An Existential Perspective on Work and Career Development

Existential career counseling assists and supports clients in exploring and reflecting upon the direction, purpose and meaning of their lives and their work.

Existential career counseling helps clients to deepen their awareness and perspective, to feel more connected to their experiences, their emotions, and their relationships.

Existential career counseling guides clients towards being more fully present in their daily lives and to feel more authentic and confident in their decisions, choices and actions.

  • Leading OUR lives with Inner Consent

    07/13/2021

    How well do we lead our lives?

    In the many conversations I have with clients, I frequently hear them express some of the following: “I do not feel any joy in my work”, “I cannot relate to my work”, "I feel like I am pretending to like what I do", “I do not feel like I have any mastery over what I am doing”, “What I am doing is meaningless”, “I am never asked for my opinion, input or perspective”, “this job loss makes me feel as though I have no say in my life, no control over my life”.

    These feelings and experiences can cause us to feel alienated from our work and disconnected from our personal capacity to direct, decide, and lead our lives. When we feel disconnected from the work we do, when we no longer feel a personal connection to our work, and when we do not feel the purpose and value of what we are doing, we can feel frustrated. This frustration can in turn exhaust us. Increasing stress and burnout are two examples of the trajectory from disconnection to frustration to exhaustion. Job loss and career/life transitions are equally challenging experiences where we may feel that we have little or no control over our lives. We do not feel that we are personally leading our lives.

    Our internal compass - leading our lives with Inner Consent

    In Existential Coaching we speak of Inner Consent. Inner Consent simply put is a personally felt “yes”! Inner Consent is an internal affirmation or experienced “rightness” (not perfection!). “I can stand behind this decision I have made, this direction I have chosen to take in my life". "This activity that I am engaged in corresponds with me, it resonates with me, with my capacities, it resonates with my internal compass". "I am the one behind my decisions and actions". “I am leading my decisions and actions”

    When we feel more fully present, when we feel more connected to and engaged with our actions, when we feel we can stand behind our choices and decisions, we experience this internal "yes". When we feel we are in concert with our sense of self, with our feelings, with our experiences and our values, we experience this internal "yes". Inner Consent is being mindful of what resonates within “me”: “I feel the value of the work I do”, "I feel connected to my capacities and skills and feel the value of how I work“, "I feel myself present and engaged in my life, in my relationships and in my work”, "I fully accept the choices and decisions I have made". “I am the primary leader of my life”.

    Inner Consent is an important area to explore with clients, especially those experiencing the challenges of a career transition, those feeling disconnected from their work and careers, and those experiencing daily, unmanageable stress. Exploratory, reflective and compassionate conversation helps clients to deepen both their awareness of and their perspective on what they are currently experiencing in their lives. This supportive process opens-up possibilities for a client. Empowered by possibilities that resonate specifically with their lives, clients are able to identify and re-connect with those areas, both big or small, where they do experience Inner Consent. “I do lead my life in these areas…”

    Experiencing Inner Consent

    When we experience Inner Consent, we feel connected to the decisions we make, the actions we take and the commitments we make to others and to our work. “I lead my life through my convictions, my capacities and my commitments”.

    When we experience Inner Consent, we have the capacity to look both reflectively and realistically at our expectations, our beliefs, our behaviour, and our choices: “I accept that I cannot do everything”. We may, for example, feel tired or disappointed with our work: “I had a heavy work load today, but I feel good about the work I accomplished”, “I did what was possible at work today and I feel good about that”. “I lead my life with perspective and self-compassion”.

    When we experience inner consent, we are both open to and accepting of our own limitations or the limitations of a specific situation/context at work. But we can also put these limitations in perspective, we can contemplate and put into action alternate possibilities, outright change, even attitudinal shifts. All of this exercises our capacity to better attune to our experiences, really feel our "personal position". This helps us participate more openly with the world around us, contribute our unique abilities. “I lead my life with acceptance and openness”.

    Living with Inner Consent enables us to lead our lives with personally constructed and appropriate decisions and actions. This is especially important during periods of great change, transition, stress or uncertainty. To know that we still lead our lives, that we still decide for our lives, can help to guide us through uncertain transitions.

    Inner consent enables us to feel more grounded in ourselves.  We recognize ourselves. We feel authentic. We experience a sense of personal integrity. We feel more fully present in our lives, in our relationships, and the wider world around us. We feel and can identify the meaning, purpose and value of our work.

    When we live with Inner Consent, we experience fulfillment in our lives.

    “I lead my life”.

    How well do you lead your life? I help my clients discover inner consent and create personally empowered approaches to career transition, stress and burnout, and the building of resilient career paths. To book a consultation call please contact me at brittmari@brittmarisykes.ca I look forward to hearing from you.

     

  • Existential Coaching - Exercising Our Experiential Muscles

    07/13/2021

    What are some of the distinguishing characteristics of Existential Coaching?

    At the heart of existential coaching is a very human desire to feel more fully present and engaged in our lives.

    We want to feel more alive and vibrant, to feel connected to and part of communities, and to experience healthy, valued relationships.

    We fear being isolated or set apart in the world. We want to feel less lonely. We want to be better able to weather and ride the waves of life.

    We want to find ways to tame our worry and anxiety about issues we cannot easily control: our jobs, the economy, the environment, global politics, the state of our world. 

