Transcript | PPP0094: Job Crafting and Creating More Meaning in Work with Cass Dunn



Ellen  0:00:02 - 0:01:54

Hello and welcome to the Potential Psychology podcast. I'm your host, Ellen Jackson. And it's my mission to share the science of human behaviour in a practical, fun, and inspiring way. In each podcast episode, I interview an expert from the fields of Psychology, wellbeing, leadership, parenting, or high performance. I pick their brain to uncover what they know about living well, what tips do they have for you and I. And I quizzed them about how they apply their expertise in their own life. Join me as we discover simple, science-backed ways to live, learn, flourish and fulfil your potential. 


Hello, and welcome back to the potential psychology podcast. This is episode number 94 we're getting very close to that milestone 100th episode, which is exciting. We haven't decided what to do to recognise that yet. That might be something for the team and I to focus on in the coming week or so. But today we're talking about work and finding meaning and purpose in your work, which I know for some of us some of the time can feel a little like the Holy Grail or is just somewhat out of reach. But my guest today has some great insights and tips for ways of thinking about your work that can help us define a little or a lot for meaning and purpose without necessarily having to make a big radical career change.


But before we get to that, it's time for my three things, something I'm reading, something I've learned, and something I'm doing to fulfil my potential. And please do share what you're reading, learning, and doing. You can hashtag it #PP3things on the socials or comment on our post or just send me an email, whatever you like. I share mine as a way, I hope. Well, there's two reasons, really.


Ellen 0:01:54 - 0:03:41

One is to reflect myself on what it is I'm reading, learning, and doing and also to, I hope, encourage, inspire, prompt you to do the same. So let's start with what I'm reading. And it is a move away from nonfiction for this episode because I do also read fiction not nearly as much as I'd like to or used to. But I have just finished Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, which, if you've read it already, you would know is a wonderful book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the story of 12 characters, mostly women, mostly black, and mostly British, that spreads generations and circumstances and goals and experience. But it's held together with a common thread, really of being human. And the story covers a lot of what could be considered political themes absolutely could be considered political themes, things like gender, race, feminism but rather than these issues becoming divisive, as they so often can the individual characters experiencing the stories tell them from the perspective of just being a human being, which just made it so real and so relatable to me that it felt accessible and got me thinking, which I do like in a book. And it's also a wonderfully engaging, easy to read, and very cleverly written novel, with each character having an individual chapter that tells their story but also overlaps with some of the other stories and common themes. And there's a narrative thread that links them all together. So if you're interested in fiction, that makes you think, but it's not at all hard work and very enjoyable. Then I highly recommend it. So that's what I'm reading or have just read. 


Ellen 0:03:41 - 0:05:34

What have I learned well, I was lucky enough to be able to make it up to Sydney just prior to Victoria's most recent Covid lockdown and aside from it being a very productive long weekend because I did go up for work to participate in a fantastic workshop of the client, I also caught up with some wonderful friends, which was thoroughly enjoyable, particularly after a year of, just not being able to do so. But the trip is also an interesting exercise in contrasts, particularly as I left Victoria pre lockdown and came back in lockdown and to see Sydney really carrying on largely with life as usual, busy, active, thriving with everything open and people coming and going and going to cafes, going to restaurants and then to come home to Melbourne, coz I came into Melbourne City. And it was deathly quiet with not much happening at all, and that contrast was just incredibly stark.


And I'm not going to make any comment about what is right or wrong in terms of the approach to managing Covid. I'm no expert in any of that and really in the whole great scheme of things in Australia, we barely have an issue to even consider. But it was just an excellent reminder to me of the importance of getting out of your ordinary environment and seeing other things. Other countries, maybe when we can, of cities, towns, just other lives being lived for the perspective that it brings. And although we can't travel much at the moment, I am wondering whether there are other ways to be able to do that. To find that exposure to something different at something outside of our everyday, something outside of our ordinary environment that we operate in. In order to get that different perspective because it really is. It's just an eye-opener and a mind opener, so finding ways to step outside of the ordinary.


