If you work full time - do you realize more than 1/3 of your day revolves around work? Consider the time you spend preparing for work, traveling to and from work, and then actually at work. That's a lot of time -too much time in my opinion if it is all about just a paycheck. There are periods of time in almost everyone's career where we work to live. But wouldn't life be a whole lot more meaningful if you could enjoy the work you get paid to do? I know - that sounds like wanting to have your cake and eat it too, right? Well, when it comes to work, I am a firm believer it is absolutely possible to have your cake and eat it too...as long as you are sure you've got the right cake!
Is the cake you are eating (your job) overdone, short on sugar, or just plain nauseating? If you are trapped in a dead end job, living from paycheck to paycheck, and are living without a passion for your day to day grind, you probably don't want to eat it or have it. In fact, you would be just fine tossing the whole thing in the trash. Before you quit or take any other drastic measures, answer this question: Whose cake are you eating?
This is the question I had to ask myself, nine months after I started a new position at a global software company. In accepting the position I got a raise, a better title, more responsibility and a seemingly better work environment - a pretty sweet cake, right? Well the first bite (mostly frosting) was quite tasty. But as I took one bite after another, it became quite apparent the cake was well, half baked: super long hours, an understaffed team, and projects with unbelievable scope creep, and critical decisions that changed on a weekly basis.
The realization this was not the cake I wanted to eat at first evoked a sense of disappointment: Who would I really be without the title, money and position? As I let go and moved pass the feelings of loss, it slowly dawned on me I could bake my own cake. If you have found yourself in a similar situation I offer you the same challenge: What if you could have and eat a better cake? A cake you created - so you know it's going to be good.
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When you bake your own cake, you choose your own ingredients and ultimately the outcome. In other words you take control of what you get to have and eat. You can make the cake as sweet and moist as you want. You also control if it comes out burnt or just right. So what's an ambitious professional to do? Here are five steps that help you take control and start baking your own cake:
1. Consider what the job does give you: Despite the stress - the job does provide your current income. Be grateful for having a pay check and not a pink slip.
2. Visualize what you want: You'll be amazed at how your frustration decreases as you begin to think about what you could do - what options you have.
3. Do some research: Don't think you have any options? Get to your nearest library, bookstore, or job board fast and start exploring. Part of what keeps you feeling trapped is you don't know what escape hatches there are.
4. Step away from the negative influences: If the folks at work you associate with are negative, not only will they drain you emotionally - they could be hampering you professionally. Your boss has probably heard the saying, birds of a feather, flock together - don't get associated with a flock that has a bad reputation.
5. Communicate your ideas and plans: Put your ideas or plans in writing, read them everyday, and read them to your friends. The more you see it and say it, the more you will begin to attract the resources and opportunities you desire.
So what now? There is absolutely no value in completing steps 1-5 if you are not going to do anything. Most people never move out of the wishful planning stage. Commit today to being more than just a disciplined wisher. Commit to acting on your ideas and plans. If the idea of having your cake and eating it too resonates with you - I challenge you to make the next move, no matter how small it may seem. See you at the bake off!