5 Reflections for better satisfaction in and out of work

September 22, 2021

Man reflecting in train window

In this blog post we identify small changes you can make to improve your life across 4 key areas. Suggested by Stewart Friedman from Wharton School it's an exercise to encourage you to reflect on what you want from each domain of your life, now and in the future. The domains are: work, home, community and self. In particular, it encourages us to think whether there are small changes we can make (refered to as experiments) that might affect all four parts of life.

At Saberr we're all about helping managers get their team performing at the top of their game - so why care about home, community and self when we should be focusing on work? Because these other areas affect our work.

Common reasons for doing this exercises include:

  • You are unfulfilled because you are not doing what you love
  • You don’t feel genuine because you are not acting according to your values
  • You feel disconnected, isolated from people who matter to you and crave stronger relationships or enriched social networks
  • You feel stuck in a rut. You want to tap into your creative energy but don’t know how (and sometimes lack the courage) to do so. You feel out of control and unable to fit in all that’s important to you.

The principles

The concept rests on three principles to be kept in mind:

1. Be real: Act with authenticity by clarifying what’s important.

2. Be whole: Act with integrity by respecting the whole person.

3. Be innovative: Act with creativity by experimenting with how things get done.

How does it work?

Step 1: Explore your values

Identify your core values and the current alignment of your actions and values—clarifying what’s important.

  • Sharing this with trusted peers is enormously valuable because an outside perspective provides a sounding board for your ideas, challenges you, gives you a fresh way to see the possibilities for innovation, and helps hold you accountable to your commitments.

Identifying your values is simply a matter of narrowing down what's really important to you. Fundamental principles like fairness, control, freedom of self direction, personal security etc. If you have a Saberr account you can use our values survey to help uncover these or read this post on the difference between personality and values.

Step 2: Consider stakeholders

Identify the most important people— “key stakeholders” —in all four domains and the expectations you have of one another.

  • Talk with them: You might be surprised to find that what your key stakeholders actually need from you is different from what you expected.
  • With a firmer grounding in what’s most important, and a more complete picture of your inner circle, you begin to see new ways of making life better, not just for you but also for the people around you.

Step 3: Brainstorm experiments

Brainstorm the possible experiments that you could try out for a period of time. Experiments should be ways in which to improve one or more aspects of your life. Open your mind to what’s possible and try to think of as many as you can, describing in a sentence or two what you would do in each.

  • The best experiments are small changes that your stakeholders wish for as much as, if not more than, you do.
  • Let your imagination run free. Don’t worry about all the potential obstacles at this point.

Step 4: Choose a few small wins, get started, and adapt.

Experiments shouldn’t be massive, all-encompassing shifts in the way you live. If the stakes are smaller, it’s easier to overcome the fear of failure that stops you from trying them in the first place.

Don’t try out more than two or three experiments at once. Narrow the list to the three most-promising options by reviewing which will:

  • Be the most costly in regret and missed opportunities if you don’t do it
  • Be in line with you values and move you furthest toward your vision of how you want to lead your life
  • Give you the best overall return. Prioritise experiments that fulfill multiple goals, benefiting each domain of your life. This isn't easy!

For example, setting aside three mornings a week to exercise improves your health directly but may indirectly give you more energy for your work and raise your self-esteem, which in turn might make you a better parent and friend.

Be prepared to adapt to the unforeseen. Don’t become too wedded to the changes you're making, because you will at some point be surprised and need to adjust.

Step 5: Record and track progress

You can only fail an experiment if you fail to learn from it.

In order to track progress, use a separate page for each experiment. At the top of the page, write a brief description of it. Then make 3 columns:

  • In the first column, record your goals for each of the four domains.
  • In the middle column, describe your results metrics: how you will measure whether the goals for each domain have been achieved.
  • In the third column, describe your action metrics — the plan for the steps you will take to implement your experiment.

About this exercise

This exercise was adapted from an HBR article by Stewart Friedman at Wharton School. He runs a course called “the total team member”, which encourages each participant to reflect on what they want from their life.

Workshop participants (about 300 professionals) at Wharton over a four-month period said their satisfaction increased by an average of 20% in their work lives, 28% in their home lives, 31% in their community lives and in the domain of the self by 39%.

The downside is low and upside is high. If an experiment doesn’t work out, you stop or adjust, and little is lost. If it does work out, it’s a small win; over time these add up so that your overall efforts are focused increasingly on what and who matter most. Either way, you learn more about how to lead in all parts of your life. The process is pretty straightforward, though not simple.

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