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Managing the Inner Spirit

Dr. Lynn Friedman
Dr. Lynn Friedman

Dr. Lynn Friedman is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. She specializes in work/life consultation and psychotherapy. Beyond this, she leads work/life consultation groups and is on the adjunct faculty in the Organizational Development-Human Resource program at Johns Hopkins University. She can be reached at: Lynn Friedman, Ph.D., 4401 East-West Highway, Suite 202, Bethesda, Maryland 20814 or (301) 585-7636. You can also email her at drlynn@mindspring.com

Special to Jobs
By Dr. Lynn Friedman
December 1999

The Washington economy has seldom been better. In Northern Virginia, technology firms are growing so quickly they can barely staff themselves. For the most part, here in Washington, it's an "employee's market." Washington boasts a disproportionately high number of well-educated, well-paid, successful, young professionals. However, ask a sample of these professionals if they are happy with their work and a surprising number will tell you no. Ask them why they stay and many will tell you that it's the money or the prestige.

Washington is a career-oriented city and most Washingtonians will characterize their jobs, whether they like them or not, as stressful. But, why the unhappiness? And, what do you do if you are well-paid and successful but unhappy with your work?

If you are unhappy in your work, there are two things to consider carefully:

  • First, how did you get to where you are?

  • Second, how are you balancing your work with the other important aspects of your life such as family, community, finances, hobbies/interests and spirituality?
How did you get to where you are professionally? Are you doing work that you love? Does your work have meaning for you? Ask yourself how you ended up here. Was it a well-informed choice based on your loves and interests at the time? Or, was the choice driven by a need to please someone else such as a parent or a spouse? Or, was it a need to do something or "be something" that prompted you to make your current choice? If you chose your current position for any of these reasons, ask yourself how you feel about it. People who subordinate their own interests to please or impress others may feel angry and resentful. These types of feelings can make it very difficult to enjoy even the pleasurable aspects of work.

Ask yourself why you remain in that field. If you left that field, who would you disappoint or please, and why? How do you feel about the reactions you believe you will engender? A career choice, made to please parents or spouses, or to outstrip siblings, is unlikely to culminate in happiness. Ultimately, you will be happiest when you make professional choices to please yourself.

Try to learn as much as you can about your own preferences in your job. Articulate what you like and dislike about it with respect to:

  • Day-to-day tasks
  • Overall mission
  • Hours
  • Coworkers
  • Boss and administration
  • Location
  • Pay

Your answers will help you to discover what sort of work you might want to do in the future.

After you think through your feelings about work, consider the other important aspects of your life. How do you balance family, community, hobbies/interests, finances and spirituality? If these areas are developed, the more likely you are to be successful in your quest for a fulfilling work life. An awareness of your passions outside of work can greatly inform a career change.

Consider these issues:

  • Family
    This means different things to different people. Who are the significant people in your life? If there aren't any, would you like to change that? Describe your vision for a happy "family" life.

  • Community
    What do you do contribute to your community? If you are not actively involved in your community, why not? How can you become more involved?

  • Financial
    Although establishing and pursuing financial goals are important for everyone, it is especially important if you are unhappy in your job. An active savings and investment plan can allow you to generate and pursue creative options or alter your course.

  • Hobbies and Interests
    Having a clear view of what you like to do in your free time, including vacations, can help you articulate your work/life goals.

  • Spirituality
    This means something different to everyone and it is very personal. However, it is an important factor to consider.

Having a balance across these dimensions can be a wonderful antidote to work-related stress. Are you on a trajectory with these critical elements that make you feel good? If not, try identifying steps you can take to do something about it. Try to envision how you would like things to be, then develop a strategy for achieving these goals.

© Copyright 1999 WPNI

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