Ellen 0:05:34 - 0:07:15

So, we just won’t be mentally bogged down in what's happening to us day today. You know, life in our immediate environment, because that perspective is really so good for the mind and for the soul. So maybe that's a little challenge for you and a further challenge for me to do something or see something or go somewhere different just to see how it might change the way you think and feel. And finally, our third thing. What am I doing to fulfil my potential? Well, at the moment, I'm dabbling in and I'm not going to call them new habits, but perhaps just pushing myself out of my comfort zone a little when the opportunity presents itself. So as an example, I have been running with the dog, not intentionally running just little stretches of our daily walks, where I pick up the pace and jog instead of walking, which she loves because she's a nine-month-old Colby and she'd hit 40 kilometres per hour if she could. But of course, I can't and I'm not intending to. There's no hard and fast rules around this change in an exercise routine at all. It's just one of those things that happens if it happens if I feel like jogging rather than walking in the moment. I do, and I do find that when I do, I usually enjoy it, and that does motivate me to do it more often. But if I don't feel like it, I don't bother, and that's okay, too. So, taking that flexible approach to cultivating just new ways of being and staying with that I guess I've also been saying yes to or not, I guess I know I have also been saying yes to things professionally that might feel a little uncomfortable if I think too long about them. So as an example this week, I will be facilitating a panel here in Ballarat with the arts community talking about creative block. 


Ellen 0:07:15 - 0:08:44

And I'm really looking forward to it, but it's also a little scary because although I interview people all the time, I've not done any panel facilitation. It's something I've always thought quite fun. So I said yes to the request, and I will absolutely do my best. And I'm sure it will be a really positive experience if I don't mess it up completely. But even if I do, I know that I'm pushing myself out of my comfort zone and into my growth zone, and I figured that is pursuing, if not fulfiling, my potential. So that's what I'm doing. Let me know what you are doing to learn to grow and to thrive. And it's probably also time that we also listened in to today's episode with my guest.


I am thrilled to have Cass Dunn here with me today, Cass is a clinical and coaching psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher. She's also a podcaster host of the very successful, Crappy to Happy Podcast on Podcast One. She's an author and, unlike cost creator, a speaker, a workshop facilitator. She hosts membership platforms, all sorts of things. She's a very busy lady, and she uses all of those platforms to help people make positive, meaningful, and lasting change in their lives, using the tools of mindfulness and positive psychology. And she's here with us today to talk a little bit about all of these things and in particular, loving what you do. Welcome, Cass. 


Cass Dunn 0:08:44 - 0:08:52

Thank you for having me and thank you for that lovely intro. Sounds like a lot of things doesn't it when you rattle them all off like that.


Ellen 0:08:52 - 0:08:53

And you wonder why you're busy



Cass Dunn 0:08:54 - 0:08:56

Exactly, loving what I do though



Ellen 0:08:57 - 0:09:09

Absolutely, absolutely. And that does come through in everything that you do, and we are sitting here wearing our matching headphones today. It's always nice, and you've got all the kit in front of you. It's always nice to talk to another podcaster. 



Cass Dunn 0:09:09 - 0:09:31

Indeed, and since I've started doing my podcasting from home because I used to, obviously go into a studio. This is one of the benefits of Covid. Have to find the silver linings, don't you? I can now do my podcast from home rather than having two trips to a studio. So I got the best headphone advice from you, and I went and got the same ones, and I got myself set up with a good microphone.

So fabulous. 








Ellen 0:09:31 - 0:09:47

Beautiful. And I'm all in red, and you're and you're in the watch. Okay, so tell us, Cass, a little bit about Crappy to Happy because it exists in multiple forms now.


Cass Dunn 

It does.



What was the impetus behind it? And what is the goal of Crappy to Happy as an entity. 


Cass Dunn 0:09:48 - 0:11:37

Right, well Crappy to Happy was just an idea that came to me, probably at least five or six years ago now. When I was looking at transitioning out of my private clinical psychology practice into doing more online work, and my focus really was on – A. being able to work more from home and without the limitations of geography and one on one work, I was really looking to work more broadly. I really felt strongly that the tools that I was using as a psychologist and I’d learned as a coach, and I wanted them to be more widely available. So I was trying to work out how I get into this online thing. And I came up with Crappy to Happy as a really catchy tagline for just a little seven-day email challenge that I created just to help people to try on some ideas to help them feel better, you know, less crappy, more happy. And it was enormously successful. I had so many people tell me that they loved the name of it, and that's what caught, um, got them in, which is great. That was the whole point. It got people's attention. From there, I was working with my friend Tiff Hall, who's a fitness trainer, as a psychologist in her, still am, the psychologist in her online fitness programme, and we have the opportunity to create a podcast together, and somebody saw my Crappy to Happy on my website said that's a great name for a podcast. And so then my little seven-day email challenge became a podcast again. But the same idea of two sharing these ideas and tools and obviously with Tiff onboard it was a mind-body combination. I was mind stuff and she was the fitness and the body stuff. And from there it evolved into a series of books and an online programme, and it just continues to evolve. So what started off as just a little seven-day email challenge, an idea that came to me on my back deck one afternoon.


