My job title hasn't changed in the last seven years, except for the promotion to "mom." I work for a small software company where labels don't matter. We could all sufficiently display the title, "Jack of all Trades." Truthfully, the lack of opportunity for advancement and new fancy job positions used to bring discouragement.
My dismay was partly due to outside influences, like comparing the career achievements of fellow alumni to my own. But the primary source of my frustration was unrealistic expectations for myself, especially when I became a mother.
Once I rearranged my priorities, I discovered the true definition of success. As I've entered new seasons of life, I've found fulfillment doesn't depend on my profession or salary. What I value and the enrichment I seek from my career is now secondary to God and family.
Let's discuss a few habits you can incorporate into your work life to curate fulfillment in your career.
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1. Start Your Day with the Lord
"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly." (Psalm 5:3)
Turning the corner one morning, I walked into my coworker's office and caught her by surprise. She said to give her one more second as she traced the single-spaced print of her Bible with her finger. She finished the passage, closed the Bible, and calmly returned it to the drawer.
She always has a heavy workload, but she is also willing to help you at the drop of a hat. I have admired her for years, not only due to her work ethic, but she's also classy, and 99.9 percent of the time, only words of honey come from her lips. She complains or loses her temper on rare occasions, reminding me she is human.
This morning, I figured out how she does it all with grace. She always starts her days with His Word, setting the tone for the day and leaning on His supernatural strength. We should all begin our day with God. It doesn't guarantee a good day, but it provides sustenance for us to endure.
I start my days writing in a prayer journal where I list my gratitude, requests, and an encouraging verse or quote. As I lay down the things weighing heavily on my heart on the piece of paper, it helps me to let go and let Jesus handle them (1 Peter 5:7). The best thing about writing down my prayers is looking back and seeing how God answered my prayers, of course, in His infinite loving ways that don't always look like I expect.
You can download some free prayer journals here to get started.
2. Define Success
"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)
Unapologetically, I am a passionate person who loves challenges. Unlike my coworker, I can find it difficult to contain my emotions. Let's call it enthusiasm, shall we? When I perceive a lack of progress in my career or goals, I don't wear my frustration simply on my sleeve. I wear it like a superhero cape – better put, a supervillain cloak.
Raising small children has, indeed, grounded my flights as I've had to slow down and go with the continual "nothing goes as planned" days. Honestly, becoming a mom has made me a better person who spends more time living than doing nowadays.
I also attribute the contentment I've acquired over the last several years to a single question asked by my superior. "What is your definition of success?" my manager asked. He went on to say, "If status and money are your definitions of success, you will always be left empty and in pursuit of success."
My boss was right. It's never been about fortune and job title, but I have always wanted to do something to help others. And that is why I write in my spare time to share the unconditional love of Jesus and the pearls of wisdom passed on to me through others.
While the world has its definition of accomplishment, the Bible tells us success is knowing Jesus.
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3. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
"What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 'I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.'" (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13)
After working eighty-hour weeks during tax season as a CPA, I decided this career would not jive with my dream of soon having children. I observed my manager at the firm get to work before daylight and leave long after dinner was over. He had three young sons who didn't see him the entire season, and I knew this was not how I envisioned my life.
I understand that not everyone can work fewer hours in their profession and everyone's priorities are different, but I find such wisdom in this quote by Noel Gallagher, "I don't live to work; I work to live."
When I read a book written by a retired hospice nurse, the number one regret her patients expressed was not spending enough time with their families. The balance you seek may not be about more family time in this season of your life. Maybe it is more time for traveling, hobbies, or being with friends. Perhaps the scale leans heavily towards work in this stage of life as you prepare for retirement. The point is to make sure you pursue what matters.
You might be saying, "I can't do anything about the requirements of my job to achieve a better balance." I would tell you to pray and trust that God will present you with an opportunity in His timing. That's how I ended up working part-time to spend more time with my kids.
4. Be Willing to Learn New Things
"How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!" (Proverbs 16:16)
Continual learning is a healthy and fun habit of stretching the mind and breaking up the monotonous routine. You might not be jumping at the bit to add to your workload, but learning new things in your career shows you are willing and able to take on new challenges. It enables you to fill in for other team members when needed, and it adds new qualifications to your resume. All of which can lead to greater opportunities that better align with your goals.
Speaking of goals, what are your career goals? Did you make these clear when taking your current position? Or is a conversation with your boss long overdue for you to discuss your desire to grow in leadership and different areas within the company? Are you a writer or editor who would love to understand graphics? An SEO marketer who wants to collaborate with the technology team? Though pride is destructive, an honest desire to make your goals known is not only admirable but crucial in order to receive the help, encouragement, advice, and materials needed for success.
Of course, you still have to get your responsibilities done in your allotted hours, so you have to set healthy boundaries for yourself and other employees. Don't neglect your current duties, but also, learn to respectfully decline other coworkers' requests (that are not part of your requirements), if you don't have time. Regardless, you will never regret acquiring new knowledge.
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5. Be a Team Player
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Synergy is a business term used to describe increased effectiveness when two or more people or businesses work together. In most companies, whether at a restaurant, in the office, or even at home, working together is part of the job. Besides increased productivity, the benefits of teamwork are numerous, including greater profitability, more innovative thinking, and increased ability to overcome obstacles. In addition, it gives you a chance to create bonds, gain a mentor or become one yourself, and find new friendships.
Friend, I know it can be challenging to find satisfaction in your job, a place you sometimes feel serves no real purpose outside the bi-monthly check. But if we heed the words of Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters," we see our ultimate fulfillment isn't waiting behind a big, fancy desk, but it's waiting in heaven. "Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
Our purpose on earth is found in our reverence of God and keeping His commandments as told in Ecclesiastes 12:13. When we live holy lives, we find our fulfillment. Everything else is secondary.
Originally published Wednesday, 09 February 2022.