Life is elsewhere: Do high salaries and jet-setting lifestyles justify sacrificing freedom, relationships and health?
As you progress in your corporate career, you will realise you are spending more and more time working. When you are not working, you are obsessing about work – FY16 plans, execution nightmares, clear outcomes, long overdue promotions, the unreasonable boss, the bitchy colleague, and the unproductive team with no grounding in fundamentals but a high sense of entitlement.
The only reason you continue to work this way is because it is consonant with the dreams you saw as a twenty-something: the global company, the fat package, the world tours, the glittering after-work parties, the rich bonuses. It’s hard to resist being Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. Money is both a passport to the good life and a powerful enabler of positive self-image.
But, in your quieter moments, you realize though you are cash rich, you are now time poor. Your mind is overrun by work 24/7 like a country taken over by a tyrannical militant state. Your relationships are unfulfilling. Your passions are eroding. You are starting to feel like a freight train, always hurtling at 300 miles per hour. Life seems to be happening ‘elsewhere.’ Where is this mythical elsewhere and when and how did you diverge so far away from it?
Though we are trained to believe in the ‘good life’ made possible only by 70-hour workweeks and high stress, the truth is those of us who have achieved the good life admit it feels very different from what they dreamed. It takes a tremendous toll on peace of mind, self-discovery and relationships. And burn out is imminent.
Early burnout is largely due to stress. The 3rd annual Work Stress Survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that poor compensation and unreasonable workload were tied as the number one stressors, with 14% of workers reporting low pay checks as their main source of work-related stress. 14% also ranked a heavy work load as the top stressor – up from 9% last year. These concerns are followed by frustration with co-workers or commutes (both 11%), working in a job that is not one’s choice of career (8%), poor work-life balance (7%), lack of opportunity for advancement (6%) and fear of being fired or laid off (4%).
All of this has resulted in a recent surge in self-employment. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures last month indicate that self-employment is higher now than at any point in the last 40 years. This is happening as a growing number of workers realise they are sacrificing their health and relationships for insufficient rewards. Research from career site Glassdoor suggests that happiness rounds off at 55,000 pounds, and pay rise beyond that has diminishing returns. Chasing happiness through title and money seems to be making people miserable in the long run. Freedom to do work we care about and a degree of flexibility that enables a fuller life is starting to get prized higher than titles and money.
For those still employed in a high power corporate set up, fighting stress can be achieved through some conscious strategies:
1. Be proactive and invest in personal development: Don’t worry about becoming irrelevant. Instead, focus your energies on constantly updating your skills.
2. Mend relationships: Stress often resides in unproductive relationships. Communicate honestly with peers, subordinates and superiors in order to pre-empt cold wars and facilitate healthy working relationships.
3. Get clarity: Ask management what is expected of you and write it down as your charter. Don’t get involved in what is not your problem.
4. Align your goals with the corporate goals: If you want something and your boss wants something else, you have a problem. Choose jobs wisely, jobs you are passionate about and not only those that will pay you more.
5. Know where to draw the line: It has become fashionable in some circles to ‘log in at 5 am’ or ‘work through the weekend.’ This is the acknowledged route to the corner office. If that’s not your ambition, put your foot down. Don’t be worried about appearing less ambitious. Set your own standards for ambition.
6. Get a hobby that excites you: Some people’s lives revolve around work and/or kids. Find a hobby that nourishes your soul and invest in it.
7. Include fitness in your daily routine: A good workout releases dopamine which is a ‘feel good’ hormone.
8. Be hard on yourself: There are many stress triggers – smoking after meals, spending too much time on social media during work hours, negative talk in the office. Cut it all out. Optimize your time. With the time saved, do other, nourishing things.
9. Be positive: No matter what you are going through if you can tell yourself ‘this is temporary’ and/or find the ability to laugh at yourself, you can pre-empt the stress.
10. Accept, accept, and accept: And finally, the biggest trigger of stress in the contemporary world: resistance of reality. The simplest way to beat stress is to acknowledge the real or the obvious and get comfortable with it.
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a leadership & transformation coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.
Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, business coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.
Follow Sandhya Reddy on Twitter @sandhyareddy