Building a healthy career is essential for anyone wanting to have a successful and fulfilling life. Here, career coaches and authors Karen Meager and John McLachlan tell readers how to take control and get the most from their professional lives.
Let’s start with the challenge building a healthy career. The pressure is often on men to conform to the false image of what having success and building a a healthy career is. The long hours, working hard, being tough (whatever that means) and being able to cope with stress whilst not have any emotion.
All of this is nonsense, damaging and, if you buy into it, a barrier to building a healthy career. Almost all of the men I spend my time coaching know this already, they don’t need me to help them with that, yet they still do it even though they know that it is not only not healthy it is actually counterproductive and inefficient.
A lot of men (in particular) need help firstly to believe that they can break out of the pressure to conform to this image and then plan and take the actions needed for building a healthy career.
The starting point for this change is to think in terms of “rhythm”, not “balance”. The idea of work-life balance sometimes does not make too much sense, and can contribute to stress. Work is part of your life, not something to be balanced against it. Trying to create balance uses up energy in the constant battle of competing priorities and the attempt to keep everyone happy, which you can never do.
By building a healthy career as part of the rhythm of your life, you will have control over your time, it will allow you to make decisions much more easily and people will know where they stand with you. Understanding this changes your thinking and immediately reduces your stress.
Try it, then ask yourself “What would I like my life to look like? How much of my life do I want to spend on my career and how much on the other things in my life. The answer is deeply personal, and you most certainly should not compare yourself with your colleagues or friends.
When you have some clarity on the answers to the above, the next step is to take some time to consider what your goals are for building a healthy career. Do you want to reach the top of the corporate ladder? Some people do some people don’t, both are fine.
Do you want to be a technical expert in a particular area and what will that take? Do you want a job that pays reasonably well, challenges you enough and also gives you time at night and weekends to spend time on your hobbies or with friends and family? Is being your own boss the goal, and if so, what are the stepping stones to get there?
Here are four key questions in determining whether you’re building a healthy career:
- Do you have good relationships both in work and out?
- Does your choice of career and organisation align with your values?
- Is it taking you towards where you aspire to be in life?
- Can you maintain your physical and mental health in this career?
It’s important to be honest with yourself. If you love work, the idea of an exciting, time consuming and challenging career, then go for it! With clarity, you take pressure off yourself.
Building a healthy career for you also helps the people around, particularly your partner or spouse, to know who you are and what to expect from you.
If you are someone who wants to do a great job when you are at work, be properly rewarded and recognised for that work, then enjoy your life much more outside of work, then that is what you should aim for, since pretending otherwise will only lead to stress and dissatisfaction. Know what building a healthy career would look like for you, then go and do it.
You need to take control of your career, deciding what and how much time to spend on it, and also what you are willing to do and not do. There may be times in the rhythm of your career where you work longer hours, travel more or do work that is not always fun. That’s ok as long as it is part of your plan for building a healthy career.
This may well be easier said than done, but it can be done. I have had the privilege of working with many people that have stepped off the treadmill, focussed on building a healthy career and then taken the actions to achieve it. Decide on the career you want, and take the steps you need to take to get there.
John McLachlan and Karen Meager are the authors of Real Leaders for the Real World and founders of Monkey Puzzle training and consultancy, a UK NLP training company.
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