I spent this morning cleaning out my Feedly and inbox of all the articles, newsletters, and links that piled up over the holiday break. One thing was abundantly clear from reading through so much end-of-year content. A lot of people wrote about how the pandemic made them rethink their lives and long for something different this year.
Maybe that's no surprise. Psychologists warned us the disruptions of Covid would cause many people to revisit their values and rethink whether their lives aligned with them. And the ongoing Great Resignation suggests that while many low-wage workers are fed up with exploitative labor practices, a lot of more privileged professionals are strung out and unsatisfied with their work lives too.
In short, a ton of people out there are desperate to redesign their lives, but a great many of them are probably still unsure about how to go about it. If that sounds like you, then author and executive coach Ann Hiatt has a suggestion: focus on the 3 P's.
"Whether you're making a complete career change or want to refocus your current role on what feels most meaningful to you, pivots can feel dizzying," Hiatt wrote recently on HBR before offering a simple framework to weigh your options and decide what move to make next.
Many thinkers besides Hiatt have noted that the best job for you (and the one you're most likely to persevere in) is the one that lines up with your values or purpose. Finding your life purpose might feel like a tall order requiring lengthy stays on lonely mountaintops or distant ashrams, but Hiatt insists a series of simple questions can bring finding your purpose down to earth.
"A shortcut to uncovering your driving purpose can be recalling when you last ended a long day feeling energized and proud of what you had just done, even if you were still far away from the project's finish line. This happens when the cause itself propels you forward and gives you energy rather than draining it," she explains.
You could also try asking yourself, "Which causes capture my attention and call me to action?" and "What actions, expertise, and contributions make up my ideal legacy?" The point here isn't to focus on what you're good at or what others value, but on what truly lights your own internal fire.
Work that doesn't align with your values is a sure route to misery, but so is working with jerks or people you feel simply don't get you. "The people on your immediate team inform the expertise you'll gain, the leadership attributes you'll inherit, and the growth experiences you'll have," explains Hiatt, so "look for teams of people you not only enjoy, but those you want to be like and who bring out the best in you."
To find these people, try asking yourself, "What circle of people embodies my ideals for ambition, balance, expertise, and priorities?" and "What are the names of leaders (in your company, community, and the world) who have the skills and reputation I hope to develop?"
Finding a job that fits with your values and personality is essential for long-term career happiness. So is being honest with yourself about the pace you want for your working life. Are you a hard-charging, I-can-sleep-when-I'm-dead kind of person? Or do you thrive on a more relaxed schedule that gives you time to pursue hobbies and invest in your personal relationships? (Note: everyone should leave some time for hobbies and other people. This is just a question of scale.)
Hiatt suggests you ask yourself questions like, "How frequently do I want to be expected to up-level my skills and expertise during this phase of my career?" and "Am I in a sprint or marathon stage of my career?"
Once you have clarity on these key contributing factors to a happy, sustainable, fulfilling career, you'll be in a much better place to evaluate specific opportunities. Should you take that new job offer or pursue that business opportunity? Refer back to your 3 P's. Is additional education or training a good idea? Consider if it will advance you toward your 3 P's. You need a vision of where you want to go before you can begin consciously piloting your life in that direction.