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Goal Setting Tip

Try the 'do what you love' cycle

Goal Setting Tip

Try the 'do what you love' cycle

What’s the key to well-being in the workplace? If we could offer one, single, goal setting tip it would be: “do what you love”.

Some people don’t feel comfortable when using the word “love” in relation to work. Indeed many might argue that the world of work is too pressurised for anything as soft or sentimental as love. When asked how we feel about our work, those inclined to respond positively might use words like “enjoyable,” “interesting” or “rewarding”.

Those of you who are less than happy in your jobs will undoubtedly use different words to describe your feelings, though that’s a vocabulary best left to your own imaginations! Whatever your feelings about your own work situation, one thing is certain. The majority of us will spend almost a third of our adult lives in the workplace.

There probably isn’t one simple key to happiness, but as we spend so much of our time and energy at work, learning how to be happy during those hours is surely well worth the effort.

“And what is it to work with love?

Work is love made visible.

And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste,

it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple

and take alms of those who work with joy.”

Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet

In this article, we’re proposing a model we call the Do-What-You-Love-Cycle. We think this is an essential goal setting tip, designed to help you analyse your feelings about your employment, and to help you put your current work situation into a broader perspective.

The model encourages you to spend thinking about your current work situation, and then more time asking yourself some important questions.

If you haven’t read them already, you might find some of our other articles useful here. Try Best Management Tools Ever; A Good Question to provide you with a goal setting tip, and to get you into an inquisitive frame of mind. Then What Great Managers Know; It’s Obvious, for another goal setting tip – how to keep even the most complicated situations simple.

Once you’ve done this, spend as much time as you need thinking about what might be your optimum occupation. By this we mean an occupation that might be referred to as a calling. Something you’d enjoy so much you’d be happy to do it, regardless of the income.

If you do manage to identify your calling, and that may take some time, next start to think about what it would take to turn these thoughts into reality. You may think this isn’t currently feasible for many reasons, but there’s nothing to stop you starting your journey towards your calling, if only by beginning to think positively.

In the meantime, you may have to make the most of a work situation which may not be ideal but is nonetheless a big part of your life. The Do-What-You-Love-Cycle is explained in more detail below and in other articles on this site. In short, it suggests ways to get the most out of your work. Regardless of whether you’ve managed to achieve your calling, are well on the way, or have only just started thinking about it, the Do-What-You-Love-Cycle can help you to be happier if you try to:

  1. Do what you love, or…
  2. Do more of what you love, or…
  3. Learn to love what you do, or…
  4. Learn to live with what you do, or, if it comes to this…
  5. Leave what you do.

Goal setting tip: do what you love!

Goal Setting Tip 1: Do What You Love

So, what’s our essential happiness goal setting tip? Spend as much time as you need deciding what you’d love to do. What is it you’d gladly spend your working day doing? Next spend time thinking about how you can make your living by doing it. It might sound easy, but it’s almost certainly not – though you won’t know until you’ve at least given it some thought.

Read “How To Be Happy At Work” for a fuller discussion of happiness at work, and what we mean by “calling”. Who knows, it might put you on the road to the happiest time of your life.

Of course, you may be there right now. If you’re already working at your calling, congratulations! Long may it last. Enjoy your life, but be sure to share the happiness. Tell someone who’s not happy at work about your experiences. Who knows, you may change their life for the better too. If you’re not there yet, but know where you’d like to spend your working life, try to make the most of whatever it is you’re currently doing. Start by trying to do more of what you love.

Goal Setting Tip 2: Do More of What You Love

Some people never even come close to earning a living by working at their calling. This may be through a conscious decision to ignore the idea – to settle for the status quo. That’s fine. We make our own decisions in life. Others may not be able to pursue what they’d really love to do because of their commitment to others – family, partners, friends. Living a life which has a positive impact on those we care about is a key element of happiness (see Stress Management Tip: Know When Enough Is Enough).

Regardless of whether or not your current job is a stepping stone to other things, you could still benefit from trying to do the things you love whilst there. In your current occupation, are there elements of your job that you love more than others? Do you have particular strengths that, when applied, give you extra job satisfaction? (Look at our Rate Your Happiness page for ways to identify your personal strengths).

Could you arrange your working life so that you can make the most of these opportunities. See what you can negotiate with your manager. It would be to the organisation’s benefit too! If that’s not possible, the next thing to try is to adjust your mental attitude to your job. Try learning to love what you do.

