Your place of vocation is a laboratory for the eight well-being indicators. By observing your energy around your work, school, or a home-based occupation such as parenting, you can better understand the role your work has in your life and make smarter choices for how you want to show up.
Assess Your Gifts
Gifts are talents, wisdom, or any life-giving services that you offer to your community. Our communities depend on these gifts to thrive and flourish, especially our work communities. Unfortunately, many organizational communities only focus on a narrow set of gifts defined by our job descriptions or test scores.
Peter Block, a renown teacher and consultant, once told me that our work in the community is to make our gifts visible and useful. Sometimes sharing our gifts is judged to be ego-based versus an act of service. It’s true that what we offer can come from a place of ego, but we can also offer our gifts with great humility.
Many of us have not developed our gifts because we don’t know what they are. To become aware of your gifts, suspend any judgment and acknowledge what you do well consistently over time.
Ask a friend at work what gifts you might possess that are underdeveloped. Do not dismiss or judge your friend’s response, just thank them for their input. Take what you have learned from your own insight and the feedback of others and make a list.
Knowing our gifts and making them visible is vital if we and our communities are going to thrive and flourish, but we often struggle to make our gifts useful once they are visible because we are not working or living in a gifts culture.
A gifts culture is a culture that is open to receiving as well as giving gifts. It is one that creates opportunity as gifts emerge versus simply being locked into a narrow definition of what is needed to function. A gifts culture is curious about connecting performance with the many different contributions needed to succeed. Lastly, a gifts culture is not threatened by diversity but welcomes different cultures and social preferences into the mix so that they might adapt and grow more effectively as individuals and as organizations.
Your Vocational Energy
Energy is a combination of emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual forces that combine to generate intuition and ignite your senses. Energy, essentially, is your whole being reacting to events that are either life-giving or diminishing.
The energy of certain experiences or events can build up over time. For example, if you feel threatened or unsafe at work, you may develop feelings of dread, depression, anger, or fear that keeps you from performing at your best.
The opposite or positive kind of energy can be said to be “zest.” Zest is genuine excitement and energy for diving into your day.
Certain things have to be in place in order to be zestful:
- A safe work/home/study environment.
- A culture of learning with a shared sense of purpose or mission.
- A supportive family and community The ability to influence and master your thoughts and feelings.
Your daily energy informs your ability to be productive and get things done. Becoming mindful of your energy is the first step to being able to maximize your energy and to create more zest. Nutrition and sleep, physical activity will dramatically influence your energy as well as your social connections, ability to achieve results, and the purposefulness of your work.
It will take some experimentation to increase your energy. A good place to start is with your thoughts. How you think also has a big impact on your energy. For example, people who are grateful and acknowledge the gifts in their day tend to be more energized and zestful.
In organizations, process achievements (milestones) and long-term outcomes (end goals) are often an important part of your days. Holding yourself accountable for your contributions takes some thoughtfulness and awareness.
The hard part of achievement is that it can sometimes be tricky to measure what is most important. Test scores, for examples, are sometimes said to be proxies (stand-in results) for a student’s perseverance and intellectual knowledge but fall far short from really measuring true grit and smarts.
To measure your achievements pay attention to what matters to you at a given moment, how your thoughts and energy align with your goals, and what are you actually achieving. Your aim is to notice the gap between your current reality and your desired future.
Is there a pattern that you notice in your achievements over the day? Do you tend towards the easier tasks and postpone the harder ones until the last minute? Is there a gap between your desired achievement in the day and what you actually get done?
Becoming aware of your achievement gaps requires you to become a detective. Become aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and physical needs.
Where We Get Stuck
Where we get stuck at work or school can be a bit different than where we get stuck with our families. At work or school, you only get glimpses of who people are because we are often asked to put aside personality and uniqueness to conform to a certain set of norms or culture. Quirkiness and differences can sometimes be squashed in the workplace making it difficult to advance when you have to suppress essential elements of who you are.
Getting stuck in these environments is often related to uncertainty about how the rules of the game are played or because the rules do not include you or potentially oppress you.
Sometimes getting stuck has nothing to do with the culture or the structures of an organization. It has to do with your own goals. You don’t know what you want; you only know you don’t want this!
Getting stuck can also simply mean that you have not done your own personal work regarding learning how to engage in your work or school environment.
Becoming conscious of the gap between the desired norms at work or school, the actual norms, and how people respond to the difference can give you insight into why you may get stuck. In the end, there will be both external and internal processes influencing your stuckness. The key is to focus on what you have control or influence over to make wise changes that serve you and that are life-giving.
We spend a lot of time at our work or school. It is important to benefit the most from our time currency spent in these places.
There is much that we do not control. At some point, if our work or school environments are not right for us, we need to move on. Often there is much we can do to improve our conditions before it comes to that.
If we are stressed at work, then we can find ways to relieve stress over the course of the day. If we have challenging peers to work with, we can show up with our best behavior and invite others to be at their best as well. If we are overwhelmed, we can look at what aspects of our work are overwhelming us and try small experiments to shift our behavior around these challenges.
All of our stories have some truth in them, but not all our stories are THE TRUTH. Mindfulness and kind attention is the key.