Are you in love with what you do?
Yes, it's Valentine's Day - but let's get something out of the way first: this isn't a post about some sort of El Dorado where you go cartwheeling into work every day, never have a dull moment and post endless soft-focus quotes on Instagram. Not even David Brent was that unrealistic...
Whatever is it that you do, however much you adore it, there will always be things sent to keep your feet on the ground. Personally I find that they often originate from Southern Rail and HMRC. Anyway, now we've established a little bit of realism...
Why do you do what you do?
I'm not solely talking about work, but seeing as it tends to take up most of our time, energy and thoughts it seems a good place to start. Maybe your job is your vocation and money doesn't matter, maybe money is the only thing that matters. Maybe your first love is a sport or hobby and your job simply enables you to compete. Maybe what drives you is having your name on the CEO's door. We're all different, and what matters to you is what matters.
However, one of the few certainties in life is change. What if you signed up to something with a long-term plan that's no longer possible? The promising athlete that suffers a serious injury, the corporate high-flier whose company goes bust, the goodwill of public servants that is eroded by their Sisyphean task. Now what?
Well, market fortunes and organisations might change - but our core values as people are more constant. A leopard doesn't change its spots, as they say, but it does change what it eats and how it hunts based on its surroundings (I haven't fact-checked that with Attenborough but go along with it).
So my next question to you is: what's important to you? I mean really important - endlessly looking back in years to come, wishing things were different and 20/20 hindsight is no use to anyone (unless you work for the IPCC, in which case it's a career). You might as well do something that you actually want to do.
If you'd asked me about my career plans in 2009, I'd have told you I fully intended to spend 35 years in the police. It appeared to have all the things that were important to me: doing something meaningful, all kinds of specialisms and opportunities, career progression and the chance to spend lots of time in West Croydon (OK, the last one is a lie). For a few years at least, that's how it was - and it was great. Gradually though, doing it because I wanted to ebbed away and was replaced by doing it because I needed to - to pay the rent, to keep up appearances, to not be "a quitter".
I've written about motivation before and how we often wait for our backsides to catch fire to make a move. I'd ignored the smouldering embers for a while before the impact on my mental and physical health eventually became hot enough to make me jump.
Wanting to get back to making a difference, I thought I'd see if I could help my former colleagues from the outside. Again, initial success and progress gave way to banging my head against some familiar brick walls.
Which led to Mightify - aligning what I do with what I believe in and what motivates me: having a clear purpose. That purpose is to give everyone in the emergency services access to proper coaching and mentoring, whenever and however they need it. All ranks, all roles, all reasons.
It's no secret that the emergency services currently form a fleet of pretty unhappy ships. Many will decide to stay because their "why" is the job itself, and I applaud that. Many others will decide to move on, because their "why" gives more weight to family time, health, salary, progression and so on - and I applaud that too.
The point is, when you have worked out why you do something (or why you'd like to do something else) - make it happen. Then in future, when you think about your work, you might still not be doing cartwheels - but you might at least want to stop at the garage on the way home for some flowers and a card.