ArticleJim Hughes

How Big Is The Gap Between What You WANT To Do & What You ACTUALLY Do?

ArticleJim Hughes
How Big Is The Gap Between What You WANT To Do & What You ACTUALLY Do?

Is This Ramble For You?

Let me get one thing straight before I even start.  This Ramble is for those who are looking for happiness and fulfilment in all aspects of their lives and who value the role that work plays in achieving this.

If you view work as merely a vehicle via which to make ends meet and disregard it as a primary source of enjoyment and pleasure, then this is not for you.

What Is Work Life Alignment?  The Simple Version

If I was to boil it down to one sentence, the Work Life Alignment can be described as ‘the proximity between ‘the work you’ and ‘the real you’.

You in your most natural state vs you at work (whoops, that’s two sentences).


What Is Work Life Alignment?  A Little More Detail

The real you is made up of your: passions, purpose, interests, character, strengths, weaknesses, wants and needs.

It is you in your most natural, unfiltered state.

The work you on the other hand, is you in your work state.  The decisions you make; the way you act and the tasks you perform, whilst at work.

I am not breaking any ground when I suggest that being in ones natural state and being happy are inextricably linked.

Factor in that many of us spend over 50% of our waking hours working and it stands to reason that the closer to the real you, you can get whilst at work, the happier you will be?!

Admission Is The First Step

The first step is doing something many people never want to do, or even think to do.   Self-analysis.

Grinder profile aside, have you ever actually written down the components of your character?  Have you ever stopped to think what your purpose is, what you’re good at and what you’re truly passionate about?

I’m sure you’ve spent time mentally analysing each in isolation but never produced an exhaustive list, tying them all together?

Similarly, have you ever critically assessed the extent to which these are reflected in your current work situation and the effect this has on your happiness?

Without honest self-reflection, the path to alignment is a tough one.

How Is My Alignment Measured?

Establishing your alignment in detail is one of the aspects of my mentoring programme.  Done right, it can take time and a fair bit of thought.

Amongst other things it involves taking my ‘Work Like Alignment Review’ test.  Only when you’ve finished reading of course.

For the sake of this Ramble however I have extracted a couple of the key questions and listed them below to provide a quick dry run for you to do now.

Simply answer the following and mark out of 10 how true each statement is (10 being completely true):

  • My work role and the tasks I perform make the most of my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses
  • I am passionate about the work I perform and proud to tell people about my role
  • I am able -and encouraged- to be myself when working and don't have to act like someone I’m not
  • My company/business and I share a similar mission and purpose

Common Misalignments

What was your score for the those 4 questions?  Where did you drop points? 

Here are some common misalignments which may help stimulate some realisations:

  • You are at odds with your company’s purpose 
  • The industry you serve expects a certain type of behaviour which is contrary to how you naturally behave
  • You are amazing with people but spend most of your days working with a laptop behind the scenes 
  • You crave variety but your work life is rigid and monotonous
  • You are someone who comes up with 10 new ideas a day but gets criticized for not focusing on one thing at a time 

These are just a few examples.

My Story

As an example, my own work misalignment stemmed from the disconnect between the way I was expected to act around clients and suppliers of the engineering company I managed, and my default behaviour setting. 

My immature sense of humour, direct approach and a strong desire to not take myself very seriously were in stark contrast to the stuffed shirts I interacted with on a daily basis.    

I was constantly acting within myself and dampening my natural personality.  For me, this was not a sustainable way to live.  I needed to change my environment to one which emphasized these tendencies, rather than suppressed them.

Common Myths

For years however I was unaware this was even a possibility…

‘Surely you’re meant to be serious at work?’…’Isn’t dealing with boring people at work just part of the job?’

These were assumptions I lived by and they held me back from uncovering the true happiness one can derive from work.

The sad truth is that these myths -and the misalignments they produce- are commonplace amongst employees throughout the world.

Do you see similarities in my story? 

If you’re a bit of a dickhead like me, I am here to tell you it’s OK.  There is a place for you to not only survive, but thrive…it’s just a matter of finding the right fit.

Removing The Shackles

The problem is that many people generally agree that work can provide joy and satisfaction but are yet to be fully convinced that finding a job exactly matching their skills and personality is actually possible.

Many people who are moderately happy in their work -and aware of this-  are held back by the belief that this is a good as it gets.

I am here to shake this myth; to issue a rallying cry to the doubters and the nay sayers. 

Your work can -and SHOULD- be an extension of you!

When it is…magic happens!

The Dangers of Pursuing Passions

I should make it clear, I am not one of these dreamland residents who believes that simply finding ones passions and blindly pursuing them, is the correct path to follow.

To promote something so simplified is ill-conceived and reckless.   A market needs to exist first.

What I do believe is that for the Untamed out there, creating your own concept and tailoring it around the real you is the most effective way of narrowing your work life alignment and achieving happiness. 

For more on the idea of creating your own concept, check out another Ramble The Modern Way of Working Pt 1 and Part II.

What Is The Cost of Misalignment?

Unbeknownst to many, living a misaligned life has numerous negative implications, beyond that of ones happiness levels. 

The following symptoms often prevail when a gulf between the work you and the real you existsThe greater the gulf, the greater the effects.

  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling drained at the end of a work day
  • Lack of clear identity
  • Lack of confidence at work
  • Lack of engagement
  • Lack of productivity
  • Lack of fulfilment
  • Lack of satisfaction
  • Reduced happiness

Any of these sound familiar? 

At the risk of sounding dramatic, a large misalignment is like leading two separate lives.  Barring the odd superhero example, this rarely goes well. 

Come to think of it, even they suffer from the strain.  If Batman struggles to find the energy to maintain two identities, what makes you think you can?

The End Result?

Only by establishing our identity and thoroughly analysing our present situation, can we begin to understand the basic components our dream business needs to possess.

Upon conducting my own review, I soon realized that no job existed that was aligned closely enough with my strengths, passions and interests to bother pursuing…I decided to create my own.

My work is now almost exactly aligned with who I am, and what I am best at.  I work harder now than ever but it neither feels like work, nor drains me of energy. 

I love my daily interactions and rather than hiding from my natural tendencies, my business is shaped by them!

It all started with an honest self assessment about where I stood and what I really wanted. 

I urge you to do the same.

Work Life Alignment Review Test

To take the full test and establish your work life alignment, click here.