And suddenly you just know it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” Meister Eckhart

Are you in the right place in your WorkLife or do many of your hopes and dreams remain unfulfilled? Being in the right place goes right to the heart of your identity, right to the heart of who you are and to your personal well-being.

But is it possible to actively shape your life so that the choices you make will bring about the satisfaction you seek?

Your personal motivation is a much more complex matter than just finding a “good skills fit”, and while skills and motivation are related, they are certainly not the same. Skills can be limited if they are not energised by an innate motivation. To understand yourself you need to know how your core motivation drives every part of your WorkLife, whatever situation you find yourself in. This knowledge will give you the vision you need, and from this you can create a plan to make it happen. 

A Case Study

James Olivia & Daniel’s Stories: Consultancy Work at Different WorkLife Stages

Over the years I have worked with people whose jobs were made redundant because of economic crises, downturns in the market and organisational restructuring; and others for whom the traditional nine-to-five, five days a week, with twenty or so days of holiday a year was never an appealing option.

Some of these people chose to set themselves up as consultants in their area of expertise, rather than entering or returning to the full-time employment market. Some were at the later stages of their WorkLife, at a point where they were not quite ready to retire, but they were ready to begin to wind their work down. Others were at the mid or beginning stages, and wanted to carve out a WorkLife that worked for them. All wanted and needed to begin to wind their work down in some way that would allow them to make more time for what was important to them in their life outside of work. This included meaningful time with the people important to them, and also time for their interests, hobbies and aspirations.

James, Olivia and Daniel have successfully established themselves as consultants in this manner. James was a long-established senior executive in the transport industry. Olivia was at the mid stages of her WorkLife at a leading NGO. Daniel was at the beginning stage of his WorkLife within the financial sector. I was engaged to see them through their WorkLife transitions. 

As with all my clients I began their programmes by asking them to take a step back to examine their skills, knowledge and experience, and to consider how these were transferable into supporting them into a new WorkLife in line with their motivated abilities, interests, values and longer term WorkLife vision.

James’s Story 

James enjoyed his work and his industry, but he was at a stage in his life where his family had grown and had flown the nest. He had seen them through university, and they were no longer dependent on him. He was also fortunate to no longer have a mortgage on his home, and so all in all was in a good place from a financial perspective. He did however have a bucket list of things he wanted to achieve in his life, which included travelling to wonderfully exotic and interesting destinations with his wife. He also wanted to give something back to society, and in some way make a difference. He wanted to continue working, just not in the same vein as before. It was important for him to remain intellectually stimulated through his work. He also wanted to retain the social aspect it provided, and he needed it to fund his bucket list.

We explored and considered ways James could design his work to allow him to live his life to achieve these things. He had an extensive network with contacts throughout the UK and Europe, including Russia, one of the destinations he aspired to travel to. Being sociable he began connecting with people and discovered various projects in the pipeline throughout Europe. He was known and respected in his industry, and once people knew he was available for work they were more than happy to meet with him; and very soon offers began to come through for consultancy work, including work with his old organisation and a piece of work in Russia.

To facilitate his travel aspirations, and the ability to give back at a social level, James decided he wanted to take on assignments that would demand a commitment of several months at a time. Once each piece of work was completed, he would take one to three months off, during which time he would travel to a destination on his bucket list. He also identified a social enterprise in South Africa, where he and his wife spent time; and he contributed his business acumen in helping them develop their vision and strategy.

Olivia’s Story

Olivia’s role being made redundant coincided with her husband and her relocating to the English coast. She wanted and needed to continue working, but she also wanted to take time to settle into her new home and community. She knew her work would take her away from home, but she wanted this to be no more than three days a week, allowing her time to set up home, and to get to know people in her neighbourhood. She also had a love of basket weaving, and wanted to make time for this along with cycling – another love which she shared with her husband.

Similar to James, Olivia set about networking and letting people know she was available for work. She was also highly regarded in her area of expertise, and very soon was having interesting conversations that led to work, some of which was located closer to the coastal area she had moved to than she had ever hoped for.

What is perhaps even more interesting about Olivia’s story is that once she started to connect socially with people in her community, she discovered by way of conversation a non-profit basketry organisation in need of resurrection. This is exactly what she is setting out to achieve with another woman who resides in the area.

