Small steps make a big difference

From the New York Times: Easy, Meaningful New Year’s Resolutions

Working with clients who are struggling with changing career directions — what can seem like a monumental task at times — I appreciate the reasoned approach to resolutions shown in this NYT column.

Even though conventional wisdom dictates that goals need to be measurable to work, I think it’s worth trying “I will get more exercise than I do now” instead of the more specific but rather punishing “I will go to the gym four times a week for two hours each time.” Who knows? The gentleness of the former approach may be more of a recipe for success than the latter. Worth a try!

How about we apply the same gentle approach to our career-related resolutions?

If you’re miserable at work, you might start with one or two small steps that can make your days at the office more bearable.

If you find yourself tied to your desk all day, why not try a 15-minute walk around the block after lunch, when your energy is flagging most? Or, in the spirit of the NYT column, don’t even give yourself a specific time to aim for. Some days you may only be able to slip away for five minutes; other days, when the sun is out and your inbox is blissfully empty, 30 minutes might even be possible.

Sometimes loving the work you do isn’t enough to sustain you in a workplace culture that has you working cheek-by-jowl with people you have nothing in common with. If you feel socially isolated at work, can you figure out a way to squeeze in a daily chat with a colleague you appreciate? Making a meaningful connection every day can fortify you for the long hours you may be spending in an environment that doesn’t suit you.

If you’re a creative person working in a monotonous role, find a way to incorporate a soul break. One client of mine loves to draw, and has taken to bringing her sketchbook with her to work. She takes mini breaks every day, pulls out her favourite pencils and lets her artistic side play. This doesn’t mean she loves her job now, but the break does bring her a sense of calm and mental clarity that helps her cope with the frustrations of the workday better than she was.

Certainly, you may feel like what you really need is just to get out of your job altogether. But that’s a HUGE step and it requires planning, insight and patience…with yourself and with the process.

In the meantime, take some time to consider what small things you can do for yourself in the job you already have. You may be surprised at the difference these little adjustments can make.

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