Back to work: Drag or Delight?

Find yourself or lose yourself in the daily task

As we start the new year, you may be going back to a regular job, or not. Either scenario may leave you happy or blue. January seems a good time to reflect on how work fits into your life.

I observe men of all ages talking a lot about work, but in a very selective way. They talk about what they’re doing, maybe moan about the boss, but rarely say what work really means to them. I believe that’s because work is so important, so personal, so bound up with their sense of self, that it’s too sensitive to talk about.

In the 1990s I led many weekend workshops on the theme Find Your Gift in Work: most of those taking part were men, aged 30 to 60 plus. These groups gave a safe place and structures to explore how work and life can fit, and I feel honoured to have shared so many men’s journeys.

You won’t be surprised that there’s a whole chapter about work in my forthcoming book for men beyond 50: here are a few highlights:

  • Know what’s holding you back. Do you have doubts or beliefs that limit you in your work? For example, some men believe they should not earn more or succeed more than their fathers…
  • Are you re-creating your childhood family at work? I was amazed in my workshops to see how often this happens. For example, were you bullied as a child by your father? Was the family always arguing? Did you have a habitual role, such as the joker or the scapegoat? Any echoes in your current work??
  • Reduce your financial needs. Maturing men can feel trapped or pressured about work because of money needs. Cut back on your needs, and free up your choices!
  • Understand about human sustainability. I believe that environmental depletion and pollution has close parallels in human work: this is fully explained in my only published book, The Natural Advantage: Renewing Yourself. If your work is exhausting you, you need a systemic view of the problem and how to change it.
  • Believe you can fulfil your passion. First you need the courage to discover your vision, then you need patience and intelligence to make your dream practical. You don’t have to jump off a cliff, you will find the right steps…

Whether you’re in work or out of work this January, if you’re unhappy about the situation, believe you can change it for the better before this year is out. And if looking within doesn’t give you the clues, look around you: notice what issues concern or excite you, and explore how you could make a difference.