Goal Setting Tip 3: Learn to Love What You Do

Our attitude to life is largely our own business so there is much about our own happiness that we can control. Try applying this goal setting tip to your work:

  • Even if you can’t spend all of your time doing the specific aspects of your job that bring you the most happiness, try to adopt a positive mental attitude to all of your work. Try to “re-frame” how you feel about your work.
  • Did you once love what you do? Try to rekindle the fire! Remember what it was that you once enjoyed and make a conscious effort to feel that way again.
  • Think about the good things in your day – routines, surprises, relationships, small rewards. Focus on these positives, rather than the negatives that make you unhappy.
  • Think about the overall contribution your organisation makes to its customers or to society in general. Focus on your own input to this contribution.
  • Try to consciously think the best about your work, rather than the worst. Positive thinking, looking for the best in people or situations, can work wonders if you just give it a try.
Goal Setting Tip 4: Learn to Live With What You Do

Even if you can’t get enthused about your work, try to be positive about what your work does for you. Our situations vary greatly, but the majority of people work in jobs that contribute to at least a subsistence standard of living. Don’t forget that, however much we might dislike our jobs, they pay for the things we have in life. Quite often for the things our families have in life. After all, you wouldn’t be working in your job if you didn’t get at least some rewards! Who knows, after reading this your work may not seem quite so bad, especially if you come to realise it may only a stepping stone to something better.

Continual self-development is another key factor in promoting our own happiness. Perhaps you could use the time in you current job to focus your development on ways to move towards your calling. Whatever you do, continue to give of your best, as that is a key to happiness. Though if there are things you just can’t change, about your job or about yourself, adopt what Bob Sutton calls “healthy indifference”.

To seek a balanced approach to happiness, both in and beyond the workplace, is good advice whatever your view of your job. Perhaps focus on other aspects of your life that do make you happy. Perhaps you are already engaged in your calling but it’s not work-related.

For many people, voluntary or community work can be the greatest enjoyment in life, and their “day job” is simply the necessary price they pay to enjoy their leisure time. If even this attempt at positive thinking doesn’t work then it might just be time to think about leaving what you do.

Goal Setting Tip 5: Leave What You Do

If all else fails, and if you can’t change either yourself or your work situation, then it’s probably time to look for something else. The ideal would be to take another step towards your calling but if that is not yet an option, don’t do anything hasty. Explore any options that may exist within your current employment. Perhaps a transfer to another department may re-invigorate you. If not, maybe something a little more drastic such as a role change, or even a step down the ladder. Read our article Stress Management Tip: Know When Enough Is Enough to see if you could actually lead a happier life by doing less at work, or by taking on fewer responsibilities.

If an internal move is not an option, try to focus on what you’ve learned from your current situation and how you’d like to improve on that in your next job. There are no guarantees that the other side will be greener, but try to find another job where you can be happier. Hopefully by using the skills, knowledge and insights you’ve gained from applying this work-cycle: our last goal setting tip!

Goal Setting Tip 6: Managing the Do-What-You-Love-Cycle

This article is intended to get you thinking about your work situation and to encourage you to look for happier ways to work. The discussion has only been introductory, and the main points are discussed in much more detail in the related articles:”Finding Ways to be Happy at Work” and in our great-value, happy workplace e-guides. However, as managers, we must remember that our responsibility is to both ourselves and to the colleagues we manage.

Consequently the last goal setting tip is a call to all managers to think about the Do-What-You-Love-cycle in terms of both your own situations, and with reference to the people you manage. You might like to think about this for a moment, then re-read the article from a different perspective.

Think again about the elements of the work-cycle, but with your colleagues in mind. For example, could you use the cycle as a basis for your employee goal setting strategies? Hopefully this may lead you to a better understanding of workplace dynamics. It might also lead you to a whole series of new questions and ideas which, if addressed, might just make a difference to the experiences of everybody in your workplace. If you could make that sort of contribution to your own and your colleagues’ well-being, you really would be on the way to being a happy manager.

So, if we could offer one, single, goal setting tip it would be: “do what you love”. Don’t just take our word for it. Listen to Apple Mac co-founder Steve Jobs’ powerful Stanford University speech, on this very subject. Well worth just over three minutes of your time.

Putting goal setting into action!

SMART Goals, SHARP Goals e-guideYou can also find our more about the benefits of goal setting in our e-guide: SMART Goals, SHARP Goals to help you do just this. The guide contains 30 pages and 5 tools to help you to set SMART goals, then take SHARP action to achieve them.

It includes:
  • How do you define goal setting?
  • What features of goal setting are important, if we want to ensure they are more likely to be successfully achieved?
  • What kinds of goals are more likely to make us motivated to achieve them?
  • How do you set SMART goals?
  • Why do goals matter?
  • What kind of goals should you pursue to be happier in what you do?
  • How do you set team goals?
  • What strategies can you apply to overcome barriers to setting goals?
  • How do you develop SHARP plans of action that help you to achieve your goals?
  • What techniques can you use to get things done?
  • How do you set personal goals?

Tool 1: Conventional goal setting
Tool 2: Setting SMART goals that motivate
Tool 3: The kind of goals that will make you happier
Tool 4: Taking SHARP action
Tool 5: Team goals flowchart
Tool 6: Eight personal goal setting questions

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