Daniel’s Story

Daniel joined a consultancy firm as a graduate straight out of university. His first piece of work was as a business analyst with a leading investment bank in the city of London. The initial three-month contract rolled over, and before he knew it two years had gone by. At this point Daniel was experiencing inner conflict: while there were lots of aspects of the work that he enjoyed, and was good at, he was not sure city life was for him. He had a yearning to be in the country, a love of walking in nature and a passion for gardening. He also loved to paint and draw, which he never had time to do anymore. However, he needed financial stability, wanted to get his foot on the property ladder, and also to build financial security for his future. 

Daniel was floundering in knowing what he wanted to do in his WorkLife. He needed headspace to think things through, and decided to take a three-week holiday before committing to extending his contract. He got out of London, explored the countryside, walking and thinking to gain a perspective on things. He spent time with his grandparents whom he loved dearly, and although they lived in London, the demands on his time with his work meant he barely visited them. 

They were both in their eighties and they also wanted to get out of London, finding the hustle and bustle too much for them. Daniel’s grandfather also had a great love of gardening – in fact this was where Daniel’s passion stemmed from. His grandfather had worked all his life as a gardener for stately homes in London, and as a young boy Daniel would spend his summers working alongside him, helping and learning. His grandmother was an artist, and always encouraged and nourished Daniel’s creative flair. In their quest to move out of London, they had discovered a retirement home set in acres of wonderful countryside. The home had a rich heritage in the arts and ran lots of creative programmes. As residents Daniel’s grandparents would be able to live out their lives embracing their passions. 

To be able to afford this, they needed to sell their home. As Daniel wanted to buy a home, this was the perfect solution for all of them, and so a plan was hatched. Daniel knew he had to commit to a longer-term contact to be approved for a mortgage, he also knew he could not work five days a week. The reason for this was two-fold: firstly, for his well-being he knew he could not be desk-bound and city-based for this amount of time; secondly, during his holiday he had researched courses in horticulture and had discovered a course in garden design. This three-year course was a combination of on-site and distance learning, with a requirement of attending every Friday during term time, along with weekend residentials throughout the year.

Daniel now had his WorkLife vision, and from this he was able to plan what he needed to do to make that happen. During his two years at the bank, he had established great credibility and respect, both as a person and in the work he had delivered. This gave him a strong position to negotiate what he wanted and needed to be able to follow through with his plan. He secured a three-year contract, during which time he would work Monday through to Thursday. He was prepared to put in whatever time that was needed during his four days to ensure he would maintain his high quality of work. He attended college on Fridays which got him out of London and into the countryside, and he used his weekends to study. He has always been really organised in his planning, which helped things fall into place easily. Having this security allowed him to get the mortgage he needed to buy his grandparent’s home, which in turn allowed them to move to the retirement home, where his grandfather now spends his days pottering around in the gardens, and his grandmother painting the wonderful landscape. 

His planning and working towards his vision has paid off: he is now qualified as a garden designer; he has rented out his flat in London and bought a house with a lovely garden in the country; he has established a small business providing garden design and upkeep services; he does this three days a week and employs seasonal workers as needed; and he now provides consultancy services two days a week at the bank, commuting into London one day a week for this, and working from home the other day. 

For James and Olivia, as is often the case with consultancy work, there are peaks and troughs. Because both of them have identified that they no longer want or need to work on a full-time basis, at times when they have a workload that demands more of their time than they are willing or able to give they are in a position to establish collaborative working relationships with fellow consultants in their respective fields and outsource this work. This of course works both ways, and at times when they want and need more work, they have a source of contacts to tap into. Many consultants will do this in managing their workloads in line with their wants and needs. It also allows them to be in a position to earn a commission for the work they pass along should they choose to.

A further point of note if you are considering setting yourself up as a consultant. Many of the people I have worked with have counted on their previous employer as a source of consultancy work. This is actually quite common when an organisation is forced to downsize, because along with losing a lot of its good people, it also loses the knowledge and expertise they contributed. Bringing people back on board who have organisation and industry knowledge and expertise makes perfect sense. The consultant benefits by earning a good daily rate, and the organisation can pay this because they no longer have the responsibility and overheads for such things as pension and health plans or professional development.

