Dr. Sharon in the New York Times

CAREER COUCH

By EILENE ZIMMERMAN
Q. You had been planning to retire very soon, but the value of your portfolio has declined too much for you to do so now. How can you get over your disappointment?

A. It might help to know that you are not alone. The recession has caused many baby boomers to rethink retirement, leading them to accept that they will probably work longer and retire later than planned. “You have to understand this is not going to be your parent’s retirement,” said Cali Williams Yost, president of Work + Life Fit, a workplace flexibility consulting firm in Madison, N.J., and author of “Work + Life.” That said, your future doesn’t have to be the same old job with the same old schedule. “You don’t have to go to an office from 9 to 5 every day,” Ms. Yost said. “You could take a lower salary and less responsibility, work from home, job-share. This will give you time for other parts of your life — like pursuit of an avocation, time with family or philanthropy.” In fact, research shows that gradual retirement is healthier than sudden retirement, said Lynn Berger, a career coach and licensed mental health counselor in Manhattan and author of “The Savvy Part-Time Professional.”Ms. Berger said that working less — but still working — keeps people physically, mentally and socially active. “Many people experience a rapid decline in physical and mental health soon after retirement, due to lack of activity and purpose,” she said. “Before you complain about having to continue working, understand the benefits, besides the paycheck.”

Q. Although you can’t stop working, you don’t want to continue working the way you have been. What options do you have?

A. You have many options, including working part time instead of full time, serving as a consultant or in taking on a different role at your current employer or at another company. To figure out what suits you best, write down your ideal work situation and move backward from there, Ms. Yost said. “You are creating a vision of your future,” she said. “It might be you want to switch from vice president of sales to working three days a week coaching new sales people, and two days a week you do volunteer work.” Then determine what you have to give up to make that vision real — it may be a prestigious title, a portion of your salary or the corner office. It may also involve giving up a certain amount of security, if you decide to change employers or to start your own business.
Once you establish what you value and what your goals are, consider your financial situation, said Tommy Grella Jr., a certified financial planner and partner in Grella Financial Services in Methuen, Mass. Look at your finances with those values and goals in mind and decide what changes you must make to achieve them, Mr. Grella said. “It could be instead of having to work full time you decide to sell a highly appreciated asset or change your retirement plans — giving up the boat or the place in Florida,” he said.Q. Management at your company assumes that you intend to retire as expected. How do you let it know that you’re staying but want to change your schedule and role?

A. Arrange a meeting and prepare a formal, written proposal that outlines your plan, Ms. Berger said. Detail how you will ease into your new role, perhaps by gradually cutting back your hours or days at the office. You can also include plans for shifting some of your current responsibilities to others at the company. Address every issue that will concern your manager, from who will run
meetings to how accessible you will be to clients when you are not in the office, Ms. Berger said. It’s also important to highlight your accomplishments and to show how the organization will benefit from your plan — by reducing labor costs without losing a senior employee to retirement, Ms. Yost said.

Q. What about all those wonderful activities you had been planning for your retirement?

A. Although some of them may have to be postponed, many others can be part of your life if you simply cut down on your work hours and scale back your level of responsibility. “I have found that when my clients cut back they are actually more productive and are able to schedule in the golf games they wanted or the yoga classes,” said Sharon Lamm-Hartman, a career coach and president of Inside-Out Learning, a Phoenix leadership development firm. Another option is to take some time off, in lieu of or in addition to starting a
new work schedule. If you can afford a few months off without pay, in the form of a sabbatical, you can spend that time doing some of the things you wanted to do in retirement, like visiting friends and traveling. “You will come back with your batteries recharged, because we all need some downtime,” Ms. Lamm-Hartman said.“But the idea of spending the rest of your life doing nothing is an outdated illusion.”

E-mail: ccouch@nytimes.com.

Dr. Sharon on more.com

Many of us have lost touch with our heartfelt desires and dreams. Are you ready to open to a world of new possibilities?

Have you ever asked yourself: What is it that I am really here to do? Whether you are out of a job, dislike your job, seek more fulfillment, or want to take your calling to the next level, it is a human need to know what you were born to do. Your Passionate CallingTM is your most powerful way of adding value in our world by expressing your unique gifts and talents. When you know it, you feel more centered, fulfilled, satisfied and at peace. When you don’t, you feel dissatisfied and perhaps even depressed. There has never been a greater time in history when you need to know Your Passionate CallingTM.

