The idea of a career for life is out the window. More than ever you now have the opportunity and responsibility to design your life and your career. You spend up to half of your waking hours working so the compounding impact of your career decisions matters. You’re in the driver’s seat and this is a brief look into how the Mental Spinach Lenses can help you build a career and a life that is engaging and fulfilling.
So what is Mental Spinach?
When facing a challenging situation or a big opportunity, Popeye’s salvation lay in his can of spinach. Mental Spinach is similarly a framework we’ve designed to help you to reflect on and to make sense of big decisions and how to design your life.
We’re fascinated by how individuals and organisations grow. We wanted to explore this topic together as father and daughter so we set out to create a concise collection of tools in a simple framework.
As we researched, collected and synthesised key works from psychology, personal development and other genres, everything seemed to fall into four categories. These became the 4 Lenses of our green pocketbook and thought-prompter Mental Spinach. The Actuaries Institute invited us to unpack each Lens with host Martin Mulcare in a podcast mini-series.
To help you infuse some Mental Spinach into your career we’ll share an overview of each Lens, the podcast link and some essential questions to inspire your career thinking.
The Identity Lens – Who am I?
This Lens is all about who you are, who you’re striving to be and how you fit into the world – the foundations for any career decisions. The stronger your personal foundations the greater your ability to make clear decisions on what’s next. This sounds logical and obvious, but it’s easy to shortcut your self-reflection and instead focus on external metrics like pay and incentives, or the expectations of others.
The stronger your compass of self-awareness, the more likely you are to spot a clear direction forward. Episode one of the Mental Spinach mini-series offers some relevant stories and tools.
Some essential Identity Lens questions for your career are:
- What does success mean for me?
- What are my priorities?
- What mindsets and habits will help me to keep growing my professional life?
- What do I value and how does that shape my working life?
- What are my top skills and strengths?
The Opportunity Lens – How do I source and capture opportunities?
Your life is shaped by the opportunities you seize and those you pass by. This Lens is about how to generate more of your own ‘luck’ by spotting and creating more opportunities. Key to building your career is getting access to more relevant opportunities, weighing them up and acting on the big ones.
It’s easy to get stuck in groundhog days or comfort zone jobs and not contemplate what else is out there. This Lens is the antidote to that so you keep your eyes out for seeds of opportunity. In this podcast we explore some of the mindsets and habits that can make you ‘luckier’.
Some essential Opportunity Lens questions for your career are:
- Am I hoping for something new in my career or extra dimensions to my current role?
- How can I develop mindsets and habits that widen my access to relevant opportunities?
- What type of opportunity could change the game for me right now?
- Can I clearly articulate what opportunity I’m looking for and what I could bring to it?
- Do people in my network know what I’m looking for, especially my champions?
- How do I find career opportunities that will keep on rewarding me (like new skills or experiences, or new relationships or networks)? A great example of annuities for all of the actuaries out there!
The Impact Lens – How can I optimise the opportunities I choose to pursue?
This Lens is for the golden opportunities that you’ve decided to chase. Put simply it’s about living and working smarter not harder. It’s a mindset of making the rewards from your opportunities bigger, receiving them earlier, while streamlining the effort you have to put in – classic return on investment principles, but applied to non-financial things.
A rich and meaningful life depends on the deliberate application of your most precious resources of your time, energy and attention. By increasing your productivity (whether by enhancing your output or by reducing the effort required), you free up your resources for the things you love. Concepts in this Lens include the power of a growth mindset, the importance of play, how to build virtuous cycles in your life and the rewards from courage.
Some essential Impact Lens questions for your career are:
- What are the key ingredients for success in my career? How might they connect in a virtuous cycle?
- How can I tap into the power of courage to grow my career? (have a challenging conversation, back myself, assume responsibility, admit I got something wrong, experiment, be vulnerable, ask for help)
- Will more experimentation and play unlock more creativity and joy in my career?
- Can a win-win mindset and generosity of spirit enhance my career?
- Can I be more effective in giving and receiving feedback?
- Can I use my time and energy more effectively through better routines and systems?
The Sustainability Lens – How can I sustain all this?
Life gets busier and our responsibilities and expectations grow. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can easily lead you into unsustainable territory and potential burnout. Your job, which takes up such a large proportion of your life, is a key variable in this. This Lens is about reflecting on how much you have going on and how you recharge your batteries.
We aim to live and work sustainably (but not necessarily in balance as so many great things like love and work take you out of balance). So this Lens invites you to examine what ‘sustainable’ means for you. In the podcast we explore the importance of life audits and the compounding impact of expectations, how it’s ok to say ‘no’ and create personal boundaries, and finally some simple ways to find greater sustainability.
Some essential Sustainability Lens questions for your career are:
- What am I currently juggling? Which things aren’t aligned with my priorities? What should I say ‘no’ to?
- For me, what does a sustainable lifestyle look like? Am I trying to cram in too much?
- Is my inner perfectionist costing me extra work and stress? Should I challenge my relationship with perfectionism?
- What signs warn me that I’m approaching unsustainable territory? How can I spot them earlier to avoid burnout?
- What’s in short supply in my life right now?
- How can I better protect my times of rest and relaxation?
Bringing it all together
Having gone through the Mental Spinach Lenses, what next? After all this reflection it’s time for action.
You might take steps like these:
- Pick the Lens which is calling to you? If you’re looking to strengthen your foundations, start at the Identity Lens. For more opportunities, start at the Opportunity Lens. To optimise your current life, try the Impact Lens. To lower the stress and toll of your current lifestyle, start at the Sustainability Lens.
- Spend 30 minutes exploring the essential questions in that Lens.
- Design a weekly or monthly experiment that will help you to positively explore, answer or act upon the question most relevant for you. Make it easy to implement.
- Reward yourself once you’ve finished the experiment. Then start another one.
- Continue this cycle of experiments with different questions from each of the Lenses. With each rotation of the cycle, you’re growing and designing your life.
- Above all, make the process fun and enjoyable and celebrate your successes.
Thanks for taking the time to go on this ‘Mental Spinach and your career’ journey. You can keep in touch with us through our website MentalSpinach.com. If you would like to purchase a copy of Mental Spinach, click here. All of the $10 sale price goes to education charities for disadvantaged young adults.
A little bit about the authors
To learn more about Jess and Ian you can click here.
CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every podcast listened to.