According to Gallup, the average work week for full-time employees is 47 hours. “Work-life balance” no longer suffices to help us manage the never-ending stress from work that isn’t aligned with our values, passions, and lifestyle. If you’re not a great swimmer, instead of flailing desperately to stay afloat, why not play a sport you excel at?
Contrary to balancing life with work, here are 3 Ways to Achieve Life-Work Alignment to set yourself up for success, however you define it, whether through financial wealth, health, family, fulfillment, happiness, etc.
#1. Analyze and be self-aware of your unique strengths, preferences, and personality traits, which in turn pre-dispose you to certain: professions, jobs, companies, working environments. After experiencing internships in analyst roles at large companies where I was one of many stuck in front of a computer, working on projects with little relation to my passions, I realized I would be miserable and unhappy no matter how good the pay would be! I hoped that the internship would NOT offer me a job after graduating. Thankfully, they didn’t, as I’m sure they liked me as much as I liked scanning documents.
As a people-oriented and money-motivated go-getter type, I soon realized my path to success lay in sales because that’s where I could control my income, and excel as I already had the personality, energy, and drive. Sure enough, my career in headhunting was fun, fulfilling, and extremely lucrative, which freed me to further pursue life-work alignment as I embark on my journey as CEO of Dandan Global. I was extremely lucky to start my working life in a career that put me on the right path based on my personal attributes.
Although I was succeeding with relatively little effort due to how aligned the job was to my personality, the majority of my colleagues quit the business as recruitment wasn’t their passion. I’ve seen how positive people can be worn down by feelings of stress, worry, uncertainty, and perpetuating negative thoughts as a result of mis-alignment from the beginning.
TIP: Try taking the free16 Personalities Test based on Myers Briggs to see what makes you tick. Strengthsfinder pinpoints your top 5 strengths for $10, and the book goes through how that fits into career and life. Pymetrics hosts a series of games then recommends careers based on your results. Satisfaction in a role and company environment is everything, more important than money and status.
Which leads me to #2. Listen to yourself and do your OWN thing. As a first generation immigrant, I had a very defined career path ahead of me according to my parents. Since I already lacked any talent in the sciences, the only option left was to become a lawyer, whether I liked it or not! My mom went so far as to threaten to disown me if I didn’t get started right away, which obviously was an empty threat (China’s one child policy!). Although my parents were willing to pay for the next 3 years of my life for the JD prestige, I knew I wouldn’t find career success by relying on them and being chained to their handouts.
Sadly, I know people who are dictated by their parents their whole lives on what to do, how to think, and what’s best for them. The pull and ease of financial dependence paralyzes people who otherwise could be creative, hard-working, and enterprising. Unfortunately, with the rapid rate of change through technological and social innovation, outdated thoughts and traditional career paths no longer provide a fail-safe roadmap to today’s economic and career landscape. College degrees from Ivy Leagues don’t dictate success like it used to (if it ever did?), and the competition is fiercer than ever. Again, one’s unique personality traits and skills applied appropriately to an aligned role will be your competitive edge.
#3. Budget and live frugally so you can accumulate enough wealth to have the freedom to pursue your ultimate dream(s). It’s rare to identify your calling on the first try, thus working in a mis-aligned role or roles in the beginning is part of your journey. Who knows how many times you’ll have to try new jobs, companies, salaries, to find which one works best for you? The only thing you can truly control is what to do with the income you’ve worked so hard for! To spend it on “fun” events, fancy apartments, new cars, etc. is no doubt a given right. However, if those habits chain you to the role you’re unhappy with just for the money, then you’re no closer to your larger purpose than when you began.
For Bill Gates, although his life now revolves around charity and changing the world through his legacy, he would not have the means to align life with work without his sacrifices and hard work to build Microsoft. In summary, as long as we learn from our jobs and careers more about who we are and how we like to work, then we are already making great strides towards our own life’s work!
How have you achieved life-work alignment? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
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