though. Smoking breaks, for them, represented connection. The moments away from work were creative ideas sparked. Where someone recommended a new book or TV show. Where you could support a colleague with something difficult. These were the drivers. Connection and helping. The values.
Connection and helping were things they needed more of at work. And at home. And through knowing this they took action to make it happen.
Dig deeper. People often think that they know themselves well, but this is very often not true. Knowing yourself requires work. Uncomfortable, tiring, exposing thinking.
And it's 100% worth it.
Try the exercises below to get a better idea of what is of fundamental, deep down, honest-to-goodness value to you.
1. Think of 3 times in your life when you have felt satisfied, at peace, happy. Write each one down. Consider what connects them. What values are reflected in these experiences?
for example, if one of the experiences is going on holiday, what is it about that experience that was valuable e.g. novelty, new experiences, adventure, liberty, familiarity, family, connection, friendship etc.?
Or if the experience was giving a presentation at work what did you value e.g. research, detail, creativity, connection, feedback, collaboration, performance, helping, sharing, the adrenaline rush etc.?
2. What are the situations in which you are likely to stand up for/ speak up about a thing that you deeply believe?
For me this is always about fairness and injustice. Or when people lack compassion and understanding towards others. So the values that are highlighted for me are Compassion, Kindness, Equality, Fairness and Justice.
Yours could be about efficient systems that improve people's work life, efficiency, quality etc.etc.
3. When do you feel most at ease/ when do you experience a sense of flow?
I definitely think of myself as an introvert. I like quiet time alone to relax and re-energise.
On the other hand, one of the times I feel most at ease is when I am facilitating, teaching and coaching, which are very people focused.
The important thing here is that it’s not the performance element of those activities that draw me, rather the sharing of knowledge, facilitating the learning of others, and learning about other people. So the values of mine that are reflected here are connection, championing others, wisdom and learning.
Whereas for others the value of these pursuits might be about demonstrating knowledge and expertise, carefully crafted lesson plans etc.
In order to gain a good understanding of your values, you need to keep digging until you reach the foundational value at the core of your actions and beliefs.
4. Which friendships do you value most and what do you share in common with those friends?
What emotions do you experience when you are with them?
What do you admire about them?
What do you talk about to them?
What do you do together that you enjoy?
What are their best qualities?
Start to pull out the values that are reflected in these important friendships. Maybe think of them in contrast with friendships or relationships that you value less, and think about how they differ, and which values you find lacking in those other connections.
5. If you found the questions above difficult for any reason, consider the list of values below and select which you think are your top five.
i. Then write down how your favourite leisure experiences embody or reflect those values.
ii. And/or, how previous job roles have enabled you or hindered you in maximising those values. (have you had jobs that were particularly frustrating and to what extent did they/ didn’t they reflect your core values; are there roles that you have found more satisfying, and did they reflect your core values more closely?
Figuring out your values, getting to know what motivates you, truly understanding yourself is not inate. We are subject to so much noise, that finding our inner compass can be difficult. It requires exploration, experimentation and time.
This is precisely the purpose of working with a coach, so that you can go on to have the confidence in your decisions and your actions.
If you are interested in finding lasting fulfilment, consider one to one coaching that will provide the space, the challenge and the support for you to learn what you want and how to get it.
Find out more about how you can transform your satisfaction here https://www.trevnee.com/the-intensive-coaching.