I had a feeling, but I couldn’t articulate it.
I had a blast, but I didn’t know why.
The projects were hard.
Sometimes they took years.
Many times they were frustrating.
The projects were critiqued.
I was critiqued.
But I enjoyed it.
As part of the Professional Rebellion, we help people complete a values exercise to determine what is most important to them. This provides a foundation to help them live a life and a career that they love. When we created a new version of this exercise, I had to test it out on myself. One of the questions asked me to think about the times in my life that I felt most fulfilled.
As I looked back on my career, I recognized that my deepest fulfillment came from when I was in a group of people seeking to solve a problem or to create something new. We would sit and debate, discuss, get frustrated, and have ideas. These projects were so big they frequently took over a year to complete. Day in and day out we struggled together to achieve small wins and suffer big losses. But along the way, life happened and we shared it together. In our down time we talked about the great things that were going on in our personal life, as well as our problems at work. We were together.
Another time I felt this deep, connected career satisfaction was is in an incredibly busy outpatient clinic with eight therapists. We looked out for each other. We’d keep on an eye on the schedule, and if we saw a therapist running behind, we’d take one of their new evals even if it meant that we would have less documentation time ourselves. We were a team. We had fun. We learned together. We were involved in each other’s lives. We shared each other's joys and sorrows. It was one of the most engaging clinic environments I have ever been apart of.
I believe we were created to desire this type of interaction. I believe it is in our DNA. I believe it is how we are wired. As humans, we have been doing this a long time. Our ancestors would track an animal all day, cook it, eat together and then sit around the campfire talking about the stories of the day; sharing all of the inside jokes of what happened while we were hunting. This phenomena of connectedness has been around a long time.
One of the reasons that we lack fulfillment in our jobs is that we frequently don’t have collaborative creation. We look at the day as us against the world. We have a schedule of patients to care for and that is our challenge. We have unpredictable days and mountains of notes. We are with people but feel alone.
Outside of our workday, we also need a project or a cause that we work on with others. This can take many forms. It doesn’t have to be work related but it does need to involve other people creating a meaningful output. There needs to be challenge and struggle but most importantly, there needs to be team.
Fortunately I have a faculty team around me and a few other big projects with great people. I thought that in order to be happy in my job, I only needed autonomy. I thought I only needed flexibility. I was wrong. I also need collaborative creation. I really had no idea that it was a strong value for me.
I know, you say “But you don’t understand Phil, I don’t have people around me like that.” My challenge to you is to create it. Sometimes these teams and projects happen serendipitously but frequently they are created. You have to go first. You have to step out numerous times and be rejected. But I promise you, it is worth it.
How will you work toward creating your project, cause, and team today?