Cass Dunn 0:11:37 - 0:11:47

It has grown into its whole own kind of brand and a whole series of products and programmes and an idea that has really caught on. 


Ellen 0:11:47 - 0:12:02

Beautiful. And I'm keen to know, I’m a little bit curious. When people come to you, what does the crappy look like to them? What are the sorts of issues, challenges? You know what? Why crappy at that point for them? 


Cass Dunn 0:12:02 - 0:13:52

I think going back to that positive psychology idea that we were talking about you mentioned in the intro. You know, there's this idea that we can be mentally unwell, as in having an anxiety depression in clinical psych. That's what you deal with a lot, so that's that's really crappy. But then there's this whole bunch of people in the middle who don't necessarily have a clinically diagnosed disorder. Maybe they have a bit of anxiety. Maybe they just feel a bit dissatisfied with life. And these are the people who I was really trying to get to with the Crappy to Happy concept. It's like if I could give you some tools to help you to manage how you think, to manage how you feel, to shift yourself out of a funk and just not go down that negative spiral. Like if more people had access to those tools, maybe less people would end up in a psychologist office. So it really is everything from mildly dissatisfied to people who perhaps do have a history of anxiety or depression or other mood disorders, or having relationship issues or have struggles with their weight or their health or all of the sort of stuff – exhaustion, burnout, don't like my job, having trouble managing my responsibilities and my family like the whole spectrum. Really, it's about just helping people experience life a little bit better, having less of the neck downward moods, that feeling stuck, feeling dissatisfied, disconnected, busy stressed, you know, turning to food, alcohol, all of the things that were used to cope, knowing that they don't really help but they sort of just help in the short term. So it's the whole spectrum, really, Ellen, like it's just all of the stuff that we all typically deal with just giving people some tools to manage better. 


Ellen 0:13:53 - 0:14:28

From a positive psychology perspective, I suppose, using the language that we use but our listeners might not be so familiar with, it's about moving them along that mental health spectrum from what we call languishing. So that kind of idea that, yes, I'm still functioning okay. I'm still doing okay. I just I'm not especially happy or there's blockages or there's really troubling areas in my life somewhere that hasn't quite led me to a mental health issue but isn't feeling good feeling crappy, perhaps. And they're moving them closer to flourishing. So it's a preventive strategy. 


Cass Dunn 0:14:28 - 0:14:30

Languishing is a great word. 


Ellen 0:14:30 - 0:14:34

And I think too we can kind of understand languishing in layperson's terms, can’t we? 


Cass Dunn 0:14:34 - 0:15:19

Yes, and I'm glad you mentioned that because I did start off with the intention of mentioning the word languishing, and I never got that. But that is the word I was going to use. And I think a lot of people also there's just that sort of low-level discontent a lot of people experience. And it's I know I could be happier, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is or I know there's so much I should be grateful for. Sometimes we get down on ourselves for feeling a bit crappy, you know? But I've got a great job and I've got a great house and I've got a great partner and why I should, I should be happier. And so you know, just helping people to. It's okay like, yeah, you can. You can feel happier and that's okay. Like there are things that you can do to improve your experience of life. You don't feel bad about it. 


Ellen 0:15:19 - 0:15:40

And before we hone in on work in particular I’m intrigued to talk to you about what are the tools, the strategies that, I know, there's lots of them and it's complex. But what are the kind of would be the headline items for the U as strategies that people can use to move a little from crappy to happier at least? 


Cass Dunn 0:15:40 - 0:17:38

Well, my number one is mindfulness and meditation, so I'm trained in mindful and space cognitive therapy, even before I trained in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, I was a meditator. I was more of a woo-woo


kind of connect with my angels kind of meta to hippie meditator. I was always into it, I have got a kind of that woo-woo spiritually side to me always have. But I thought that's not going to go down very well in clinical psych. So I've got to find a more mainstream thing, type of meditation and thankfully, mindfulness was coming into its own about then and there was loads of research to back it up. So I thought, right, this is me, this is my jam. So I studied mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and I just feel that not just the research but my own experience and the experience of my clients is compelling that it is so effective. And I don't believe with, regardless of whatever you're going through or any whatever you want to change in life, you can't change anything until you can stop and be present to what is actually happening as it's happening minus the judgement minus the self-criticism minus the destruction and the busyness and the denial and the avoidance and just show up and really be real about what's happening and to be able to observe that and then be in a position to make a, a different choice. And that's fundamental like you’re not going to change anything until you can do that.

