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Neil Seligman

The Conscious Professional


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Why Work Isn’t As Meaningful As You Thought



The journey of work is an odyssey of self-knowledge and self-development that consumes most of your time as an adult human - which is perhaps why 36% of adults admit to being unhappy with their experience of employment - this stat coming from Indeed’s most recent Work Happiness Score - which measures data for more than 1,800 organisations in the UK across 25 different sectors. If this is you - here are four questions to help you think through your current work situation and perhaps inspire a fresh take on what happens next!


How Much Is Your Life Really Worth?

After education, if fortunate you will find yourself with an organisation or individual offering to buy your productive time for a certain figure. Given that most of us don’t really know what we are getting into at the beginning of our careers – when someone offers a number – whatever it is – it is quite difficult to say no – and once we are on the journey of our career it becomes harder and harder to stop the train and reassess. We get used to trading all of our time for a paycheck – and we forget that our freedom creativity choices expansiveness and life adventure can be bought back at any time by making a new decision.

So just checking – is the amount of money you receive worth selling the vast majority of your productive time this year for? An active yes is great – if not – keep reading.


Are You Living Someone Else’s Dream?

Are you doing the thing that you dreamt of doing when you envisioned your career or have you somehow fallen into a different orbit? Whilst it is quite possible to take strange turns on the path of work and still end up on track, it can be very useful to check in and appraise your current landing point and contemplate for a moment whether you are fully on board with the status quo?

If you work for a small business you may know the owner, understand their vision, like them, respect them and feel great about contributing to their success. In larger firms, we often feel more detached from the vision of the business, unless it happens to be clearly expressed and well-aligned with our own values and drivers.

Given that one of the symptoms of career misalignment is a growing disengagement with the ambitions of your firm or employer, why not give yourself a percentage score to measure the degree of alignment between your values and those of your employer. If you’re scoring less than 50% this might be a useful data point to inspire you to look at your options.


How Much Armour Do You Wear To Work?

When you swipe in or log on, are you feeling free to show up as your authentic self, or are you putting parts of yourself away in order to get through the day? If an armoured experience is your day-to-day work vibe, then finding meaning amidst a lack of psychological safety is going to be tough.

So, consider the question again, perhaps a little deeper contemplation now, is the armour you wear to work ok for you? Does it actually feel sustainable? Or are you finding that there is a part of your being that is gradually diminishing beneath the weight of it all?

If so – can you embrace that part of yourself with kindness right now and acknowledge that this is hard. Now consider whether there is someone you could share this realisation with – even if it is yourself. (I know that sounds weird – but we tend to protect ourselves from uncomfortable truths by ring-fencing information internally and not letting it in). Let the truth drop in and reach out to someone if you can to share your experience.


What Does Fear Tell You You Can’t Do?

Amongst all of this – I meet countless brilliant people who have inspiring dreams and incredible ambitions who have side-lined their creativity in favour of the well-trodden path. So, if you are on the unhappy bus at work - this question is worth considering consciously – i.e. bringing it out into the open light of day – maybe even write it down like this:


I can’t do x because I am afraid of y.


Once you see it written down, your mind almost effortlessly becomes intrigued by the puzzle of how the problem might be solved. See what happens and once you’ve let the mind do its thing, move on to this prompt and see what comes.


I can do x because…


Now – how do you feel?

What is one practical thing you can do to move this possibility forward today?


In Closing

No matter where we find ourselves on the journey of a career, in the end, we all must remember that happiness at work will wax and wane over time whatever choices we make. Sometimes a compromise is a right thing – and sometimes it’s not – only you can decide.

If nothing else, I hope that having read this article you perhaps feel the value of your time and the preciousness of your life a little more keenly.

Maybe today is the day to make some daring plans that your younger self would be proud of!

And, as ever, if I can support you on your career journey here’s where to find me:


Neil Seligman



Author Profile Picture
Neil Seligman


Read more from Neil Seligman

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