*Originally posted on LinkedIn.
When you were a kid, how did you respond to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Maybe you were set on being a firefighter or a cop. Or space exploration was more your speed, and you swore you’d be an astronaut. I think it’s even safe to say you saw yourself as a paleontologist after watching Jurassic Park.
But I’m willing to bet that no one was aiming to be a data scientist or digital marketing agent. Web development or human resources officer likely didn’t cross your mind. Yet we know people with these job descriptions who actually love their jobs. But how? Because they’re good at what they do.
Before we dive into the “how”, we should look at the “why”. When we’re younger, our conceptions of “careers” are limited to what adults close to us do. We see a teachers and doctors and cooks. But as we grew older and expanded our worldview, so did the possibilities of what we could do with our lives. You learned about how deep computer science could be, and started thinking about IT or ISM. A love for visual expression and photography developed into an interest in architecture. An experience with a school paper made the most of your storytelling flair, and next thing you know, Journalism was at the top of your career wish list. The examples are broad, but the point remains the same— as we grow, we see an increasing number of possibilities for what we can do. And before you know it, the actual industry in which you work doesn’t matter as much as the function you perform on the day to day.
We like to play up our strengths and downplay our weaknesses. When’s the last time you were tasked with something, whether at work or home, that you were just “ok” at? You weren’t the greatest at it, but you were competent enough to be trusted with such a task. Chances are good that even though you completed it, you hated every last minute. Would things have been different if you were better at what you did? Chances are, yes, they would have.
Here’s the thing: you can’t expect to become amazing at everything. If you find yourself slogging through the day on tasks that are “doable” but not “enjoyable”, try some outside work. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but if you have the ability and even the faintest interest in how it works-give it a shot. Read a few industry blogs. Develop your skills and create goals that will regularly put them to the test. At the end of the day, being really good at something feels great. You become the go-to person at work, and will have insight that others on the team might not.
But what you really want to tap into is the phenomenon of “flow”. It’s a psychological term used to describe a surreal mental state— a point at which everything is firing on all cylinders and you’re tackling projects with what seems like minimal effort. Athletes may feel it in the heat of a game. Concert musicians experience it in the middle of a solo. You might feel it when assembling a stunner of a deck for investors, or gracefully handling a slew of client emergencies. But you can’t expect to experience that feeling if your skill is passable.
So give it a shot. Develop your skills and see if you feel any better at work!