Which is why I say you've got to start with mindfulness and meditation as much as people kick and scream, and but I can't do it, I can't meditate and I'm not a meditator and my mind's too busy and all of the usual arguments that we get, I won't hear of it. There is no reason why you can't sit down and just pay attention to your breathing. In fact, I'm challenging my people in my community at the moment because they're all doing their little five minutes or 10 minutes or I can't find time, and I'm pushing them all to do 30 minutes a day and you're upping the ante and not buying into their own excuses. So there's that.


Cass Dunn 0:17:38 - 0:19:19

I'm also obviously trained in CBT and ACT acceptance and commitment therapy, and I'm really much more drawn to that ACT type than mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches. So helping people to connect with their values. And I would say that Crappy to Happy, the happy part of happy does not mean that you will never feel unhappy in your life. It's not that I'm trying to tell people that they should never have a negative thought or a negative feeling and that we should just feel good all the time. It's completely unrealistic. It's the definition of probably insanity, really. And so it's about being able to know what matters and move in the direction of what matters. And again often, if we're feeling a bit crappy because we’ve become so disconnected from what, who we are, what we want. What actually does matter were so sidetracked by all this other busyness and trivia and distractions and keeping up with what we think other people expect of us. So getting in touch with your values and living a life that is meaningful and purposeful, and being willing to tolerate some of the discomfort that comes up along the way is pretty fundamental to what I teach as well and the other big one is compassion and particularly self-compassion. And I work mostly with women and again because of the psychologist in an online fitness programme. There's a load of women, thousands of them all, trying to change the shape of their body and lose weight. And we are so hard on ourselves, not just women, of course. But for women, it's a major issue. So helping people to cultivate some self-compassion and to learn to really like themselves and accept themselves is huge as well and makes an enormous difference on what I found really interesting. If I could just babble for a bit longer. 


Cass Dunn 0:19:19 - 0:19:46

When I was studying NBCT mindfulness space cognitive therapy and I went off to do my teacher training. One thing that I learned that I thought was really interesting because NBCT has proven to reduce the relapse rates of depression in people who experience chronic depression have recurrent depression reduces the relapse rate by 50% which is as effective as medication for people with chronic depression. And when they really drilled into what is it about this programme that keep people well


Cass Dunn 0:19:48 - 0:20:23

when they have a history of falling back into major depression, they found is it the meditation? Is it the group support? Is it this? Is it what is actually the difference that makes the difference? And the difference is the self-compassion. The increase in self-compassion keeps people from falling back into depression. So it's really, I think, you know, there’s now loads of programmes and meditations and training things out there that are specifically around compassion. But it's central to mindfulness as well so that mindfulness, acceptance and compassion is at the top of my list. 


Ellen 0:20:23 - 0:21:03

And all things that we have spoken about here on the show as well. And I'm intrigued to know Cass, how has this played at, particularly you mentioned in there that but living according to your values and making choices according to your values, you know we do get caught up a lot in the should but I feel I should do all of that messaging that we might get from the world around us - social media, our communities, our families, etcetera etcetera. That kind of can keeps us a bit stark or out of touch with who we are as individuals. What has lived according to your values and making those choices meant for you? How is that panned out for you? 


Cass Dunn 0:21:03 - 0:22:46

Well, it means I'm here making this podcast from home right now, and my home is 11 acres in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. So there's that. So we moved from the city. We made that decision. It's been huge in my own life, in my working life, too. I did my undergrad in psychology and then never finished it. And I went 10 or more years doing other jobs and doing marketing jobs and sales drops and jobs that I was really good at and shops that paid well but again just wasn't. It just wasn't me, wasn't who I felt I was meant to be. And it didn't resonate. And so I actually taking myself back to uni after I had a young child and taking the financial hit associated with that because, you know, bang for childcare and going to uni is not a very financially smart thing to do but worth it, you know? Really worth it, to do a job that feels meaningful to me. And yet again where we live now, we made the decision to move out of the city. A big part of that was that I was really into animal welfare. I was vegan. I opened a vegan store and ran that for a couple of years again. That was just purely because I felt like there should be more options available for people who are being. This was way before you could buy vegan stuff in any supermarket. This was really it was quite fringe at the time. And then I think when I stopped being vegan to live with my guilt about that, I thought, No, I'll just move to the country and rescue cows and chickens and that's what I do now. But it's all based on values. So it's been huge for me in terms of feeling fulfiled and really feeling like I'm living authentically. 