With 11.1 million Americans out of work, a skyrocketing unemployment and home foreclosure rate, the threat of escalating conflict and climate change, is it any wonder anti-depressants are the most prescribed drugs in the United States, and job satisfaction is at the lowest level in two decades? Instead of sinking into despair in these challenging times, you can use the current challenges to wake up and discover and live your passionate calling. We each have a responsibility to make the deepest contribution we are capable of making.

Over the past 22 years, I’ve helped thousands of executives, entrepreneurs, retirees, students, professionals, and homemakers from around the world discover and live their passionate callings. Many of us have buried our heartfelt desires and dreams beneath desires for knowledge, achievements, “secure” job titles, or hectic lifestyles. We can’t hear our heart’s wisdom as it practically screams for our attention.  It is imperative that we re-connect with our hearts to re-discover our passionate calling and dreams, opening up a whole new world of possibilities for satisfaction, self-expression, peace and creativity.

I’ve developed a 9-step process to discover Your Passionate CallingTM, structured around a nine-week program, the topics of which can be spelled in an acronym, O-P-E-N H-E-A-R-T. Below, I focus on Part I: Connecting to Your Passionate CallingTM and a shortened version of the first three steps.

“O” is for Open to Receive. We may hold subconscious beliefs that block us from hearing or receiving the wisdom of our hearts and all the good that wants to come to us. “Receive and we shall give” is a spiritual law which is seldom discussed in favor for the reverse “Give and you shall receive.” We must re-train ourselves that indeed it is okay to receive joy and abundance so we have more to give to our world and loved ones.

During this week, when you wake up and before you go to bed, put your hand over your heart, take a few deep breaths, and remember a joyful past memory. Fully experience that memory as if you were experiencing it for the first time, then shift your focus to the present moment and enjoy breathing – feel your breath going in and out and be grateful to be alive. Then take your attention to a joyful future experience you would like to have and visualize and feel yourself having that experience. Throughout the day affirm to yourself that you are open to receive all the good and abundance of the universe today and always. Once this week, choose something to do for at least 30 minutes that gives you great joy (e.g., hanging out at your favorite coffee shop, getting a massage, playing with your children).

“P” is the second week and stands for Passionate CallingTM. Here are just some of the questions you can ask yourself to get clearer on your unique calling: 1) What is one role I am most passionate about playing before I die? (e.g., writer, catalyst); 2) What is the one thing I most want to accomplish as I play my most passionate role? (e.g., invent a new product, write a best selling book); 3) What is the one thing I most want to change as I play my most passionate role? (e.g., promote fairness and justice, facilitate inner peace). Multiple times throughout the day look at the answers to the above three questions and see and feel yourself living and being it.

“E” stands for Energizing Your Passionate CallingTM. This week create a dream page that visually represents what your life will look like when you are living your calling and your dream. You can do this electronically with innovative free software (see http://www.photovisi.com/) or physically with magazines, paints, and newspapers. Each day look at your dream page, see yourself living it and trust you will.

These are three abbreviated simple steps you can take to become clearer on Your Passionate CallingTM. Connecting with it is the easy work—then comes taking the steps to eliminate blocks to living your calling. Enjoy the journey.

About Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman

Recently featured in the New York Times and O, The Oprah Magazine, Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman is an award-winning personal transformation expert. A global coach, educator and writer with over 22 years of consulting experience, Dr. Sharon holds a doctorate from and is an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University. Her groundbreaking work in leadership development and personal transformation received The Center for Creative Leadership’s prestigious Walter Ulmer award. Dr. Sharon’s signature program, The Heart’s Way™: Discovering Your Passionate Calling in 9 Weeks is offered in a tele-workshop series and is currently being made into a book. Dr. Sharon’s coaching programs help people find more job satisfaction, gain more passion for their work, fulfillment from life, effectiveness in relationships and results from their leadership.

Advertising Age: Resisting Temptation to Jump Ship

Resisting Temptation to Jump Ship? Get Over It Already

Q&A: Even Recession and a Dismal Job Market Aren’t Excuses to Stay Miserable

By . Published on 4

Wondering if and when you can leave your job? Daydreaming of something different, better, more fulfilling? Feel shackled by the oppression of the recession? Fight the fear and move on, says Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman, an executive coach and life coach who also is a speaker and adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

In fact, the recession is as good a time as any to break the ties to a job that causes you misery, she says. And if a recent Conference Board report is an accurate reflection of the current state of the employed, there are a miserable lot of you out there. 

