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Redefining Career Well-being: More Than Just a Job You Like

You'll probably spend about one-third of your life working. Imagine having to learn skills you don't enjoy, perform tasks you dislike, and work in an unhealthy environment for the next 10 years. How would that make you feel?

As time goes by in your career, you tend to go on autopilot and accept your job situation for two key reasons: limiting beliefs (believing every job will be the same) and the culture of busyness (thinking that the only way to succeed is by constantly hustling). You put your head down and delay the healthy lifestyle you want, telling yourself it'll happen 'someday,' 'one day,' or 'when I retire.' Eventually, you reach retirement age feeling constrained by chronic health issues.

You dedicate decades of your life to your career, enduring pressure, stress, and burnout until your body breaks down. It feels like you're at a crossroads, forced to choose between your health and your career. You can't truly thrive and succeed in your career for the long term when your well-being is compromised, but it doesn't have to be this way.

What is Career Well-being?

Psychology Today describes the positive feelings of well-being as ‘feeling happy, healthy, socially connected, and purposeful.’ However, you might neglect your well-being because your job drains all the mental and physical energy you have to seek purpose, social connections, and a healthy lifestyle.

If you search for the definition of career well-being, you’ll likely come across, 'liking what you do every day.' However, this definition doesn't resonate with me or my clients for a few important reasons:

  1. Even when you like your work, a toxic environment can leave you feeling drained and overworked.

  2. Even in a healthy workplace, job dissatisfaction can arise when you're tasked with responsibilities or learning skills you dislike.

  3. The idea of 'liking what you do every day' often feels unrealistic for many people, particularly if you're an individual contributor in an organization constantly told what to do.

For these reasons, I've crafted my own definition of career well-being based on my experiences:

You are intentionally choosing to care for your health and well-being as much as you care for your career goals.

While enjoying your work every day is a fantastic idea, it's often the exception rather than the rule. Discovering a job and career you truly like requires time, self-reflection, self-awareness, and sometimes years in the workforce.

Even if you enjoy your work, your well-being can still suffer if you don't know how to manage your time outside of work. Excessive hustling and heavy workloads can lead to physical and mental health issues. It's crucial to learn how to disconnect from work in order to reconnect with yourself and the people you care about.

Liking your job is important, but so are hobbies, and interests, setting boundaries, engaging in physical activity, practicing mindfulness, and nurturing healthy relationships. Your job is a part of your life, but it shouldn't define your entire identity.

Why does Career Well-being matter?

When you first step into the workforce, you quickly learn that hustling and grinding are the keys to success. The prevailing belief is that the path to prosperity revolves around chasing job titles, salaries, rankings, and perks that promise happiness. However, the reality may not be as glittering as you envisioned.

The relentless pursuit of career goals often leaves little room for nurturing relationships, pursuing hobbies, and engaging in activities that bring joy. Consequently, it's common to feel like life has slipped by, all because you neglected your own well-being.

As the years pass, the toll on your health can become increasingly apparent. That thrilling hiking adventure you once dreamt of may seem more distant than ever due to the demands of your job and the development of health issues, such as persistent lower back pain.

The human body was not designed to endure the rigors of sitting for eight hours or more each day. And if you factor in the time spent commuting, which often involves more sitting, it adds another hour or more of inactivity. It's essential to incorporate movement and regular breaks into your daily routine.

In addition to the physical toll, prolonged periods of work can take a significant toll on your mental and emotional well-being. While some work-related stress is inevitable, the constant pressure of unhealthy work environments, endless messages and notifications, and heavy workloads can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and other debilitating issues. When your body feels like it's on the verge of shutting down, it becomes challenging to meet the demands of your job.

Neglecting your personal life can also harm your relationships and leave you feeling isolated. A steady focus on work impacts your sense of community, and if your workplace is toxic, it's easy to carry some of that negativity into your personal interactions. Have you ever found yourself snapping at people easily or lacking patience? These signs may be indicative of the impact on your relationships.

It's crucial to ask yourself if you have hobbies and interests that you regularly pursue. Many of us, like myself, may have unintentionally set aside our passions. It took me years to realize that I had shelved my love for dancing, only to indulge it sporadically at events. For you, it might be cooking wholesome meals, playing board games, tending to a garden, or any other source of fun and fulfillment. Hobbies and interests are fundamental to your well-being, offering that precious "me-time" you crave.

My own journey through the relentless hustle and grind has led me to help others achieve their career aspirations without compromising their well-being. I disregarded my physical and emotional well-being and failed to engage in meaningful activities beyond work. It was only when a serious health diagnosis forced me to take a break that I truly reflected on the life I wanted to live. This life-changing event gave me a second chance to prioritize my health and well-being.

It's disheartening to feel trapped in a perpetual choice between relentless work and a healthy lifestyle. The good news is, it doesn't have to be this way. You can improve your health and well-being while striving for your career goals. It doesn't have to be an "either/or" scenario.

Reclaiming Yourself

Balancing your well-being alongside a thriving career may seem daunting, but these steps can help you kickstart your journey:

1. Self-Assessment: Create a document listing all the skills you use and tasks you perform at work. Highlight the ones you genuinely enjoy. Ask yourself:

  • Are there skills you would like to improve or learn?

  • Are there tasks you would like to try?

  • What are the tasks you would love to do more of?

Reflect on these questions and create a plan to discuss them strategically with your manager. You don't need to request everything at once; start with one or two items. For instance, you might aim to enhance your AI skills for future job market demands or make project assistance a more significant part of your tasks.

Engaging in this dialogue with your manager doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. You can express your preferences and avoid continuing down the path of learning skills and performing tasks you dislike. Remember that change may not occur overnight, and you may need multiple conversations to achieve your goals but be open to the process.

2. Calendar Management: Have you ever considered scheduling everything on your calendar? How much time do you allocate for email checks, and do you take breaks?

Reflect on your daily and weekly activities, and include time for rest, relaxation, hobbies, and interests. Tracking your time and intentionally planning for your well-being increases the likelihood of achieving your goals.

What's not in your schedule can't be accurately managed. You might want to add a 10-minute walk after dinner or schedule breaks after meetings. Your calendar can become your best friend and a valuable time management tool. Whenever possible, block time to accomplish priority tasks, hydrate, or take a stretch.

3. Well-being Check: When was your last physical exam with your primary care physician? Have you addressed any lingering pains or stress related to work?

In our fast-paced lives, it's easy to overlook self-care, delay, or postpone it. We may desire to change our habits but often revert to familiar, safe routines after a few days or weeks. Start by working on your mindset. If you want to become an avid walker, begin by telling yourself, "I am someone who enjoys a walk after lunch." If taking more breaks at work is your goal, affirm, "I am someone who takes breaks." Your beliefs can shape your actions.

As a diligent worker, achiever, and performer, you don't need to sacrifice your well-being to succeed in your career. Embark on your well-being journey by taking my 1-minute Career Well-being Score Quiz. It will help you understand your current score and provide valuable insights and tips to improve your well-being while nurturing a fulfilling and successful career.

You can prioritize your well-being and make positive changes while being intentional about your career goals. You can begin by redefining your approach to career success and take deliberate steps to improve your well-being today. Find a hobby, take breaks, build relationships, and do things you enjoy. It’s time to become your own Chief Career Officer and advocate for your well-being.

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