Are you unhappy in your job and determined to find a new one? Or do you want to work out a way to stay in your job and – as the song says – love the one you’re with?
In many cases, it is possible to get a job you love without having to do a job search.
One of the best things you can do to start loving the job you’ve got is making sure you’re focused on your spheres of influence and control. (This concept is described by Stephen R. Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” a book that is more than 20 years old yet still definitely worth (re)reading.)
Here’s how to get focused on your spheres of influence and control in just a few minutes. You’ll need a sheet of paper, or you can use this worksheet I’ve created. Click here to access the worksheet.
1. Write down your current top 5 complaints about your job.
2. Decide which of the following three categories each complaint belongs in:
- Sphere of Control – things over which we have the final say; we determine the outcome. For example, “My email inbox has 562 unread messages in it and I am so stressed out.”
- Sphere of Influence – issues that we can influence, although we alone do not determine the outcome. Such as, “My assistant works so slowly, it’s easier if I just do it myself – but that means working longer hours.”
- Sphere of No Control/No Influence – matters that are out of our control or beyond ability to influence. For example, “My job requires heavy travel and I never get to see my family.”
3. Now, look at the complaints that fell into the No Control/No Influence category.
These are probably increasing your frustration and sapping your energy. When we focus on things we can’t control or influence, it’s like banging our heads against a brick wall.
By accepting that there are some things we cannot change, and shifting our focus to the things we do have influence – or better yet, control – over, we become much more:
- Able to enjoy our work
Looking at the complaints listed under the No Control/No Influence category, ask yourself, “Am I ready to let go of this? Am I resolved to stop thinking about it, complaining about it, and letting it bother me?”
If the answer is “Yes,” congratulations. You have just taken a critical step towards a happier work life.
If the answer is “Not Yet,” then:
4. Rephrase your “No Control/No Influence” complaints in a way that brings them into the Sphere of Influence or the Sphere of Control.
Sometimes the way we look at and speak about our situation limits our power to change or influence it. By looking at the same problem from a different perspective, we can transform it into something we can take action on.
I can rethink – and rephrase – my complaint to give me more influence and control. I can replace my complaint about work travel with: “I choose to talk with my boss about the possibility of holding some of my meetings via Skype video-conference rather than in person.”
I now have some influence over the issue. I may not have the final say, but at least there is something I can do to affect the outcome.
I could also rephrase the issue in another way, to bring it into the Circle of Control. For example: “I choose to find ways to increase my quality time with my family, such as using my frequent flier miles to bring them on a vacation when my business travel takes me somewhere scenic.”
Spending the majority of your time and energy on issues in your Sphere of Control is a primary way to increase your enjoyment of your job.
5. Finally, look at the items that are now in your Circle of Control. What is one concrete action you can take this week to address each one?
Write down that action next to each issue, and also put it on your calendar or To Do list to make sure you get it done.
The point of this exercise is to free yourself from the burden of worries that are beyond your control, and empower yourself by focusing on the things you can control.
You are well on your way to loving your job…or at least, liking it a bit more than last week.
P.S. If you find that the majority of your complaints are outside of your control, and (a) you aren’t ready to let go of them or rephrase them into issues you can do something about, and/or (b) they are fundamental issues that clash with your values system, then maybe it’s time to ask yourself whether it’s worth staying in your job. Focusing on an area where you have no control or influence is a recipe for misery.