The report found that only 45% of those in 5,000 surveyed households expressed satisfaction with their jobs, down from just over 61% in 1987, the first year the survey was conducted. That’s the lowest level of U.S. job satisfaction in two decades. While all age and income groups express that they are unhappy with their jobs, the cohort with the highest level of dissatisfaction — the highest level ever recorded by the survey for that age group — are those under age 25.

So we’re collectively suffering at our desks. But is that our only option?

In a recent interview with Ad Age, Dr. Lamm-Hartman espoused the merits of an escape plan and getting the work you want to do and will actually — brace yourselves — enjoy.

What do you think are the three biggest factors contributing to the lowest job satisfaction in two decades?

One is the way we work in this country. Younger generations have watched their parents be miserable at work. And they’re saying, “Enough. I really want to have work that’s fun and inspiring and really connected with my passion.” I also think the older generations are even saying, “Enough,” because they’ve put in their time and now with the layoffs and downsizing, they are saying, “Wow, I put my life into this company and they are getting rid of me.” If you look at companies in Europe, they get six to eight weeks off and employers often support sabbaticals. Meanwhile, here we are working 12 to 14 hour days five to seven days a week, and we get two weeks off a year. It starts to affect negatively our family life and way of life.

The second factor is this lack of job security. Once security wanes, job satisfaction goes down, too. And trust [in employers] has diminished.

The third one is the fact that there are a lot of people out there not doing what they were born to do. They’re not purpose driven. We’re at a time in our world where people are asking themselves, “Am really adding value by expressing my most unique gifts and talents?” When we’re not doing that, it really causes disruption in our systems. I’ve seen a lot of people I’ve worked with be depressed or sick or just dissatisfied. A lot of people know what they should be doing, but many are afraid to actually do it. Then there are others who don’t know, they just know they’re not happy doing what they’re doing.

Isn’t that kind of thinking, that sort of aspirational approach, a luxury that we cannot afford in this recession right now?

That’s one way that you could look at it. Another way: There’s no better time [to take that approach] than now. People who are in jobs where they’re satisfied are not losing their jobs. If you’re going to lose your job anyway, what better time to [look for what you want] than now?

I realize that often requires a certain level of finances. If someone has some months’ salary in the bank, then they have some time to explore what they really want to do before they put themselves out in the job market again.

When people are really connected to their callings, they get the job they interview for.

The recession creates a movement because there’s so much dissatisfaction. Often job loss or the threat of job loss is a trigger to transformation. I’ve talked to so many people who lose their jobs and years later say that losing their jobs was the best thing that ever happened to them, because they didn’t have the courage to leave on their own.

And so you’re recommending people take greater risks and leave without waiting to get kicked out?

If they are clear on what they want to do. If you’re that dissatisfied, are you going to wait for the company to do something, or are you going to do something? If you’re clear on what it is you really want to do, why not do it? If you volunteer to go, you’re going to be saving the job of someone else who might really want to be there. And companies are looking for people who really don’t want to be there anyway. So it’s kind of a win-win. And even if you don’t know what you want to do, but you’re going to get six months’ severance, that’s a lot of time to figure out what you want to do. A lot of times, people who are electing to leave are actually going to ask for severance. They’re saying, “Hey, if you guys give me a severance package, I will leave.”

You’re suggesting going without having another job lined up?

The ideal way to go would be to have something lined up. But that’s not always the case these days. If you are dissatisfied, and your company is laying off or downsizing, and you know you want to be doing something else, then go. It’s risky, it’s giving up job security, but there’s really no such thing as job security anymore anyway. And a lot of times companies are providing support, too, like outsourcing support where you can actually get some career counseling if you don’t know what you want to do next. There are lots of companies out there right now that are helping people connect with what they really want to do.

The report found that the youngest employees, those under 25, are most dissatisfied. To what do you attribute that and how might that change?

They certainly grew up in abundance; Every need has been met, maybe they haven’t had a struggle. Look at the book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.” That’s their work ethic. I think for them, too, [what matters is] how much fun they’re having. That’s why Google’s brilliant, because they’ve brought fun into the workplace.

We’re comparing [that generation's work ethic] to our work ethic, but maybe theirs is just redefined. Theirs might be, “If I’m having fun and am inspired and am having a good time and love coming to work, but I also love my life,” maybe they’re more likely to give more if they have those things. Corporate America is stuck in defining work ethic the way baby boomers do. We have to redefine work and work ethic. The Googles of the world are the ones that are going to attract these younger generations and get the most out of them. We’re going to face some sort of corporate revolution if corporations do not change. Otherwise I don’t know how they’re going to retain the best talent.

