It’s not a secret that your favorite skills and what you are good at are often intertwined. When you enjoy doing something, you’ll likely choose to do it often. And practice makes perfect, isn’t that how the saying goes?
When I speak to my clients, it is one of the first things I try to emphasize. So many of us work in jobs where we are expected to use our non-preferred skills for a good part of the day. We may not even realize how taxing that is until we get home, plop on the couch and have no energy left to cook a meal. Do you know what activities you do the most throughout your day? What skills are you using – are they the skills that you enjoy? Do you find your energy level dropping as your day unfolds, or are you energized and in the flow?
Your state of mind, as well as your physical well-being at the end of each day, can give you clues as to whether you allocate too much time to your non-preferred skills. It may be tough to recognize when this happens because it is usually a gradual change. Assuming we’ve done our due diligence, upon starting a new job we typically find a match between our skills and the tasks we must perform. But jobs often morph and the job descriptions change as we climb the career ladder, assume new responsibilities, or make lateral moves to expand our area of expertise. It can often happen that over time we find ourselves performing less and less of the tasks we originally enjoyed.
Have you noticed yourself moving at a slower pace at work? Are you able to accomplish less in the same amount of time? Do you get tired more easily? Or do you find yourself procrastinating when a new project lands on your desk? Perhaps this shift has happened to you.
Of course it’s unrealistic to expect work to consist solely of tasks requiring the use of skills that we enjoy the most. In any job, there will always be a mix of fun and drudgery. But we would be wise to keep a check on whether the balance continues to shift in the right direction.
A good, but somewhat unconventional, test?... when you are on vacation and still enjoy doing the work. Don’t get me wrong -- I am certainly not advocating working through vacations! We all need some time to recharge, to get away, to leave our work personas behind for a few days. But if you find yourself itching to do what you love, even when you don’t have to – then perhaps you have found the holy grail of work.
My mom is certainly a testament to this. When she cooks, her energy is contagious. Her meals are packed with nutrition but their main ingredient is always love. She uses her cooking skills to benefit all of us and she makes it look effortless. I am not even sure she knows she is working.
Pretty impressive for someone who need not be – after all, this is her second act. In her first, she was an engineer. I’ll have to ask her next time she visits how she enjoyed it.