Imagine your working life is a group of plants. So far in this series we’ve covered the super fabulous and under-acknowledged fact that it is your privilege to define WHAT plants you include in your working life (we call this: Intention), and, critically to their development, WHERE they grow (we call this: Foundation).
Next up: HOW. In the life of the plant, inputs accelerate or impede its development. They are conditions. They are often easier to tinker with than, say, the plant’s location on the ground. And in many cases, the only gardener you need is YOU.
And so it goes with your working life. You have tremendous agency over how you ensure your plants encounter the ideal conditions for them to thrive.
What are these magical inputs, you ask? Let’s keep it simple. Here are three categories I’ve seen at play while supporting 300+ clients to manage and nurture their working lives.
Career Input #1: Protection
Imagine a fence around your precious plants. Otherwise the bunnies might eat your leaves.
I’m not really into the “work is a battlefield” imagery. Hopefully that’s obvious from all this nurture talk 😉
But I am a strange blend of poet and realist, and I need you to know that sometimes, protecting yourself is necessary. You already know this. You may have just been telling yourself you are being too sensitive.
Chances are, you’re not being too sensitive.
Chances are, you have, or will, encounter some behaviour and / or system at work that doesn’t jive with your values.
Work has all kinds of people. Most are regular, mostly awesome, humans doing their best. Some are not. Some cultures are so broken that poor behaviour is a norm. You may even find yourself in a lion’s den (metaphorically speaking).
The bottom line: your job is to understand your environment and protect yourself as needed. Here are a few ideas:
- Learn how to get and keep credit for your work
- Ensure you are in the (zoom) room when you should be
- Ensure you are spared the (zoom) room when your time is better spent elsewhere
- If you need to defend your work or yourself, do it
- If you have career goals that are not on anyone else’s agenda, find a way to change that
- Be an example of integrity in your environment
Career Input #2: Energy
Sunlight gives plants energy. Let it warm you. Don’t burn.
This is so simple but often feels difficult. You have a job description, right? I thought so. And hopefully, it contains a lot of tasks and projects that energize you. Say, more than 50%?
Try this: find more energy in more of what you’re doing.
For example, I’m writing my weekly blog. Energizing. I’m doing it in my favourite time of day, with an enormous coffee next to me, staring out the window at the wind rustling through the leaves. My house is silent. I am focused. Right now, I am nailing it.
It’s not always like that, of course. But today I’ve gifted myself ideal conditions for this work.
How can you do that? Here are some ideas:
- Put effort into designing your working life so that more of it is energizing, period.
- Stack energizing work with energizing habits (for me, silence + coffee makes any task better)
- Schedule your energizing work in ways that work for you (I like to start with the most energizing thing and ride that wave; some people prefer using their energizing work as a reward)
- Relish the energy. Imagine the warm sun on your face. Enjoy it
- Know when it’s too much. There’s a reason they call it burnout. Take breaks
Career input #3: Integration
Water’s job is to move nutrients through the plant. Like blood circulating in our bodies, it’s a unifying substance that connects everything.
Everything is connected, but you already know that. What if you lived your life that way?
Boundaries are good. Boundaries are great. Do boundaries.
But every now and then, letting one thing seep into the next presents new opportunities.
Like when my kid’s chicken nugget got soaked in my coffee (actually that wasn’t successful).
How about like when a friend’s cousin opens the door to your dream job.
That is integration.
Allow for a science experiment now and then. Let the water flow where it wants to go. A few ideas for how to do this:
- Experiment by trying new things (even a different route to the grocery store)
- Start a group in your workplace or neighbourhood around an interest (career or otherwise)
- Allow a little more of your “whole human” to come to work
- Be an example of openness, receptivity
- Curiously observe how things unfold, rather than controlling all the time
Reminder: manage your inputs, nurture your working life
Over and over, I see the folks who manage these inputs well, thriving. Learning to do this is a process, and insight comes with practice.
What’s one small thing you can take away from this today?
Comment below or DM me over here to share your thoughts.
I’m cheering you on.
Want free weekly support? I recently launched The Check-In to share what I’m working on and help you nurture your working life. I would love to share it with you.