Psychology expert shares her No. 1 tip on how to deprioritize work and live a purposeful life

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Psychology expert shares her No. 1 tip on how to deprioritize work and live a purposeful life

Jodi Wellman, a positive psychology expert, was an executive leader for 17 years but realized that achieving the pinnacle of success wasn’t bringing her any joy.

“I was, like many people, achievement-oriented. I tied my sense of self-worth to what I was doing, how much I was producing, what the name on my business card said, and I felt like I was stuck in the trappings of success, especially at the end of my corporate career,” Wellman told CNBC Make It in an interview.

Wellman recently founded the wellbeing platform Four Thousand Mondays and authored the book “You Only Die Once.” She previously held executive positions at companies like The Sports Clubs of Canada and Bally Total Fitness.

Despite being in an enviable position of success, she felt like she had reached a dead-end in her last corporate role as senior president of operations at Bally Total Fitness.

“I was probably at the end of what I could do with that company, my proverbial glass ceiling,” she said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to do more. I’d reached this sort of peak at that time.”

Wellman said her whole identity rested on her career, so the feelings of hopelessness and fear were intensified as a result.

What she realized was that she had pinned all her hopes on finding meaning through work while overlooking every other aspect of her life.

‘What if work was just a part of your big life?’

One way to find meaning is by decentering work and prioritizing your life outside work.

“What if work was just a part of your big life?” Wellman said. “And that’s where we just need, we need to put a little more effort into building a life outside of work that lights us up and delivers meaning too.”

She explained that people don’t have much agency at work where most tasks and duties are expected of them.

Instead, they can exercise that agency in their life outside of work where they can deliberately choose and curate the activities they do which allows for a “more powerful well-being hit.”

This could include starting new hobbies, joining a fitness class, volunteering, or signing up for a course.

This alleviates the pressure of finding meaning and joy solely through your work life.

‘There’s not enough world for all of us to change it’

There’s a cultural expectation that work is meant to be an “almighty delivery system” for purpose, and meaning in life, but that’s not true, according to Wellman.

“Many of us are pursuing something impossible. So, we’re on this journey, trying to find a job that lights us up, uses all of our talents, makes us feel like we’re putting a dent in the world, and pays great, and work is just not designed to do that, unfortunately,” she noted.

She explained that most people are under pressure to have a “big and grandiose and world-changing” purpose through their career which makes them lose sight of living their own life outside of work.

“There’s not enough world for all of us to change it,” Wellman said, adding that people need to focus on changing their own worlds and extracting meaning from the life around them.

Wellman said one highly successful woman she spoke to, for her book, found that her purpose in life was to uplift people when they conversed with her.

Another person she spoke to said he wanted to be the best uncle out there, because he didn’t have any kids of his own and his job was average.

“It’s the more localized version, and for most of us so much more accessible, and dare I even say so much more impactful?” she added.

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