Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should
Have you ever found yourself doing things that you are competent at, but that you don’t particularly enjoy? While you may not actively dislike the tasks, they certainly don’t energise you and perhaps they even leave you feeling bored. Maybe you’ve thought about moving into a new area of work because you already have the skills. It feels like the practical, sensible choice, but your heart’s just not in it.
I sometimes explore these situations with clients with the thought starter “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
This can apply at work, in making career decisions and in your personal life. The nett result of ignoring ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’ is that you often feel frustrated, dissatisfied or even bored.
Why is this a problem?
If you spend a lot of time doing things just because you can, there’s no time and space to do the thing things that you really enjoy, the things that keep you in flow, that light you up and energise you. You may experience the satisfaction of a job well done, but this is different from the satisfaction you feel when doing something you believe really represents you properly, that you feel proud to have completed well.
A different approach
What if you took a different approach and tapped into those things you really enjoy, rather than those things that you believe you ‘should’ do. One way to do this is to identify and draw on your ‘signature strengths’ rather than on your ‘learned strengths’.
To identify your signature strengths, think about what gets you into flow. You know, that state where you get completely absorbed in a task and lose track of time. You often know you’re using your signature strengths when you feel energised, engaged and motivated. Ask yourself, does this idea/work/activity energise me? Do you feel ‘in flow’ when doing it or thinking about it? If not, you may be using a ‘learned strength’. This is one you’ve developed based on need, rather than one that comes naturally to you.
If I was to give you an example, I can absolutely do detail oriented work. I can even do it quite well if I put my mind to it. However, I don’t enjoy it and I feel quite drained of energy when I spend too much time on these tasks. This doesn’t mean I should never do work of this nature. In fact, it’s really important that I can do this, as we all need to do detail oriented work at times. However, for me, I would be ill advised to work in a role where close attention to detail and routine were key aspects of the job, as this doesn’t draw on my signature strengths and it’s not what I enjoy. That is, just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.
What’s the benefit?
Why does this even matter? Well, the research suggests that when we draw on our signature strengths we’re happier and more productive. This has certainly been true for me. So, if you’re looking to move into a new role, think about what would best allow you to use your signature strengths. If you intend to stay put, think about how you could recraft your role a little to allow greater use of your strengths. What projects could you get involved in? How could you do your existing role a little differently?
I wonder, how often are you in a ‘just because I can, doesn’t mean I should’ situation? What will you do differently?
How can I learn about my signature strengths and how to apply them?
Not sure what your signature strengths are or how to apply them? You can start by doing the VIA Character Strengths Survey, or the Gallup Strengths Survey. Not sure how to apply your strengths at work to allow you to do the best job you can? Not sure what you would like to be doing? Let’s connect and we can work through this together.
Laurenne Di Salvo