Over the 11 years I’ve been offering career coaching and leadership development training, I’ve heard from over 100,000 individuals from around the world who share some form of this sentiment:
“I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not this!”
They also share what they perceive to be the most critical missing ingredients in their lives and work – the vital elements or experiences they desperately want more of, but struggle fiercely to achieve. They believe that if they can create or access more of these desired experiences and entities, life will be so much happier, rewarding and fulfilling. And they’re right.
Below are what I’ve found to be the top 7 things professionals want more of, and proven strategies for how to get them.
Control Over Time/Flexibility
I remember when I was a corporate VP, I’d come in each morning, and my entire day had already been booked (by other people) with meetings they wanted me to attend. And I had no say in the matter. I absolutely hated that, because I felt that my job ran me, not the other way around. And when I pushed back, it went badly because that specific corporate culture was rampant with wasted time and lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
So many professional women have shared with me too that they’ve lost the ability to control their own time and schedules. The sheer volume of exhausting demands that are placed on them (or that they take on themselves), and the level of tasks and activities they feel forced to engage in (in order to be “successful”), has worn them out, and shattered their dreams for a happier, healthier, and more self-directed life. They also reveal that they simply can’t figure out how to be the highly contributive professional they long to be, while also serving as the engaged, loving and present parent they dream to be.
What to do: When you have lost control over your time, you need to re-claim it. It’s that simple (simple, but not easy).
It’s a matter of first prioritizing in your mind and heart what deeply matters to you in your life, then making the bold and brave decision to start say “no” to what matters less.Essential to this is releasing your need to be perfect, and your drive to perfection, which is crippling. I believe that the driven fear that you won’t be perfect in all things is the death of peace and the death of bravery. Achieving greatness is not the same as striving for perfection – the energy is very different when you believe you have to get an A+ in absolutely everything you do. Until you begin to speak up for yourself and honor your authentic life priorities, and back away from what matters less to you, you’ll never feel that you run your own life. It will always control you, and you’ll end up with at least one of the top five regrets midlife people face. If your work culture and manager doesn’t honor your wish and need for wanting more control over your time, it’s probably not the right fit for you, and it’s time to interview.
Thousands of professionals today feel disrespected, not able to receive the recognition and validation they feel they deserve. They see other people getting raises and promotions, and receiving the favor of management and senior leadership. And they can’t understand why it’s not them.
What to do: While there is undoubtedly a plethora of terrible managers (I've had more than a few myself and written about it) as well as poor leadership and management, something else is going on as well. The key is to understand that life is a mirror. What you’re getting from others is most likely what you’re putting out into the world (or accepting). You might be attracting or "hooking into" negative behavior, if your boundaries area not strong enough to protect and defend your integrity and your non-negotiables. All of life is energy and if your energy is negative, pessimistic or unhelpful, then that’s what you’ll get back. On the other hand, when you focus on increasing your own self-respect and showing respect and recognition for others, you’ll see it returned to you a hundredfold to you. And you'll figure out exactly what to do about mistreatment and poor management behavior, and you'll take empowered, proactive measures to be free of it.
Recently, I created a Facebook group called Thriving After Narcissism for adult children of narcissists. Millions of people today have experienced pain and suffering at the hands of narcissistic parents, spouses, colleagues, and bosses, and I’m one of them. When you are on the receiving end of narcissism, kindness and care can be obliterated in your life, and it’s crazy-making. But you don’t have to be a child of a narcissist to feel that kindness and compassion are in short supply in your work and your personal life. There is plenty of toxicity, negativity and cruelty all around us today.
What to do: If you want more kindness and care in your life, you need to be hyper vigilant about focusing on your own kindness and compassion, and being extremely careful who you let into your inner circle. It all starts with you. To whom are you being hateful, biting, negative? How are you broadcasting cruelty rather than compassion and kindness. Start small, but begin a practice each day of embracing and expanding kindness and positivity. For example, engage in a random act of kindness (for example, send an email of thanks to someone who’s made a difference in your life), and bring kindness forward. Also, be extremely careful about the news you let into your life, and monitor (and filter) the food for thought that you give your mind and spirit. When you do, the haters will begin to recede in the background, and you’ll start to make entirely different decisions about the kind of cultures and people you want to work with and for.
Emerging leaders often say to me “I’m ready for more responsibility, but they won’t give it to me!” Who are “they” anyway?
