? + Work = Contentment

John Middleton
May 1, 2019

The news is full of distressing trends from business to politics, and there seems to be a growing trend of dissatisfaction permeating into the spaces between us and our neighbors and coworkers. We’ve had some great conversations around the water cooler here at the OpenSpace and wanted to share some of them with you in a series of stories from different the perspectives of our members. They will be personal, practical and, we hope, helpful and encouraging.

An international Gallup poll from 2017 reported that ” 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work.” This is just one of the surprising statistics from this unsettling study. Paired with political and social conflicts, the rising crisis of mental health issues like anxiety, depression and suicide impacting all economic classes, races, professions and genders,  suggests that our relationship between our sense of self and the work we do deeply impacts the way we experience other aspects of our lives. Are some things we could do to improve our experience and increase our impact for others?

Throughout my schooling and career I have struggled with periods of low energy or lack of motivation in my work. These tend to come in waves or cycles of busyness/activity/starting, followed by overwhelm and then frustration. Sometimes I would complete a project, but at a high cost and often it would end by abandoning a project. Until I recently I mostly felt at the mercy of these cycles, never really able to predict or manage through them. If you’ve ever been in the ocean, you may have experienced being tubled and turned by they waves. They can come in rapid succession and it can be intimidating and dangerous. Now have you experience surfing or riding a wave and how different that experience can beFor me, this cycle boiled over about 10 years ago when my stress level grew to the point where I was having extended periods of high anxiety eventually leading to two episodes unexplained loss of consciousness/passing out. I knew I needed to stop and find some new strategies for managing my work and stress. I won’t take you through the entire process but there were some key things that helped me gain a sense of stability and even peace in my work. It is an ongoing process so I consider this as an invitation to share your experience.

I took inventory…I looked closely at my strengths and weaknesses and made some informed decisions based on my particular constraints rather than wishing I had a different set of talents/abilities (An assessment like Strengths Finder and a Career Coach can be a really helpful way to gain new perspectives).

  • Connect with others involved in a similar evaluation period and ask for advice from key people you admire who demonstrate skills you hope to develop.
  • Ask – What are some of my goals
  • What are some things I wish I had started and why are they important to me?
  • Are these things I need to do or just interests
  • What skills or assets do I need to build to in order to accomplish the goals I am setting?
  • Who or what is it for?
  • Establish habits and patterns that work
  • what patterns do I have,
  • what habits should I keep,
  • are there habits that are unhelpful and I should stop,
  • are there new habits I or systems I need that will make it easier to reach my goals
  • Develop a habit to re-evaluate and repeat the process on some regular basis

I have found in this process that, for me, having others to share the journey with, helps me to maintain consistency I didn’t have working alone. I had involved a mentor, but that only helped to establish a direction having someone along for the journey takes a different level of community.

I found that finding a community where people were looking to share and asking for input while actively trying to do the work was super helpful. Seeing examples of people just working helps my motivation with my work. If you are talking too much about the work it starts to become abstract, but actually observing what people work on and how they spend their time is actually more helpful and you spend less time trying to define the work and more time figuring things out. (My Work Hive)

I found that community in a coworking space based in Philadelphia (Indy Hall) where most of the people are independent or self employed

In was part of an Online art community (Chis Oatley - Art Mentoring)

I participated in a Startup Bootstrapping Workshop hosted by Seth Godin with other professionals who were trying to refine an idea in order to Launch something (various different businesses) where I collaborated with musicians, artists marketing and IT pros. As we shared our ideas as we worked on the assignments. I highly recommend something like this if you can find it. It was similar to a mastermind or cohort group, where you share ideas and goals as well as work on completing them.

I also realized that there isn’t one way, but everything I “sign-up” for should be contributing something essential to (and aligned with) my values or my sense of purpose; otherwise, I feel scattered and more stressed with each new thing that I try to start up.

John Middleton