We all have ‘Can Do’ abilities, but it’s our ‘Motivated’ abilities, that keep us engaged in our WorkLife. For example, Daniel being very organised in his planning was a ‘Can Do’ ability before he discovered his WorkLife vision, at that point it became a ‘Motivated Ability’ because it helped him achieve his vision. 

Develop Your WorkLife Story

Whether you are at the beginning, mid or later stages of your WorkLife, understanding your core motivations to living your best WorkLife will give you the vision you need, from which you can plan and do what you need in order to make this happen, so that the choices you make will bring about the satisfaction you seek.

Understanding Your Motivated Abilities Assignment

This assignment is to help you understand those specific WorkLife moments, events or experience when you were fully engaged. We are all stimulated by different things. What may seem like the smallest, insignificant experience to one person can provide real meaning and inspiration to another. The aim here is to help you notice what factors contribute towards you feeling completely motivated, engaged and great about your WorkLife. When you have this clarity, you can take action to ensure you are incorporating these ‘Motivated Abilities’ into your WorkLife.

Identify three specific moments, events or experiences when you felt any of the following: 

A BuzzAble to be Your True SelfAt EaseAt Your Best
Able to ShineEnergisedEnjoymentEnthusiastic 
InspiredIn the FlowIn your ElementLife is Good
On Top of the WorldTotally AbsorbedTouchedTruly Motivated

NB Please feel free to add words and phrases that are especially meaningful to you.

Next develop your chosen words or phrases into a short story, as demonstrated in the table below. For Example:

James’s word was ‘Fulfilled’

Olivia’s word was ‘Excited’

Daniel’s words were ‘At Ease’

Specific WorkLife Moment, Event or Experience How did you feel?What contributed to you feeling this way? (eg. Your particular role, the skills used or tasks involved, the outcome, or type of people or environment?)
For James it was working alongside his wife, at the social enterprise in South AfricaHe felt fulfilled because he felt he was making a difference He contributed his business acumen to help people in a developing community. The outcome helped strengthen their strategy to achieve their vision.
For Olivia it was discovering the non-profit basketry organisation in need of resurrection She felt excited because she had found a way to do something she loved, while also getting to know people in her new communityShe contributed her basket weaving skills, while at the same time, working alongside her new colleague, she set out to learn whatever was needed by way of business skills to resurrect the organisation 
For Daniel it was taking a three-week holiday to get out into the countryside, and to spend time with his grandparents.He felt at ease because he had time to think, to gain a perspective on things, and to be with people who were important to him – his grandparentsHe contributed his ability to see solutions, and then followed this through with a plan, which enabled his grandparents and himself to achieve what was important to each one of them. To follow their vision and live their lives true to their motivated abilities 

Now Your Turn:

Specific WorkLife Moment, Event or Experience How did you feel?What contributed to you feeling this way? (eg. Your particular role, the skills used or tasks involved involved, the outcome, or type of people or environment?)

Next note down the common factors and themes emerging. For example: for James it was helping to develop people; for Olivia it was developing skills (new/business); for Daniel it was embracing his organisational skills. Interestingly all three of them share the theme of New Beginnings, and being out of their current climate/environment for some of the time.

The Moral of this Story

Whatever stage you are at in your WorkLife, when presented with challenges, or a sense of the unknown, taking time to understand your motivated abilities will allow you to recognise what is important for you. From this you can begin to form and shape your WorkLife vision to live your life true to your motivated abilities.

Develop your Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Now that you’ve begun to pay attention to specific WorkLife moments, events or experience when you were fully engaged, make a note in your journal of any observations you have of what was going on during those times.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning

Continue and maintain this practice by asking yourself the following questions:

What was I doing when I was completely engaged?

How did this make me feel?

What contributed to me feeling this way?

Words of Wisdom

There will most likely be times in you WorkLife when you will need to discover or rediscover your WorkLife vision. You may also stray from living your days true to your motivated abilities, lose sight of what these actually are for you, or actually struggle to know what they are in the first place. This simple exercise will allow you to navigate through these times.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here. Thank You. Be Well and Stay Safe.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, blogger and podcaster on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

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