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Learn to Envision and Live Your Perfect Vocational Day

By Craig Nathanson

Have you ever thought about what your perfect work would be? How about the pattern of a typical work day for the rest of your life? What daily routine would get you excited and bring joy and happiness to your work?

This didn't come with the job description. The problem with job descriptions is that they are defined by someone else. They rarely take into consideration what brings you fulfillment.

Whether you work for yourself or someone else, it is critical to start with the idea of what would be just perfect for you. For example, when would you get up in the morning? Once up, what would your morning routine be? Would you start your day exercising, with a little run, or perhaps some yoga or meditation? Or would you make breakfast first instead? Would you eat alone or with others? Who would they be?

What would you wear to your work?
Sweats, suit, shorts? What would be just perfect for you? I'm sure by now you're thinking, What does all of this have to do with my job? After all, I go to my job and I'm stuck with the rest of the day based on how much time is left. Yes, that is the traditional way of looking at your work. For those of you over 40, I m proposing a radical new way of looking at your work. You get to design your entire day around the work YOU want to do instead of just the limited time left over after an empty and meaningless day at the office.

Where would you go?
Where would you go for your work? What would be perfect for you? Would you like to work from home, or would you prefer to work outdoors? Would you prefer to work alone or with others? Maybe you would rather drive a short distance to a small office and work with a small group of other people. Or perhaps you would enjoy working with hundreds of others around you in a large organization.

How about lunch?
When will you eat lunch? Where will you eat lunch? Who will you eat lunch with on a typical day? Back in my corporate days, I remember sneaking out at lunch (I was in management) to go for a run. I also remember too many lunch hours spent in drab conference rooms, working with others while eating unhealthy food. I can remember thinking how terrible this was for my system.

How long will your work day be?
How long will you work each day? What will you do after work? Who will you spend your time with after work? This is all part of the design of your perfect vocational day. How will your evenings go? Who will you spend your evenings with? It's so important to have support and love and downtime after your work ends each day. Coming home, instead, to someone who does not support the work you love will drain you and you ll have less energy for your quest for vocational happiness and for the experience of life itself.

How will your evenings go?
When will you eat dinner? Who will you be with at dinner on a typical day? What will you do after dinner? What does your evening look like? Will you spend the evening alone, with others, or a combination of the two? Your evenings are an important part of your perfect vocational day. This again, is something most employers don't care at all about, unless you are spending your evenings at the office, of course! This is the difference between creating the perfect work for you, and just dragging yourself home after a long day at the office and collapsing on the couch. When you do just a job, the quality of your downtime suffers as you worry about the next day of work.

What about sleep?
At the end of your perfect vocational day, when will you go to sleep? How will you go to sleep? What nightly ritual will you follow before bed? A little yoga, a warm bath, light reading, television, or intimacy with someone you love?

What's perfect for me?
You must keep asking yourself this question, because no one else will do it for you. Be careful as you design your perfect vocational day, because you will indeed start to move towards it. Make sure you really know just what you want.

Typical job searching is all backwards. Most people look for jobs that are available with little thought to all the other hours of their days. The typical job description only covers the requirements of the job. I have never seen one that covers whether you should exercise or eat a big breakfast. The point is: it's critical to design what you want BEFORE you go looking for it.

Now you get to play by new rules. After many years of playing the work game the traditional way, now you get to change the rules. When you design the work day you want, you automatically start to alter your thinking, and you start to focus on what you want and what you do not want. Unless you place your focus on what you want, you ll start to focus too much on what you don't want in your work life, and then this is exactly what you ll end up with.

Once at work, what exactly will you do?
What activities will align your abilities and your interests and bring you the most joy? Joy? Yes joy! Now that's a question no one in the HR department will ever ask you about! This is where you must be specific. Your mind can't tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined when envisioning a work day that will bring you joy. You must create the reality you seek.

What are you working on?
Are you developing software, making sandwiches, teaching math, painting, speaking, doing financial analysis, taking pictures or promoting a new cosmetic product? What would give you the most joy in your work? What would leave you breathless? What would make Monday your best day of the week and Friday the worst because you have to wait until Monday to resume your beloved work? What work could you do now and continue to do until you stop breathing?

Why retiring will lead you to a quick death
The other day I received the enrollment package for AARP (American Association for Retired People) in the mail. This really scared me. Most Americans after 40 do not like their work, let alone love their work. They dream, instead, to one day retire, and then finally do what they enjoy. The problem with this strategy is that life tends to get in the way while making long range plans. After 40, crises will hit it's only a matter of when. If you are doing what you love, you have the best kind of health insurance. When your crisis hits, your work will give you the strength to ride out the storm, and then recover quickly.

You need to be specific
What are you working on that will last a lifetime? Whether you are working for yourself or someone else, the questions are the same. What specific products or services are you offering in your perfect day of work? What are the features of each of these services? What are the benefits to others of what you are offering? Who are the ideal customers for your services? Day in and day out for the rest of your life, what type of person do you want to work with? Are they engineers, students, disabled children, artists or advertising reps? Unless you are clear about it, you and your work will end up being mismatched.

Now what?
Ok, now you have the vision of your perfect vocational day. Is this a daily pattern you could follow for the rest of your life? Good! Now you can start to examine how to close the gap between your new vision and today. For some of you, this will come easy. For others, years of external negative influences, and perhaps a little fear, might prevent quick action, and your next steps might have to be small.

The important part is that you start. Little steps turn into bigger steps. New possibilities turn into bigger possibilities. You are unique and special, and you have many gifts to offer the world. With a new vision of what would be just perfect for you, you can begin to create the second half of your life and work in a way that includes what is most important to you. As you plan your perfect vocational day, you will have begun moving down the path to an authentic life.

Can't I just separate my life from my work?
This is just an excuse for not moving forward, and down deep, you know this is not possible. I wish it were, but it's not. Your work and what you do impacts your health, your sense of self, your relationships with others and your overall happiness. Isn't it worth taking just a little extra time to think about your perfect work life? Before turning 40, we needed jobs and careers to build both our egos and our sense of self. After 40, jobs and careers are both limiting and outdated.

After 40 when your crisis hits and it will you will have a new sense of urgency about your life and what to do with it. Your work, and what you do each and every day, is a great place to start. I'll be cheering you on as you go.

Craig Nathanson is a coaching expert who works with people over forty. Craig's book, 'Don't Just Retire and Die,' is designed to help people break free and move toward the work they love. Visit Craig's website at Dr Craig Nathanson where you can take a class, get more ideas through Craig books and CDs, get some private coaching over the phone or read stories of mid-life change and renewal. Craig lives in San Anselmo, California.
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