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In his very famous book The Inner Game of Work, Timothy Gallwey makes one major point, and makes it well:
Work should be hard.
Okay, well maybe “hard” is the wrong word. But he does say very clearly that the work you do–whether it’s sales, management or just simple customer service–should challenge you in some way on a daily basis. And if it doesn’t–if your job just happens to be way too easy, or if you just happen to be way too good–you have to find a way to make it harder.
Because that’s how you’ll learn to love it.
Here’s the book in a nutshell: In order to enjoy work and improve your performance, you have to get right in the middle of the hallowed “work triangle.” This is the sweet spot because it’s the place in which you have an equal measure of the three most important ingredients for job satisfaction:
Let me talk about each of these in a bit more detail:
Performance is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, if you’re not good at your job, you won’t like it. But this triangle apex also includes setting goals for yourself that are tangible and realistic and achieving them regularly. If you can do that–and bonus points if you can ask for and receive recognition for these accomplishments–you’re golden.
Learning is where the challenge that I talked about before comes in. Are you learning something new at your job on a (very) regular basis? If not, you’re missing a key part of enjoyment. The brain thrives on creating new pathways, gaining new knowledge. Learning is not only enjoyable intrinsically, but it gets us better at what we’re doing and gives us something to accomplish (which brings us back to point #1). Cool, huh?
The final part of the triangle is enjoyment. It sounds repetitive to say “in order to make work enjoyable, you have to make it enjoyable,” but here’s the point: No matter what you do, you can engage your creativity in some way to improve your experience. When I worked at a restaurant, I liked small talking and joking with my customers. When I’m in a meeting, I try to connect on a more personal level with my client rather than just discuss strategy. Some people play games in their own heads while at work just to make it more fun (“I wonder how many times I can make someone smile,” an excellent and engaged cashier might ask).
Pretty awesome stuff, huh? What do you think–are these tips doable for you? I’d love to hear your comments.