Celia has cycled over to my house for the interview. It’s a hot summer’s day and she’s ideally dressed for the heat in a strappy dress that shows off her tan. We chat briefly about vegetable and fruit gardening before settling down with a cup of earl grey tea in my living room. I am interviewing Celia for this blog because, very simply, she has given me the best massage I have ever experienced. A massage from Celia in her garden studio is a real gift to yourself. I like a powerful massage and it is intense but never painful, easing out the tension in my shoulders and neck, and with plenty of loving attention paid to my head and limbs too.
Have you met people like Celia? People who are seemingly always in ‘flow’, whose actions look effortless when they’re at work – a hairdresser who uses scissors like they’re an extension of their hand? A financial advisor who becomes animated, even excited, when he talks about the importance of making prudent investments? A green woodworker who sees the potential for products when he looks at a tree? Often your first impression of this person is that they love what they do and never stop developing the skills and knowledge relevant to their field of work.
Celia’s not just passionate about massage, it’s just one of the many ways that she cares for and empowers people. I hope that you see something of yourself in her story and that it gives you clues on how you can be happier at work.
Jumping into the chasm… finding my way
Finding happiness in our work doesn’t need to involve having multiple work and life roles, but clearly it need not involve following a single ‘vocation’ either. Celia doesn’t have a job title and neither would she want to be restricted by one. When she reflects on her previous occupation, she notes the disparity between her official title and the day-to-day reality: “I loved the job description of what I was supposed to be doing, but the reality of what I was expected to deliver was very different.”
Celia talks about the decision she made two years ago to leave her secure, well-paid council job and “jump into the chasm of the unknown, to find my way.”
Certainly it must have taken courage to jump, and it was also a choice (conscious or otherwise) to seek greater fulfilment at work. As she sifts through my Values card sort she’s very clear that ‘Security’ is not as important to her now as ‘Creativity’, ‘Independence’ or ‘Empowering Others’; but it might not always have been so.
Many of the values that are most important to us remain the same through all ages and stages of life, (whether or not they are met by our work situation) but others shift depending on our circumstances. The responsibility of bringing up children, for example, could result in ‘Security’ being a priority, at least until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Work is life… and life is work
“Work-life balance for me is about having no distinction between ‘work’ and ‘life’. I’m developing a very different mindset from when I did a ‘9 to 5’,” Celia explains. “Even if I won a million pounds, most of my daily lifestyle would be just the same, I’d just pay someone else to help with the cleaning and some of the gardening, and travel overseas a bit more. As it is, I just want to be able to support myself. I’m letting go of my attachment to a particular level of income.”
“I care for an elderly lady in her own home and time spent with her is great therapy for me!” Celia explains how she is always busy, sometimes frantically so, and when she spends time providing personal care and companionship for an elderly lady who speaks very slowly, she finds she slows down to the same pace. It sounds very much like the sense of peace that many of us seek through yoga or meditation, whereas Celia is achieving this through her paid work.
Leaving an imprint
Discovering through life experience how leading groups was a ‘should’ for her rather than a source of happiness, Celia is embracing her love of one-to-one work and training as a volunteer chaplain alongside her other roles. “I’m at a stage in my life where I’m considering what I want to leave behind, what will be my imprint?”
Celia is passionate about the importance of caring for people with love and respect and would not take a typical care job, which involves visiting people for half hour slots, and in that short time washing, dressing and feeding them, all on minimum wage. She doesn’t think any care worker or person being cared for should have to endure such conditions. “I don’t want to do care work, I want to change what care work is! If I can have even a tiny, tiny part in changing society….”
Having jumped into the chasm of change and found her way, is Celia still striving for greater happiness at work? “I do such a diverse range of things, I’m sometimes at risk of spreading myself too thin. I have half a dozen loose ends right now, so I’m working on simplifying my house and my life!”
Celia gets up to leave and I suggest we pick a few strawberries from my garden for her to take with her. She’s a wiz in the kitchen as well you see (somehow I forgot to mention that talent earlier), so I know she’ll make something yummy with them.
What are your most important values? Has anything changed recently?
Are you attached to maintaining your current income? Do you fear losing it? Are you making sacrifices in order to maintain the status quo?
Which aspects of your work are therapeutic, if any?
What ‘shoulds’ are you learning to let go of?
Have you ever considered what imprint or legacy you would like to leave?
If you, like Celia, have found happiness at work, I would love to hear from you and interview you for the blog. Or if you’re teetering on the edge of a chasm and not sure which way to jump, perhaps I can help? I am a bit of a geek when it comes to happiness at work. I trained as a solution focused coach and now have over 15 years’ experience in helping people navigate change and find greater fulfillment in their work and life.