Just before Christmas I bought a pack of cards from the School of Life called Career Crisis. (it’s good, just little snippets of wisdom about work. These particular cards seem to have been discontinued, but they have lots of other similar one here*).
This one card, in particular, really spoke to me.
“We pin our hopes for happiness on Love and Work. And yet in relation to both we refuse to
· Plan methodically
· To understand ourselves thoroughly
· To train relentlessly
· To go to therapy before we act
We worship instinct in precisely the wrong places.”
As a coach I couldn’t agree with this more. I see people leave so many things to chance. Or repeating old patterns by pursuing jobs and relationships that replicate old problems.
I work with people on work, careers and achieving balance, not on relationships. But what’s true of one is true of the other. For true satisfaction make active choices, prioritise values, don’t think you’ll get what you want by chance: define it, name it, pursue it.
This is also the main reason you should be working with a coach. Because you don’t have to live with “it’ll do”: you can get what you want. And you don’t need to do it someday because a coach will fast track that with you to “I’ll do it now”.
To live a satisfying life you should be planning your career and relationships. You need to experiment and learn, you must understand yourself. And you don’t need to put anything off while you do that. You can start today.
Is it unromantic to plan what you want in a relationship?
Here’s a thing that I did before I met Steve. I’d been doing app dating. I went on a lot of dates. I didn’t know what I was looking for. I was experimenting and figuring things out.
My previous relationship had lasted 23 years from when I was 18 years old. I didn’t choose for it to end. I was a bit at sea about what I wanted my life to be like.
Dating was an emotional rollercoaster. The fact that I’m only still friends with one of the people I went out with kind of says it all. (He’s thoroughly lovely, it wasn't a romantic connection for us).
The dating experience was definitely one that I value. More than once it made me feel very sad. More than once it made me feel more lonely. I didn’t meet as many interesting people as I hoped I would. But I did meet people. I had some nice nights out. I learned a lot of things about myself and what I like. It made me more spontaneous and curious. I saw myself through the lens of different people and that gave me confidence.
But by the end I felt demoralised. So I wrote a list of what I wanted from a relationship and potential partner. I didn’t want to date aimlessly anymore because, frankly, it was depressing. Four days later I met Steve.
Everything about him was the antithesis of red flag. He ticked about 90% of my list and he was green flag all the way. Kind, funny, engaged, open, authentic.
Had I left it purely to instinct I would probably still be chasing the love bombing, bread-crumbing, gaslighting car-crash of a guy who made me feel absolutely horrible about myself, but that I had this incredible chemistry with. Luckily, part of me knew that my intense interest in him was not to be trusted, so I never pinned any expectations on it, and managed to disentangle quite quickly.
I am now five years into a relationship with Steve. If I'd trusted my instinct about him, I would have been right. Obviously instinct and chemistry matter. But when hard stuff happened in both our lives, the personal qualities on my list came into their own. We haven’t just got through hard times together, we’ve helped and supported each other and grown together in a spirit of openness.
Shouldn’t I pursue what I love doing for a job?
The “do what you love” is a reductive approach to a career. Jobs are much more than tasks. They are also about people, environment, benefits, purpose, workplace norms and which trade-offs you are or are not prepared to make.
When it comes to career building knowing yourself thoroughly is of utmost importance. Your likes and dislikes (or loves and hates) aren’t always the best starting place. What you value and disvalue matter much more.
You might love acting, for example, but value predictability, stability and certainty. You might love cooking, but value calm, creativity and early nights. The professional norms of being an actor or a chef are almost always at odds with those values.
The discomfort of not living according to what you value would override doing what you love, and eventually you would become deeply dissatisfied and fed up.
Whereas if you look for jobs that allow you to embody your values, you will be sustained, and can pursue cooking or acting as a hobby. Waiting for things to come to you, or acting on instinct are highly overrated. You need to take action, and you need to base that action on a deep understanding of your own wants and needs for the outcome to satisfy you. (or you can take a chance on being an outlier example of things going your way completely by chance).
Today is Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen (the day of the Welsh Patron Saint of love). Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen Hapus i Chi (A Happy St. Dwynwen’s Day to You). Love and romance are beautiful things, and they work better if they combine instinct with forethought. In fact, some forethought, self-knowledge, planning and practise, will take you further than flying by the seat of your pants or waiting for the good thing to come to you.
What coaching will get you is this: you will do it tomorrow rather than do it sometime. You deserve to give yourself that gift. It will save on time, mis-steps, money, and uncertainty. After an initial 20 minute chemistry call, I offer a free coaching session. This helps figure out whether the coaching fit is a good one. All you need to do is to e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a video call.
*This is an affiliate link. If you use it I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. I have no connection to the brand and I only recommend products that I use and value myself.