For many professionals, finding a job that they love becomes a crucial goal, and they spend years seeking these positions. However, a recent piece in the New York Times’ Smarter Living section suggests that “finding a job that you love” may be a slightly flawed aspiration.
Rather than scoping out an existing job that will make you feel happy and fulfilled, your energy would be better spent on efforts to mold and customize a job so that you can invest a significant amount of on-the-clock time pursuing work that you find personally meaningful. The Times anchors this claim with a quote from senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco Ashley Goodall, who insists that “we’re told in every commencement speech that if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life. But the verb is wrong. [Successful people who love their jobs take] the job that was there at the beginning and then over time they transform the contents of that job.”
Sounds like a great idea... but how do you know where to begin on this quest to sculpt your job into an activity that inspires happiness? The Times has a suggestion, which takes the form of a simple daily exercise designed to rejigger the way you perceive your work life.
Here’s the step-by-step breakdown:
Grab a notepad and bring it to the office every day for a week.
Create two columns on the first page of the pad: “Love” and “Loathe”.
Every time you complete a task at work (even if it’s very minor), consider how it makes you feel. If you were genuinely excited to engage in this activity, write it in the “Love” column. If you found yourself procrastinating and attempting to avoid this task, it goes in the “Loathe” column.
This strategy comes from “Nine Lies About Work”, a book written by Mr. Goodall and co-author Marcus Buckingham of the A.D.P. Research Institute. Mr. Buckingham said the following about the column exercise: “It’s a beautifully simple way to inventory your emotional reactions to the reality of your day or week at work. Understand what it is that lights you up. Understand what you run toward. Understand where you are at your most energetic, your most creative, your most alive, and then volunteer for that more and more and more.”
While this practice won’t automatically transform your job into the career of your dreams, it can provide you with clarity on the tasks that bring you joy. And once you recognize those responsibilities, you can begin to put together a plan that will enable you to spend more time and resources on the jobs that bring you true satisfaction.