Managing the Inner Spirit
Special to Jobs
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
By Dr. Lynn Friedman
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
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:
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.
- 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?
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
- Boss and administration
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:
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.
What do you do contribute to your community? If you are not
actively involved in your community, why not? How can you become more
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
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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