AZCentral: It’s OK to say no by Karina Bland

I just can’t seem to say no.
Yes, I’ll organize the canned-food drive, put together the school newsletter and drive the carpool both ways every day. Sure, I’ll watch your kids on a Friday night because you and your husband need a “date night,” even though I’m exhausted and I haven’t had anything resembling a date night in, oh, I don’t know, a decade? Oh, no, I don’t mind — I’ll watch your dogs over spring break. I wasn’t going anywhere anyway.

I grew up as part of the “Just Say No” generation, turning down drugs, bar hopping without a designated driver and unprotected sex. Why can’t I say no now?

Because I’m a woman, says Sharon Lamm-Hartman, president and founder of Inside-Out Learning Inc. in Carefree, specializing in leadership and personal development.  “Women have been taught for years to be nice,” she says. Play nice. Talk nice. When we say no, we feel mean. And we worry that no one will like us. So we say yes under a misguided notion that we’ll be able to fit it all in. We can’t, and we end up overscheduled and stressed out.

My boss challenged me to say “no” to everything I really didn’t want to do. (Well, except to her, of course.)

So I said no when my neighbor called and asked if I would hide a puppy from his for FIVE WEEKS until Christmas. He thought it would be no trouble — he’d come get it while his wife was at work during the day, and I’d just keep the little yapper crated at night. (My friend Jane says that’s like having a child and asking someone to keep it until it’s 3: “Hey, let me know when it’s potty trained, and I’ll be by to pick it up.”) But when someone from the asked me to buy a $25 raffle ticket for a chance to win two airline tickets, I couldn’t say no even though I wanted to. Have you ever tried turning down a Girl Scout? They’re so cute. (No, I didn’t win the tickets.)

We can say no nicely, Lamm-Hartman says. For example, “I love you and I really wish I could be there for you, but I just can’t right now.” If you don’t know the person well, a simple “No, thank you” suffices. And we won’t be blackballed from the PTA.

Lamm-Hartman says women are hesitant to say no because we put other people’s needs first. She says we have to reframe our thinking: “If I take care of myself, I’m better able to take care of others,” instead of feeling selfish for taking a little me-time.

Focus first on your family, your inner and your job, Lamm-Hartman says. Then you can consider everyone else vying for your time, attention and money. “If it’s not on your priority list, then it’s easier to say no,” Lamm-Hartman says. “We have to know what’s most important to us.”

It’s never easy to say no — even when it’s your job, says Annette Rogers, submissions editor for Poisoned Pen Press in . (Her publishing company turns down 90 percent of the manuscripts reviewed.) It takes some practice.

Rogers sends an individual letter to every writer she turns down. She’s very gentle in the opening, starting with “I’m so sorry to say …” She doesn’t use the word “reject” because that’s a knife to any writer’s heart. (You have to admire anyone who actually finishes a book and submits it, she says.) Instead she says the manuscript “will not continue in our process.”

She’s constructive, maybe telling a writer his dialogue was terrific but his lead character unlikable. She might offer suggestions on the setting. She encourages them all to keep writing and wishes them the best

It has gotten easier over the years. It’s harder to say no in her personal life, when someone unexpectedly asks her to do something.

That’s when she takes a breath — “That gives me a second to marshal my forces” — and asks for some time to think about it. She then can look at her calendar, or pretend to, and decide whether it’s something she really wants to do. Her first priorities are her family and her work. It takes confidence to say no, and women have to say it like they mean it. Any wavering will sound angerously close to a yes.

Sometimes I say yes because there’s no other way out, like when a friend calls and asks, “Hey, what are you doing Saturday night?”

Me: “I haven’t got any plans. What do you want to do?”

Her: “Actually, I was hoping you could watch my kids for a few hours. I’m so glad you don’t have plans!”

Now I’ve learned to say, “I don’t know. I’ll have to check my Day-Timer. What’s going on?”

Once we say no, we have to learn to stop there, Lamm-Hartman says, and offer no other explanation, or a persistent person will work up an alternative: “Oh, you have a party to go to. Well, little Alexander would that. You can take him with you!”

If we’re feeling guilty about saying no, Lamm-Hartman suggests saying yes to something that softens the no. For example, “I can’t organize the book fair this year, but I could volunteer to help for four hours on Thursday.”

“The key is, we’re saying no the things that kind of burn us out or stress us out,” Lamm-Hartman says, “and we’re saying yes to the things we value the most.”

Like our sanity.

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