From grind to glory: breathing new life into your work

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Karen Natzel
BridgeTower Media NewsWires

Operating in the day-to-day work world can conjure up more dread than desire. Clients have shared they find it harder to stay focused; they fear dropping the ball; and they have experienced diminished capacity in handling difficult situations or people. Work seems to take more energy to produce results with less fulfillment.

In a recent resiliency workshop, I led participants in an exercise to discover what they wanted more and less of in their lives. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of the respondents identified wanting more time and less stress. There was also a desire for more collaboration, less meetings, more connection, less chaos, more clarity, less friction, and more of a sense of purpose.

What would you do with  more time?

If you reflect on your workdays, how do you currently spend your time? If you don’t know, you’re not alone. Many professionals find their days to be a whirlwind, reacting to the incessant requests coming from all directions. For months I had a post-it note attached to my computer screen, prompting me to be intentional with my time by asking the simple question: “Is the time I am spending on this task proportionate to its importance?” The prompt helps me assess if I am spending the right amount of time on the task at hand and if what I am doing is bringing value. It also keeps me from making things harder than they need to be, because work will expand to the time we give it. Where we spend our time is an indication of what we believe to be most important, and sometimes that feels more like prioritization by default.

My friend and coaching colleague Sally Anne Carroll challenges her readers in a recent newsletter with a nudge: “What are you going to finally get around to doing?” I found it both jolting and inspiring. It is an invitation to put into motion whatever it is you want to make happen. She also reminds us that “it’s hard to achieve what we believe cannot exist.”

When our days are crammed with meetings, we have little time to be creative or to do the kind of deep work that is generative. Author Dr. Cal Newport’s definition of deep work refers to “professional activities in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.” It’s also the conduit to being in the rewarding and inspiring flow state.

When we lack clarity, our doubt expands, our wheels spin, and there is an uptick in procrastination. If it persists, we may find ourselves languishing – lacking focus and motivation. In this headspace, our workday can definitely feel more of a grind than any kind of meaningful contribution to our work, our colleagues, our organization, or our community.

Wanting less stress seems like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t? Yet before we toss stress to the curb, remember that stress can be a positive influence. It helps us get resourceful, creatively problem-solve, and get things done. Stress is required in expanding one’s comfort zone, building skills, gaining confidence, and feeling the glory of accomplishing something we thought we could not.

In my “Building Resiliency” workshop, we examine a common source of stress: change. The fear of the unknown and with it, the lack of control and the likelihood of making mistakes, can feel daunting. We can choose to resist change or adopt it. Push back against it out of fear and habit, or examine it for potential value and growth. When we resist stress in whatever form it takes, it tends to persist. When we are in a place of resistance, we avoid and suppress stressors, and we get stuck.

Traits of resiliency

Resilient people embrace challenges, are open to new ideas and experiences, and find joy in the discovery process of learning and exploring. There is a fluidity to how they move through the day. As obstacles arise, they are not shut down. Instead, it’s a reframing of the problem, or a re-examination of the path and the ability to adapt accordingly. Resilient people tend to think in terms of what is possible and not what cannot be done. To sustain this, resiliency requires making choices from a place of high self and social awareness.

Resiliency is also buoyed by a clear connection to one’s purpose or sense of meaning in one’s work. Connecting your daily work world to your “why” can keep you motivated and focused on what matters most. That doesn’t require having an altruistic profession. It can simply mean you know your strengths, passions and values so that you can contribute to something bigger than yourself.

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Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations. Contact her at 503-806-4361 or karen@natzel.net.