Exciting leadership, authority and responsibility in your work is not something you should wait for others to bestow on you. If you want juicier work that will be enlivening and exciting, and you want to become an expert in it, identify what you want to sink your teeth into, and start doing it.
Often when folks say to me “I want a promotion and a raise in the next four months!” it’s an ego-based desire. They feel they’ve been passed over and, in their minds, getting a promotion is the one way that they’ll show the world that they’re important. Getting a promotion is not the only way to demonstrate authority and leadership. There are many other rewarding and impactful ways.
What to do: Determine exactly why you want more leadership and authority. Is it ego-based in any way, and are you trying to prove something? Is it from a desire to show someone (your boss, your parents, your spouse) or yourself that you’re great at what you do? Or do you truly want to lead?
If authentic leadership is what you want, start being the leader you dream of. Identify a critical area, project or direction that you’re passionate about and needs more leadership, and take charge of it. Volunteer to support a project that needs your special expertise. Launch a program at work that will be of help to others, and spearhead it. Run a new workshop or training program sharing your teachable point of view. Become the inspiring leader who demonstrates true vision for taking your organization forward, and do something proactive as a leader every day. Then you’ll be recognized as one.
Most everyone on the planet wants work that feels exciting and enlivening. But recent Gallup studies show that we have a worldwide employee engagement crisis. Only 13% of the global employee population and 32% of the U.S. employee population are engaged in their work.
What to do: Awesome work doesn’t just fall in our laps. We have to do the inner and out work necessary to identify what excites us, then bring that work forward by finding avenues for being of service with our talents and gifts.
The days of easily landing a great, fun and lucrative job and doing nothing proactive to sustain or grow it are over.
What talents, abilities and skills do you love to use, and how can you leverage and monetize those so you’re doing work that is meaningful and exciting as well as financially viable? As one of my LinkedIn connections suggested just today, he focused on his big dream for just one hour in the morning, every day. Soon, the dream expanded and he was able to focus his entire livelihood on it. Take one step every day that propels your dream forward, and soon, the dream for exciting work will be reality.
Think about this: Isn’t it true that the vast majority of people you know wish they earned or saved more money? According to a recent report by Bankrate, 66 million Americans have zero dollars saved for an emergency expense — zero — and 28 % have only six month’s worth of savings. It’s a deeply challenging and common problem around the world. But it’s not just confined to the poor. While more than half of all households with an annual income under $30,000 have no emergency savings, fully one in six households with an annual income between $50,000 and $75,000 had no emergency savings either.
That said, there are people everywhere who are earning and saving what they need and want (whether that’s $5,000 or $5 million) and they understand how money “works” for them.
What to do: The professionals I work with who struggle with money almost invariably experience challenges in their relationship with money. Either they resent money, are a slave to it, or feel that it is impossibly elusive and has never been good to them. Any way you look at it, it’s a relationship fraught with resistance, anger and confusion. Also, there are clear issues around their “upper limits” – the threshold that was formed through their childhood and upbringing that represents the financial level they’re comfortable with. (Read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks and The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth for more info.) If folks go over their “upper limit,” they feel insecure and afraid, and start to sabotage themselves and their financial situation. It’s critical to understand your unique relationship with money, and identify if you have an “upper limit problem” and/or negative wealth programming from childhood that needs addressing.
Living joyfully is every human’s inalienable right, yet millions don’t and can’t do it. They work themselves to the bone, and are stuck in toxic relationships that hurt them, and live lives of sadness and quiet desperation, feeling alone, disempowered and unfulfilled.
I’ve found that many people who are joyless have somehow formed a strong and inflexible attachment to struggle. They’re used to struggle, pain and chaos from their earlier life, and they don’t know how to find or create joy for themselves, and feel guilty if they do.
What to do: Make joy a priority. This coming year, decide to craft a more joyful life, and do something proactive about it. Determine what you love to do and focus on what brings you joy. If you can’t think of anything, recall your past as a child. What did you love to do, that made hours fly as if it were a second? What activities made your heart sing, and made you feel happy to be alive? Which activities made you feel special and unique? Bring those experiences and activities forward. If you find you can’t, then you’re blocked in some critical way, feeling perhaps that you don’t deserve joy. Recognize that having guilt over experiencing joy is a mindset that needs to be changed.
Prioritize joy as highly as everything else in your life, because a joyless life is a very sad, unfulfilling, and wasted one.