Dear J.T. & Dale: How do you advise someone in a helping profession to stay charged and current day after day? It takes its toll, and I see a high percentage of people who are disengaged and who seem to have lost their effectiveness. – Stephen
DALE: Your question reminds me of a transformation in my work life. A decade or so ago, I made a conscious decision to change the question I asked myself from “What do I have to do today?” to “Who can I help today?” Huge difference. That’s when I realized that work at its highest level is helping, so we’re all in your boat, Stephen.
Once you get used to thinking of working as helping, then there are follow-up questions: “Who else can I help today?” and “How else can I help?” There’s energy to be found in new ways of doing old work.
For instance, I once profiled a cancer-treatment clinic experimenting with ways to uplift patients’ spirits. One simple example: They installed a bell for the patients to ring after their final radiation or chemotherapy treatment. Every time that bell rang, a cheer went up around the clinic. Patients soon began to talk of “three more sessions, and I’ll be ringing that bell.”
Beautiful, no? However, I’m sure that after a while the employees did not feel the same charge when hearing the bell. What then? Time to try something new.
J.T.: The key word there is “new.” The best way to “get back that lovin’ feeling” is to disrupt your daily routine. You might be able to do it within the job, but you may need to go further. Can you take a class? Ask for a different assignment? Eventually, though, you might reach the point where it’s time to move on. We have a belief that we should stay with the same job in order to be stable and secure. That thinking is outdated. People with fulfilling lives tend to constantly reinvent themselves.
What I’m saying is that what’s holding you back from making a change is the same thing that’s making you unhappy. There’s a saying that “life begins where your comfort zone ends,” and maybe it’s time to choose to be uncomfortable.
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