    Existential coaching helps clients explore and articulate the deeply personal questions we have about our lives and helps clients move towards being more present in their daily lives and feeling more authentic and confident in their decisions, choices and actions. 

    Existential coaching helps clients widen and deepen their awareness and perspective. It helps clients be more connected to their experiences, to their emotions, and to their relationships. Existential coaching helps clients to access and to exercise their experiential muscles.

    Strengthening these muscles can be invaluable for clients seeking guidance and support through a career transition, clients experiencing burnout or clients wanting to build the foundations for a personally meaningful career. An existential perspective is thus invaluable to widening what career counseling can offer clients.

    Widening our perspectives in career counseling from an existential perspective

    Our career paths cover a significant portion of our lifespan and along the way we experience a tremendous range in the types of work we under-take, in our skills and expertise, in the meaning our work holds for us and the fulfillment we derive from it.

    At times, questions arise. How we are experiencing our work? How engaged are we? Have we made the right choices?

    There are moments when work is unreliable, disappointing, stressful or even harmful. 

    And these moments raise probing questions about what work actually means to us, and to what extent our identities are entwined with the work we do. 

    Our responses to these questions draw upon our personal beliefs, our hopes and our aspirations of success, independence, contribution, mastery and self-expression.

    Each client I meet therefore embodies a complex and unique story of diverse experiences and accumulated expertise. And every issue a client raises inevitably includes deeply existential (personal) reflections. 

    Some of these issues include:

    • Feeling unfulfilled and stuck in their careers and wanting a deeper understanding of these feelings and experiences.
    • Experiencing chronic stress and/or burnout that has led to feeling disengaged and disconnected from their lives and work.
    • Anxiety about the instability of their careers. This often occurs with sudden job loss, career transitions, burnout and other health issues.
    • Financial worries.
    • The desire for congruence between the work they do and their values.
    • Worry about global issues: economic, political, environmental and the impact these have on our lives.
    • Feeling overwhelmed or bored in their jobs.
    • Wanting a career that has purpose. Wanting to make a meaningful contribution.
    • Seeking work that better reflects their accumulated experiences and skills.
    • Fear and anxiety about entering the job market after a period of unemployment: how to navigate a career transition after a layoff or a personal decision to start a new career.
    • A lack of confidence in their skills.
    • The desire to feel passionate about their work.
    • To feel more alive, connected and engaged, to feel part of community.
    • To communicate and relate better with others.
    • A sense that their education and/or career path was not of their own choosing and thus feeling they are not the authors of their lives in decision, choice or execution.

    Underlying these issues are very real, very human searches for authentic living, self-expression, relationship and community.
     
    I call this the existential “want” list:

    • We want to feel relevant and we want our work to be relevant. 
    • We want to feel a sense of purpose in all that we do.
    • We want to experience our work lives as meaningful. 
    • We want the dignity of decent work. 
    • We want to grow and expand in skill and capacity. We want to feel a personal sense of mastery. 
    • We want to discover and reach our potential.
    • We want to make a contribution, be connected to something, and feel we have a place in the world. 

    From Conversation to Action – harnessing awareness, perspective and resilience

    The conversational style of Existential coaching is open, non-judgmental and reflective. It fosters deeper understanding and awareness and reveals personal resilience(s) and possibilities grounded in a client’s specific reality. It seeks understanding over interpretation.

    By means of exploratory dialogue, existential coaching provides the time and space for clients to examine and discover personal answers to the real questions at the heart of their lives and experiences of work. 

    Existential coaching:

    • Focuses on a client’s unique, diverse and contextual story. 
    • Helps a client deepen their awareness and perspective of their feelings, attitudes, behaviors and decisions.
    • Helps clients connect more deeply to their lives and their experiences.
    • Guides clients in becoming more aware of how they experience their lives, how they live their lives, what they value deeply, the meaning(s) they ascribe to their experiences and what they strive for.
    • Assists clients in compassionately accepting their lives and their losses (job or direction) and moving forward from there. 
    • Helps clients start a new relationship with themselves by accepting their whole lives while simultaneously choosing and implementing change where necessary.
    •  Brings to light and leverages the diverse experiences and unique expertise that make up a client’s capacities. 
    • Helps clients identify their innate capacities and skills and thus gain renewed confidence in their skills.
    • Reveals a client’s resilience(s).
    • Deepens a client’s understanding of what they value and how those values are connected to what they do day to day.

    The content of these enriching conversations provides substantive and tangible material that illuminates what is possible and what concrete actions can be taken in the immediate that are both appropriate and of value to the client. 

    The content of these explorations provides a client with a foundation from which they can make decisions for their lives and with which both client and counselor can collaboratively co-create personally meaningful steps forward. 

    This process makes use of and exercises our experiential muscles. It merges our capacity for reflection and deepened awareness with decisive action grounded in the reality and possibility of the present moment. For clients, the outcome(s) are infused with personal meaning and motivation.

    Britt-Mari is an integrative career counselor and certified career strategist (CCS). She has an extensive background in existential psychology, career counseling and teaching. Britt-Mari helps clients create personally empowered solutions to career transition, burnout and the building of meaningful careers. To inquire about sessions, please contact her at brittmari@brittmarisykes.ca