Ellen 0:22:46 - 0:23:31

And did you ever feel like you were, and there’s no reason to feel that you should except perhaps I’m reflecting on this from personal experience or perceptions of others, that by taking those choices that you were somehow opting out or taking the easier path or, you know, I think somewhere there's this mindset that says we're just going to work hard and suck it up, you know? If we want to be successful or achieve our goals etcetera, etcetera, and I mean we know, as a psychologist, that that's fundamentally wrong if we want to feel content and happy. But I still feel like somewhere along the line we need to give ourselves permission to be able to make these value-based choices around our lives. 


Cass Dunn 0:23:32 - 0:24:29

Yeah, absolutely. I personally never felt like that. I mean, I've always worked hard. I just prefer to work hard at stuff I love to do, stuff that feels important to me. I think that's the key, right? You can burn yourself out. Or you can be broke and stressed. Or, you could be happy and successful doing stuff that does not align with your values or doing stuff that is. So I just would rather put my effort and energy into things that feel personally meaningful. I think I do a better job, and I think people generally do a better job and people around them are better off, and it might take some courage to do that, to step out of like what is expectant, but that's that tolerating discomfort bit, isn't it, like it might not feel comfortable to do that, but at the end of the day, what's going to make my life feel like it was meaningful, and it was really mine, and I made my choices based on what was important to me. 


Ellen 0:24:30 - 0:25:31

I think that's a wonderful way, you know, what's going to make my life feel like mine. It's just a wonderful way of encapsulating it, isn't it because we only get one. And I know that's a cliche, but we can live according to how we feel. Others expect us to and not perhaps feel like our lives are ours and the fact that it does take courage a lot of times to make those choices, but they're not necessarily incongruent with success in different ways. You know, I think we have a tendency as human beings to compartmentalise things and put them in boxes and say, we have to be this so we have to be that you know what we might call black and white thinking that, you know, if I'm not successful in this way, then I'm a failure. But of course, it's nothing like that, is it? There's so many shades in between. There's so many different ways of being that can be sometimes even incongruous, seemingly but still work. Yeah, there's no question on the end of that just me reflecting. 


Cass Dunn 0:25:31 - 0:26:48

No, I do that all the time on my podcast to Ellen. My producer says, ask the question, Cass. Oh, I didn't have a question. But yes, I hope that more and more. And I think Covid really gave us a shakeup, and I think it, I feel like it caused a lot of us to sit back and say well, to reassess how we live our lives and what is most important. And I think when we just have that almost like something just shakes things up and snaps us out of our autopilot like the trance that we're all living in. We're just getting on with doing what we do and when that fundamentally shifts and it's somewhat like a little wake-up call, and everybody. And yes, it was stressful. And, yes, we had a home school and for some more than others were affected but we all had that moment of jeez, look, let's take a minute here. Let's think about how I'm living and if the way I'm spending my time and my effort and my energy is actually working for me if it's actually serving me. Is this how I want to live? So I hope that some of that continues is that thinking and reassessing and just reviewing our lives and whether we're really on the path, that feels good and meaningful. 


Ellen 0:26:55 - 0:27:52

That silver lining that you mentioned earlier to a challenging situation and that I think brings us nicely to and I'm going to hold this up. But if you're listening, you can't see it. I'm holding up one of Cass’ almost three books, three written, not three published quite yet, which is Crappy to Happy, Love What You Do, which intrigued me because I think, yes, you write this crap it has brought about. And I've heard so many stories from people who have decided to retire early, change careers, moved to a different location, really made quite substantial life changes on the back of their Covid experience. Even when, for all intents and purposes, it looked like a dumb thing to do, because I'm hoping like you're hoping that it's something to do with feeling a bit more connected to who we are and what we really need and career is a big part of that. Isn't it? Loving What we do is a big part of feeling fulfilled? 



