Career or Life: Love-Hate-Like Exercise

Last week I offered a bit of self-realized wisdom to someone in their search for new employment. When a person loses their job abruptly or they find themselves truly unhappy in their present position, I recommend the love-hate-like exercise that I created for myself when I abruptly lost my career in the summer of 2009. This exercise takes days if not weeks to complete so please keep that in mind as you continue to read this post.

Crisis – the crossroads

There are many reasons why a person comes to the crossroads of what we should be doing with our lives and in contemplating which way to turn next. It may be your employer has decided to shut down their operations, layoff the workforce, or simply, the company has decided to move in another direction and that direction does not include you. The crisis could be caused by the sudden death of a loved one, a health scare event, or even a life-changing diagnosis. Whatever the crisis that is causing reflection or demanding you take a look at the path you are on, I offer my “love – hate – like” exercise.

Hindsight 2020

I created the love-hate-like exercise when I was looking at my severance package from a 25-year career in the financial services industry in the summer of 2009. If you can remember and there are few who cannot forget the economic crisis beginning in 2008, I sat bewildered at my desk in my home office wondering, “Now what the heck do I do?”

Finding a new career

I knew there would be little to no opportunity in the financial services industry, despite a successful sales and sales management career. And even despite my age, I knew that my inquisitive and entrepreneurial spirit would help me find a new career. But what? Where?

I remembered in my early thirties when all my friends were married and beginning to have their families, I was still single. My father had suddenly died three days before Christmas, and I began to think of what I was doing with my life. Perhaps God did not want me to be married suggested my best friend. (Ouch! That comment stung.) I had read somewhere that it takes 18 to 24 months to really know someone well enough to make a long term or marital commitment. (Ticktock, tick) I sat down and wrote in my personal journal all the qualities and life scenarios I could and could not accept when considering a significant other or spouse. In the pre-Internet age with online dating services, I placed a concise personal ad in the local newspaper. Long story short, my husband, whom I met through that personal ad, and I will be married 27 years on February 14, 2020.

I thought, “Why not put that concept to work on finding a new career?”

Sitting at my desk with a yellow legal pad in front me, I made four columns.

First column – Tasks and Responsibilities

In the first column, I concisely listed every task and responsibility from every job I ever held, my role has a mother, homemaker, and my hobbies. The list was several pages long and some of the tasks were similar in nature depending upon my role – employee, manager, spouse, mother, caretaker, church committee member, etc. Although the tasks or responsibilities were similar, I did not lump them together. I kept them separate on purpose to help me potentially determine an industry to find my new career.

Next 3 columns were labeled: “LOVE,” “HATE,” and “LIKE”

In the “love” column, I placed an “X” by each task and responsibility that I genuinely enjoyed performing. These were areas that I believed were where I employed by gifts and talents.

In the “hate” column, I placed an “X” for the tasks and responsibilities I would not want to do again if possible. It is not that I could not perform these things well, but I found no joy or satisfaction in them.

In the “like” column, I placed an “X” for those tasks and responsibilities that were in a neutral zone. I neither loved nor hated doing them, but if this task or responsibility was part of this new position it would be acceptable.

An important next step in the exercise

When making the list of tasks and responsibilities, it is important to only consider the task and responsibility and not any monetary value. This is a key point that I will address later.

The most crucial step in completing this exercise is stepping away from it for a period of days or at least a week. The importance of stepping away from the first step of this exercise in making the lists and placing the x’s in the next 3 columns is that we lie to ourselves. We lie to ourselves about what we genuinely love and hate – what we can accept and what we cannot accept. Think about your previous relationships, professionally or personally, and you will understand my point.

After a period of not looking at what you have compiled in the love – hate – like exercise, review the first column. Perhaps you remembered additional tasks and responsibilities that you do not currently have listed. Secondly, look carefully at each of the 3 columns. Do you still love or hate the tasks and responsibilities with the “x” next to them? If not, move those tasks and responsibilities to the appropriate column. Your honesty will help you now and later. Trust me on this point of the exercise.


• I love building relationships, but I hate cold calling or prospecting new clients.
• I hate doing employee annual reviews, but I love mentoring employees.
• I hate going to the gas station to fill up my car’s gas tank, but I love driving.

You don’t have to be in sales (retail, field, or inside sales) in order build client relationships. You don’t have to be a manager in order to mentor employees. And unless you live in the city or area, by bus, shared ride, or taxi service, filling the gas tank is a part of driving a car and enjoying independence.

Expanding our scope of “this is what I have always done” to finding the value of what you love doing because it takes advantage of your gifts and talents will be much more worthwhile than wanting to climb the corporate ladder just for the professional exercise (it is what is expected of me) and the compensation. And who says, doing what you love and what fits you doesn’t have you being elevated in the company and earning more in your new career?

Recent Personal Love-Hate-Like Epiphany

In the last ten years since the summer of 2009 of my personal crisis, the love-hate-like exercise has proven itself invaluable to my overall happiness personally and professionally. I will tell you how I know this to be true just recently.

Last fall, I was feeling disenchanted in my current position. I thought I wasn’t moving fast enough in regard to advancement based upon my effort and overall career knowledge. In addition, I was not being compensated what I believed deemed appropriate for the value I brought to my employer. I began searching for a similar position with other employers.

In my first interview one of the questions, the HR director asked me was, “Describe your perfect working environment?”

At that moment I experienced an epiphany. The insight into my love-hate-like exercise of ten years ago came into focus. I was already where I wanted to be. I enjoy my job, I love my current company, and I do have an opportunity where I can earn more. My team lead is an encourager and a mentor. My disenchantment came from my impatience and perhaps a bit of my ego. Until I no longer believe or experience that which has me currently enjoying the use of my gifts, talents and career knowledge then I am happy where I am right now. I would not be where I am today or have believed my happiness in my current role had I not completed that love-hate-like exercise.

Another lesson is that interviewing outside of your current employer can help you determine what is not only available elsewhere but where you are right now in your current position. Just because you interview doesn’t mean you have to leave your current company. It could very well validate that you are where you are meant to be right now.


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