One Simple Step to Bust Out of Your Career Rut

Sad businesswomanGuest contributed by Elizabeth Crook

There’s an epidemic in our country that’s impacting 40% of our population.

It’s lowering our immune systems, disturbing our sleep, breaking up our relationships, and creating depression and unwanted weight gain.

The epidemic seems very benign – it’s so common we often ignore it.

It’s called job dissatisfaction.

Historically there been more heart attacks on Monday morning than any other time of the week because so many of us are dragging ourselves to jobs that have depleted us. And even though the research was probably done on men, the implications for women are profound. Having the “wrong” job is not good for you.

Why do we stay?

Three simple reasons:

  • We are good at these jobs,
  • We may be too busy or too conscientious to recognize how stuck we are
  • We don’t know how to leave them.

We’ve been given accolades and compliments all our lives for what we do. We may be keeping our families afloat with these jobs. Our work may serve our social life or give us a strong sense of identity. We feel responsible to our team, our boss, or the company

Along with all that, we tend to see other options as more limited than they really are. We may even believe the industry or functional area the only ones we can be in, so we stay. And stay. And stay. Until our health is bankrupt, our relationships are compromised, and our dream of what we wanted has been lost.

Sound familiar? Don’t despair.

As a CEO coach and corporate strategist, many people from diverse arenas come to me because they want more than anything to love their work, but they don’t know how to get there.

Enter the energize/deplete paradigm.

In your everyday work, you encounter tasks that energize you and work that depletes you. Most people have don’t spend time thinking about it. However, identifying them is the is a big step toward getting to work that feeds your soul (and your bank account).

The first question to ask is: What do I know how to do?

Make a list. Brainstorm. Don’t hold back. Write down all those things you know how to do – think processes, not contents. This can include things beyond your work like your family or social life or even volunteer assignments. This isn’t your job description. This is what you know how to do.

The start of your list might look something like this:

  • Engage people in solving problems
  • Analyze data
  • Create narratives that give meaning
  • Recruit and hire people
  • Develop budgets
  • Manage projects
  • Manage people
  • Teach and mentor
  • Persuade
  • Sell ideas
  • Develop systems and processes
Identify the energizing activities.

Make a star next to the activities on your list that energize you – those things that even if your are working hard at them, you feel good doing them. Time passes in a minute when you are doing things that energize you, even if they take all day.

Do you feel depleted by managing people but are in a managerial position? Do you feel energized by being with people, but your work is behind an admin desk where you never get to interact? Are you energized by being creative, but your work is about collecting data?

Your starred activities are signposts, leading you to work that will feed your soul and make you feel like you are living large.

Your work now is to begin to increase the activities that energize you.

Shift your focus.

This may mean delegating the work that depletes you (anything that is not energizing you may very well be depleting you) or talking to your boss about shifting your focus at work towards what energizes you.

What if this list shows that nothing you do at work energizes you? What if all of your energizing how-tos are ones that you do out of work?

That’s fantastic information. And it might mean an overhaul of what you do for work. Chances are you can stay in your industry, but you may have to change what you do in this industry.

The Amazing Result.

What’s amazing about this simple exercise is that it activates something called the reticular activating system in the brain. The reticular activating system is the part of our brain that begins to notice red cars right when we decide we want a red car. Once we become aware of what energizes us, our subconscious begins to move us toward it.

As soon as we identify what depletes us, our defense system will begin to find ways to move away from those activities.We find ourselves making decisions about work that lead us toward those activities that we love.

Can it really be this simple?

Try it. See what happens.

Elizabeth Crook has been the CEO of Orchard Advisors for over 20 years, helping CEO’s grow their bottom line and have more fun. She believes that if everyone had the work and life they love, we could change the world! Her book, Live Large – The Achiever’s Guide to What’s Next will be released May 2017.

Disclaimer: The opinions and views of our guest contributors are not necessarily those of