I have friends in low places. And by that I mean they feel demoralized, depressed, and overwhelmed. No matter how much they deliver, the work demands just keep coming.
"I'm the frog in the pot of boiling water and even I know it's too hot in here for me," said one friend with a job that is both wonderful and overwhelming. Another colleague said simply, "I think this job is getting to me, so many demands and expectations."
Last Friday I visited a Naval base, and the senior leaders there (admirals in high places, professionally at least) described the pressure they feel training and supporting Navy fighter pilots during a time of budget cuts, furloughs, and sequestration. Imagine what it's like to run out of time on a project that could save a fighter pilot's life or thwart a terrorist?
One of my blog readers (and I am always so grateful for their input!) sent along information that might help you turn down the heat. The reader attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (she's in high places too!) where she heard Greg McKeown speak. He is the author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. His presentation made her think of Unsinkable and she shared his post, The No. 1 Career Mistake People Make, which I highly recommend.
According to McKeown, the number 1 career mistake people make is "doing so many good things in so many different fields it is hard to know what is distinctive." Getting spread too thin means you won't have one meaningful contribution. Or worse, you may drop the ball and get labeled as someone who doesn't deliver. Like the frog in the bubbling pot, the workplace can boil you alive.
As we undertake the disciplined pursuit of less, McKeown recommends that we:
- determine our "highest point of contribution";
- decide what "piece of real estate" we want to own, and
- design or create our own career (this is one of my personal mantras).
Capable, creative people can get so excited by the next shiny object that they take on too much. They can also become the "go to" people and, without the ability to set boundaries, find themselves over-committed. The good news is that creative people can also come up with ways to turn down the heat by "developing greater discernment about what is distinctive about us."