How To Change Your Relationship To Work

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Today, I’m happily married, but before I fell in love with my wife, I had some amazing girlfriends. Despite, how great they were, the relationships didn’t last. I started seeing a pattern and I realized that the common denominator was me.

There was nothing wrong with the women I dated throughout my life. The most amazing woman in the world could have been in love with me and I would have screwed in up, sabotaged the relationship, or found something wrong. These issues stemmed from my relationship with my mom.

The real problem was my relationship to women in general, not any individual woman.

But my younger self always found a way to justify his self-righteousness. It was their fault, not his. They messed up, not him. They didn’t appreciate him. They didn’t understand him. They. They. They. They. They.

I’m so grateful to be married to the woman of my dreams today. Before my realization, I would have missed her in plain sight.

This article isn’t about dating a colleague at work. It’s about you.

Today, so many people hate their jobs. They blame it on their employer, the company culture, the leadership, their boss, their colleagues, their clients, and the economy.

Like dating, a new job feels good at first, but over time that tends to fade for many people because if we all look deep within, the real issue is none of the above.

The real issue is our relationship to work.

Why We Hate Work

If you personify work and make it into a person, what was your relationship to work growing up?

For many of us, work was the man/woman…

…that our parents would always complain about, but never challenge
…that kept our parents out late and made them miss family dinner
…that messed up their day and they brought that anger home
…that took away their best energy, so even if they were home, they were tired
…that made them feel powerless, so they exerted that power as the breadwinner
…that they chose over our games, recitals, first steps, and birthday parties
…that meant more to them than our love
…that caused our families to move away from our friends and other family members
…that they used as an excuse to justify themselves whenever they were wrong

Maybe it’s just me.

My parents were both doctors. So everyone thought that I was going to be a doctor too. I went to work with them some days and even sat in on a few surgeries. And while it appeared interesting, secure, and high-paying, I honestly didn’t admire my parents’ lifestyle.

I didn’t like the idea of being on-call on weeknights and weekends, working from 7am-7pm several days a week, or years of medical school with mountains of debt. Though every career isn’t exactly like that, many white collar jobs feel like that today because technology extends the office and the rising cost of higher education. It’s possible to have a job you love that affords you financial freedom, but doesn’t afford you the time freedom to have the lifestyle you want.

As a result of this lifestyle, most people can’t wait to retire. Then, they will get to travel. Then, they will get to spend quality time with the people they love. Then, they will get to do they things they love. But by then, they will be too old. And by then, their kids will be gone and too busy working themselves. Life isn’t static, yet we make long-term choices about our lives today with the assumption that everyone around us will stay the same like our daughter will always be our little girl in school.

Work Isn’t Fair

We also hate work because it’s not fair and objective like school was.

  • People rise because of politics more than performance.
  • There are no written rules—there is a culture and you have to figure it out.
  • The person who creates the most value doesn’t always get paid the most.
  • Your career acceleration is oftentimes in your boss’s hands, not your own.
  • You don’t get paid more for working harder or longer if you’re salaried.
  • The smartest person, who knows the most, doesn’t rise to the top.
  • Salaries and bonuses are usually secret.
  • You get paid less for the same work just because you’re a woman.
  • Good people get fired without notice or conversation.
  • The pay scale disproportionally inflates the higher up you go.

Who is motivated to play an unfair game that has no clear rules? If we all understood the game, I think we would all perform higher or at least to the degree that we wanted to succeed.

In addition to work coming between families and not being fair, to kids, work was a synonym for chores and homework—both things are necessary, but we would rather not do them if we didn’t have to.

Changing Our Relationship To Work

Thankfully, I’m married to the most amazing woman today. But in order to truly love and appreciate her, I had to look at my relationship to women.

I can’t change the way my parents’ related to work, but I can use what I observed to create a new vision for myself.

Below are some questions I asked myself about my relationship to women that I adapted for work. Hopefully they help you transform your relationship to work.

  • Why do I work?
  • What’s the purpose of work in general?
  • Have I ever loved work? If so, what did I love about it?
  • What is my relationship to work right now?
  • Has my relationship to work always been this way?
  • When has my relationship to work been the best?
  • When has my relationship to work been the worst?
  • What do I love about work?
  • What don’t I like about work?
  • What do I expect from work (besides money)?
  • What does work give me (besides money)?
  • What can I do to improve my relationship to work (even if Work doesn’t change)?

Enjoying Work Again

Author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi,has done significant research on enjoying what we. He calls it flow. In sports, flow is known as being “in the zone.” It’s when an athlete is completely focused, time appears to slow down, they are enjoying the activity, it feels effortless, and they can’t miss. He identifies a number of different elements involved in achieving flow:

  • There are clear goals every step of the way.
  • There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.
  • There is a balance between challenges and skills.
  • Action and awareness are merged.
  • Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
  • There is no worry of failure.
  • Self-consciousness disappears.
  • The sense of time becomes distorted.
  • The activity becomes an end in itself.

Considering integrating these elements such as clear goals, immediate feedback, challenge, no worry, and intrinsic motivation into your relationship with work and see if they help you experience more enjoyment.

Wishing you more happy hours,