Certain truths are inevitable; others are entirely subjective. Crossing the decades-long battlefield that is working life is a mean feat in and of itself. The problem is, we often make it harder on ourselves by harbouring different misconceptions about career planning, skills upgrading, finding job satisfaction, achieving work-life balance, and so on.
As in the battlefield, how you think about your greatest obstacles and your beliefs about yourself and those around you play a critical role in determining your performance at work. As such, here are three common misconceptions about work that only make your life harder.
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“Follow your passion!”
“I like what I do, I do what I like.”
“When you love what you do, work is play and play is work.”
Over the years, there’ve been a whole host of popular quotes and mainstream beliefs about what constitutes meaningful work. The implication is that if you aren’t following your passion or don’t yet know where your passion lies, you’re doomed to misery in your working life.
As we’ve seen before, though, following your passion isn’t always sound advice. Not everyone is passionate about what they do, and not everyone can afford to, either. The reality is that meaningful work isn’t something you stumble upon or find—although if this has happened to you, that’s great—it’s something you make, or more accurately, something you craft.
This is what job crafting is all about: finding ways to proactively redesign your job so that it gives you greater satisfaction, engagement, and generally helps you thrive better at work.
Stress has always had a permanent seat at the table when it comes to work-life balance. Instead of trying to shoo it out the door every chance you get, though, it can be much more helpful to take a more nuanced approach to stress management.
Not all stress is harmful to you. Psychological research has shown that your attitude towards stress matters just as much to your stress levels than the objective amount of stress that you’re facing. The more you perceive stress as something you need to eradicate entirely, the more vulnerable you are to it.
The key is knowing how to differentiate between helpful and harmful stress. Helpful stress facilitates growth; stretch tasks that are just beyond your skill level stress you out but help you to grow. They push you into what’s known as the “flow” zone, which positive psychologist Mihail Csikszentmihalyi defines as “a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity.”
On the other hand, chronic, long-term stress resulting from overwork constantly and rapidly depletes your mental and emotional reserves, drastically increasing your chances of job burnout.
When we’re trying to learn new skills, like a third language or a specific career-related skill such as programming, we assume that we’ll naturally get more confident and better at it as time passes. This, however, is only half true; there’s a reason it’s called the learning curve.
According to Tim Ferriss, author of the NYT bestseller “The 4-Hour Chef”, our confidence and proficiency in the new skill ebbs and flows over time. In the introductory stages, it’s a steady upward climb as we focus on mastering the basics.
Once we move on to the intermediate stage, though, it initially plummets as we start to realise that it’s more difficult than we thought it’d be. Subsequently, it starts to rise once more; we feel like we’re getting the hang of it again, before plateauing. Only then does it rise steadily upward again to the point of mastery.