Friday, December 15, 2006

Priorities, life goals, and career dissatisfaction

As a business psychologist, I often coach people not only on issues at work, but also more broadly in their lives too.

Quite often, my coachee might express dissatisfaction about a specific issue at work - perhaps bad relationships with a colleague, poor promotion prospects, or team conflict. But then it frequently turns out that they actually have some measure of dissatisfaction about their work/life balance too.

Of course many people are driven to succeed. They feel that they have to do well. But are they actually happy doing what they do?

The Tombstone Test is one way of helping people figure out what matters to them. But, to go into more detail, I often find it helpful to help coachees to work through the 'four Ss' of life and career fulfillment:

  • Success - the material trappings of doing well at work. So this might be measured in terms of greater responsibility and decision making power, material wealth, a big salary, a corner office, and so on. How much money, responsibility and power do you need? Does more make you actually happier?
  • Status - we all have some need for recognition and respect. And some people need status and recognition more than others - perhaps in the form of job titles or the number of people who look up to us at work. How much status do you need? Are you stuck on the treadmill of earning in order to impress other people when the only person you should be trying to impress is (obviously) yourself?
  • Satisfaction - the extent to which we actually enjoy our work. Do you honestly love and have a passion for what you do?
  • Significance - the extent to which we feel our work is impacting positively on colleagues, the local community, the environment and so on. Is your work creating a legacy for you and the people who matter to you?
It's a cliche that no one on their death bed ever said they wished they'd worked harder. And working through the extent to which you need the 'four Ss' in your work might help you figure out what direction your career should be going in.