In Ireland we have a saying; “Go n-éirí an bóther leat”. It is the Irish equivalent of “Have a good journey” or “Bon voyage”. But translated literally it means “May the road rise to meet you”(and if you want to go all out with the good vibes you can continue with “And may the wind be always at your back).
It’s a beautiful phrase that wishes you success on your road. In the modern world, that “road” that you will travel over the course of the day is much more likely to be your workplace than an open road. So does your workplace “rise to meet you”? Does it “see” you?
I have written before about “The Great Resignation” or what should be more appropriately called “The Existential Exit”. The Covid pandemic has given millions of people worldwide thinking time, time to review what they want for their lives and where work fits in to their bigger picture. Even the notion of work-life balance doesn’t work anymore. The phrase suggests that our work and our lives are separate entities and both must be squeezed in to those precious 10,080 minutes of the week. But when we learn to see work as much more than a means to pay the bills, but as a means to meaning, then work can truly rise to meet us.
“For what I do is me,
for this I came”
~Gerard Manley Hopkins
What’s working for You? What’s lacking?
If you are considering moving employment, take the time to really think about which of your needs are met and how in your current workplace. These could be the nature of the role – you might be required to present to clients or teams regularly and this might be something that makes you feel alive for example. And which (if any) of your needs are met by the culture or nature of the organisation – you might want to move to an employer of the same size for example. When the urge to move employment strikes it can quickly become all –consuming, keeping you up at night, furtively sneaking away for calls with agencies or potential new employers. Try to take the time to reflect on what works in your current role and what is lacking. You are not the same person you were when you first took the role. Sure, you have probably learned new skills and may even have been promoted. But “You” are much more than that.
You Are A Multi-Dimensional Being
You exist as a multi-dimensional being and flourishing in one area of your life may pull you away from what you thought was success in other areas. You are not a dot on a graph, you exist in an (at least) three dimensional space and if you can begin to see your life in that way you will be much more able to move towards the contented flourishing that we all crave. Where do you find meaning? Do you see other people doing a role or even tasks that you feel would be meaningful to you? Have you changed your mind on how many hours you want to give to work or your career? Do you want more time at home but feel that’s not “feminist” or “the done thing” or doesn’t sound ambitious enough? Do you need an employer that more obviously serves a greater good? Do you need higher values to be visible in your employer or industry sector?
If you can imagine some of these needs in a three dimensional graph you will begin to see that “success” and “progress” may move in many directions. Achieving more meaning in your work might require you to move sideways in renumeration or even to take a pay cut. Having more time to spend with ageing parents may reduce your feelings of guilt about missed opportunities to be with them. But such success in the direction of having lived your life well by taking care of your parents may move you away temporarily from your goals in other areas of life. Striving to “win” in all areas simultaneously is what causes burnout.
In the Western world we tend to see progress as being upward, (and moving towards the right as that is the direction we read in). But employees are evolving. We are learning to see our lives in multi-dimensional perspectives, which some might call a spiritual worldview. “Success” grows in many directions, not just one. As employees, as employers, we need to “map” our needs in multi-dimensions. When we move towards one of our values it may take our energy and our time away from other pursuits. Or, an activity might give us energy but take up the precious resource of time in the day. What we do in one area of life affects all the others.
If we can begin to view all of our activities, goals and demands on our time as being inter-related, dynamic and multi-dimensional, we will begin to turn the tide on anxiety, depression and suicide. The current model of looking at the various aspects of our lives as being separate isn’t working and levels of burnout are at an all-time high. So, if the road isn’t rising to meet us, it’s time to build ourselves a new road. Or at least a new road map.