You don’t even need to read stories like this to know what’s happening. You’ve probably seen your work mates get the call to come up to HR…seen them pack up and leave the building never to return, and thought: “Thank Christ that’s not me”. Yet.
I watched this exact thing happen to my dad. He was newly appointed as CEO of NatWest’s investment banking division in Jakarta, Indonesia when banking left him. It was ’97, and Asia was in the middle of its own banking crisis.
In hindsight, he’s glad it happened because he ended up setting up his own business that was more interesting, more fun, and more meaningful.
“I found banking to be unfulfilling in some ways, although fun and challenging in others. On balance, I found the pressure of looking for and executing deals just to meet revenue targets meant that a lot of deals got done which didn't really make sense for the clients, even though they wanted to do them and, to me, that was in a sense dishonest.
“Having by chance ended up in the manufacturing sector in very difficult circumstances initially, I later came to like it much more because we were creating a physical product which lifted countless people out of poverty and gave them a skill (and by extension supported their families) and enriched the lives of our customers with something they would keep for many years.
“I loved standing on the forecourt of our factory and seeing containers leaving every day, I enjoyed working with the locals, seeing them start to climb the economic ladder, and I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of building a business. I had a hell of a fun time developing our international customer base and making new friends all around the world who weren’t all lawyers and bankers.”
1. Figure out your values.
Forget productivity, forget lifehacks, forget goal setting, forget the seven habits of highly effective people. None of that’s going to get you anywhere unless you know what your values are.
Let’s be clear: values aren’t the same as ethics or morals. Your values are the qualities of a life lived fully from the inside out. They are the cornerstone of a life that’s meaningful to you. People stuck in jobs they hate are, usually, completely out of alignment with their values. Imagine if peace is an important value to you and you work somewhere where conflict happens daily and everyone else seems to thrive on it. It won’t be long before you’ve got the Sunday Night Blues every night.
Figuring out your values needn’t take long. Write a list of about eight things you really want to be or do or have. For each one, keep asking yourself, “What will that get me?” until you find yourself repeating the same word or a theme, eg: adventure, happiness, freedom, security, learning.
2. Next, answer this question: Am I living them?
If you’ve done this exercise, you should be staring at a list of three or four words. How much are they being reflected in how you live your life right now? What needs to change? What decisions can you make that will mean you’re living your values more? What can you add, what can you subtract?
3. Disconnect – it’s the paradox of our modern age.
We’ve got more ways to connect with each other and yet we’re more disconnected than ever. I mean, I’ve got four email addresses that I use daily, plus Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+…not to mention three phone numbers you could potentially reach me on.
Put yourself on a digital sabbatical, leave the smart phone at home and have some conversations with real, live people. Take yourself off for a modern-day walk about and reconnect with the physical world instead of spending all your time in the digital one.