Work-Life Integration – Being the Best We Can Be

Happy woman - being the best we can be

Wikipedia describes the career as an individual’s metaphorical “journey” through learning, work, and other aspects of life.  What jumps out at me here is the word “journey.” It reminds me of a famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson;  “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  I used to feel so much pressure to try to decide what I wanted to be when I grow up until I realized that the goal is not about striving to reach a final destination. It’s about being happy, being balanced, being authentically ourselves along the way — being the best we can be.

Canada Career Month has been a great time to reflect on the “importance of accessing meaningful work” and how as career development professionals we help our clients on their metaphorical journey; supporting their personal and professional preferences. This year, however, has provided us with some unique challenges as the pandemic has caused irreparable damage to many industries leaving us treading through unfamiliar territory in the future of work.

In an article related to workforce development of digital talent, Talent Canada tells us, “Forecasting the course of this pandemic is far from certain, however, with adversity comes opportunities, and the best way to predict the future is to create it.”

As humans we thrive with structure and planning. We aspire to achieve our goals based on an external definition of success. 2020 has gifted us with perfect vision to break down preconceived structures and guide our awareness within to truly get to know ourselves, perhaps for the first time.

This is part of our collective journey and, being seasoned travelers, when our flight cancels, we pick up our bag and move on. When this happens with our employment, it often means facing our fears of the unknown. Our career path does not just define the work that we do but includes who we are being while doing that work. With a strong sense of self we overcome our fears by paying attention to our core values and desires and by seeing possibilities in unchartered new territories.

Making a Life instead of a Living

In her article titled Why You Should Be Making A Life Instead of Making A Living, Kathryn Sandford talks about the importance of “making a life where your definition of success is built on the foundation of words such as happiness, joy, love, passion and fulfilment.”  She challenges us to consider the notion that work can become our enemy when we allow it to “take over our lives and our sense of self” and “when our self-worth and our identity is based on the economic value of the job we do!”

When we allow what we do to define us it can destroy us when it is lost. When we live from the inside out we build resilience to external challenges.  What does this mean? Positive psychology tells us that “a resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources, strengths, and other positive capacities of psychological capital like hope, optimism, and self-efficacy. Being resilient is also positively associated with happiness.”

Our Pursuit of Happiness

Mercey Livingston writes in CNET about “four main hormones that trigger feelings of happiness. Understanding these chemicals and how they work can help you figure out even small ways to feel better amid such a stressful time.” This is a great read to understand the inner workings of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins and how they are released in your brain to make you happy. Mercey offers us  everyday tips to help us naturally “boost” the release of these “happiness hormones” in order to increase our sense of well-being during times of uncertainty.

A word of caution, though, comes from Erin Carson in her CNET article. She says “a body of research shows that chasing happiness, whatever that means to you, might actually be making you miserable” and “…in the midst of a global pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of lives lost, rampant unemployment and a general lingering air of uncertainty, many no doubt find it harder than ever to grasp even glimmers of happiness.”

Carson continues, “Research suggests those who accept their emotions, even if those emotions are negative, end up feeling happier overall. Individuals who accept rather than judge their mental experiences may attain better psychological health because they had less negative emotion in response to stressors.”

We are each responsible for our personal well-being and pursuit of happiness. However, as career development professionals, we can create the space for our clients to become aware of how to use their emotions as an internal GPS — to observe and accept, without judgment, that for the moment they may have met a dead end or a fork in the road on their journey. Empowered with a renewed sense of curiosity and creativity, we can partner to forge a new path.

It’s All About Balance

Understanding how our brains work can help us balance our happy hormones and give us some level of control over our emotions. We have the ability to re-wire our brains, but it does take time and commitment. Taylor Martin writes about 10 things you can do to literally change your brain. He tells us that “…simply believing that you have the power to physically change your brain can in fact help you change your brain.”

The pandemic has gifted us with an opportunity to help us to recognize what is important in all aspects of our lives. We have the power to choose to be who we truly are and to start living from the inside out rather than from the outside in. We have the ability to thrive now and post-pandemic. As confusing as it’s been to understand and adapt to our new normal, it may be even more confusing when we emerge on the other side of this thing and our hormones and emotions try to return to what we once knew as normal. For right now, let’s continue to grow our inner resources for dealing with stress and building resilience.

As part of your personal career development plan, consider expanding the range of services you offer by completing CPC’s new Work-Life Coaching course. The course focuses on the work-life skills required to help clients be successful in living, learning, and working, while also empowering them to nurture their happiness, well-being, and sense of self.

Carol Brochu combines a 30+ year career in HR, operations, and client service with a unique personal and spiritual development journey that has included studies in Mental Health First Aidenergy work, and self-care disciplines. She is a certified yoga and martial arts instructor, mindfulness facilitator, Me First practitioner, CPC member, and Certified Work-Life Strategist.

Photo by Dmytro Gilitukha on 123RF

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