Someone sent me three interesting articles about American workers this week and said,

“Can you make sense of this?”

According to this trio of data-driven posts, Americans:

A) Hate their jobs.

B) Don’t take their vacation days.

C) Work until they’re 80.

Okay, just reading that can make you feel defeated. What does it really mean? I’m not sure, but I know this…

The answer isn’t more vacation, early retirement, or an attitude adjustment.

Here’s an article citing a study that shows a correlation between early retirement and early death. The takeaway is working into your 80s could be the best thing for your health. I’m pretty sure if I look hard enough, I can find an article with stats in it to contradict the vacation day and job hatred articles too.

And, I could cite all sorts of data to explain why Americans are stuck and the the ability to fix the situation is beyond their control due to big business, government, globalization,etc., but I won’t. That’s not my style. I focus on what I can control. I don’t waste time being angry at what I can’t.

Therefore, I see no point in making sense of the data. But, reading it does make me want to share the following:

As a career coach who has worked with literally thousands of people, my mission is to get as many Americans as possible to…

Recognize one of the personal culprits: outdated views of how to find career success and satisfaction.

Americans place a lot of self-worth and personal identity on what they do for work. We judge ourselves and others by their professional accomplishments. Don’t believe me? Take this quiz:

When you have to introduce yourself to a group of people, besides your name, what’s one of the first things you tell them about yourself?
When you meet a new person at an event, what is one of the first things you ask them about themselves to get to know them better?
Think of the most successful person you know. Got it? Now, ask yourself, “Did I pick a person with the most career success as opposed to the most overall life success?”
The fact is, we are a society of people trying to impress others via what we do – and it isn’t working. The result is a lot of unhappy people, who are working even harder to get ahead (not taking vacation), hoping more money and a better title will make them feel better. All the while dreaming of the day they can retire early and stop working – which we now see may actually shorten our lives.

Want to stop the insanity? Focus on impressing the only person that has to live with you 24 hours each day – YOU.

My goal with clients is to teach them to define success on their own terms. I try to help them see how outdated views of career success and an irrational need to impress others with their career as a way to get respect is costing them a happy life. We all need to work – but we don’t all need to work in the same way. The sooner we get off autopilot and start putting some real effort into creating an authentic, customized approach to career satisfaction, the sooner we get there.

I realize it’s not easy, but not trying is a guaranteed failure.

People tell me all the time they’ve tried everything to improve their career. But, when we sit down and look closely at what they’ve done, it becomes almost immediately apparent they haven’t. It’s not their fault. They don’t know they are approaching their career the wrong way. They don’t realize they are using the wrong information and techniques. Nobody’s taught them otherwise. But, at least they knew enough to keep trying and to ask for help. As hockey phenom, Wayne Gretzsky said, “We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take.” If you’re unhappy with your career, keep taking steps to improve it.

And with that, I’ll leave you with this video sent to me by a colleague. It’s Dr. Brene Brown talking about why we need to stop playing it safe (and staying miserable as a result!), and start getting in the game to figure out our own career happiness. It Takes Courage to Be Vulnerable >>

Now tell me, “How are you fighting against the outdated perceptions of career success in America?” I’d love to hear from others what they think about all this data and whether it affects how they approach their careers.

P.S. – First time reading my posts? Thanks for taking the time to stop by! Not only do I write for LinkedIn, but I’m also founder of the career advice site,CAREEREALISM,and currently run the career coaching program, CareerHMO. I hope you’ll check them both out!