Cass Dunn

Absolutely. We get so much of our sense of satisfaction and meaning from our work. And if there's a disconnect that I mean, everybody knows we've all had the experience. If you're unhappy at work, it can filter into every other aspect of life and again going back to that breaking out of what's expected, or old structures like even the ability to be able to take our job and work from home or people to move to the country and know that as long as I've got an internet connection, I can still do my job like so many people have realised they were committing to work and not just the individuals. But the organisations have realised that we don’t need to do this anymore, we don't need to have all of these people slipping into the city and sitting on a train for an hour or, you know, paying all of this rent when people are very happy and effective and productive at home. I think that's just one example for how things have changed. But yeah, who, what we do for work is really a reflection of who we are or if it is, it makes for a much more happy and fulfiling existence. I'll say that it's not always, but if it can be, then yes, crucial to happiness. 


Ellen 0:27:52 - 0:28:58

But also one of those areas where I feel like people perhaps feel most stuck, sometimes feel a bit like it's all very well to say love what you do and then our default is if I'm not happy therefore I just need to fundamentally change what I do. So you know, a lot of people that I speak to have come across over the years said, I'm not sure I made the right career choice. I'm not sure I really enjoy what I'm doing. I think I need to go back and retrain and do something entirely different, and that might be the case for everyone. But I think perhaps and I'm interested in your experience, is that also a blockage for people and is there another way around it? 


Cass Dunn 0:28:59 - 0:29:42

For sure, so I was really interested in the idea of job crafting. I was already familiar with the term obviously, and I read a bit more about it when I was writing this book and this idea that we can craft our current job or a current experience of work. There are things that we do have control over that can make our work most fulfiling and more satisfying for us. And so those are things like changing the scope of what we do. And the examples are things like, you know, chefs who turned their food into art and they get that creative expression, you know, they’re not just cooking food, they're turning it into some sort of culinary artwork. There's loads of examples of that. The bus driver who takes the time to cheque in with people, or to help people out or remember people's names or whatever he might do to add more meaning and more connection in that role.


So changing the scope of the other tasks that we do changing the way we think about what we do. I think that from a psychology perspective, changing our perception can make such a huge difference just to think more broadly about the meaning of what you might think is a really menial kind of unimportant task or boring thing. Thinking about the meaning of that and the contribution that it makes can make a really big difference as well. And then, the people like your relationships with people, whether you're going to mentor people or supervise people, help out the new people or because its connection is so important to happiness as well. So I think to answer the question, and I'm sure you would agree that there are ways that we can manage our existing job. Capitalise on the skills and the experience and everything that we have done to make things more meaningful and more satisfying without necessarily having to throw the whole thing out. 


Cass Dunn 0:29:43 - 0:31:36

Well, obviously I need to go back and be a librarian. When I worked in child safety, our office manager, whenever we had lots of cases of child abuse and terrible days, He would say I could have been a librarian. I always remember that. Oh, I could have been a librarian. You don't have to go back and be a librarian. There are other ways that we can change the scope of what we do. Or make modifications so that we feel more fulfiled and tapping to more of our strengths and our talents. Right? 


Ellen 0:31:36 - 0:32:29

That's what I was going to ask is there are almost a step prior to this which is around understanding what might make you happy or what it is about your current job. If you can dissect it to say which of the bits that I do quite like instead of having this global view of its all crappy I don't like the job.


Ellen 0:32:29 - 0:32:30

You know, are there bits in there that you do like. And then what does that tell you about how you might craft a role in those ways that you've described to make it more satisfying and meaningful? 


Cass Dunn 0:32:30 - 0:32:39

Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I think we have to, and I think that too often we dismiss our own skills or we dismiss our strengths because we take so much for granted. Like if I'm just naturally good at something, it comes easily to me. I could just do it. We often just dismiss those things and don't really recognise the value in that. So I think taking that time to really reflect on what are the things that I enjoy doing, what are the parts of this that come really easily to me and that I enjoy because obviously sometimes you can be, things can come really easily like spreadsheets come really easy to me but don't give me a spreadsheet all day like going sane, you know? So it's not just about being good at something, it's actually enjoying it as well. And looking back all the way back, I think you know, to what did I like doing at school? And what was I known for? What are my friends always asking me for advice about and what are the jobs that I've been the happiest in. What was it specifically about that in the relationships? Am I a team player or do I really prefer to work on my own? Like, really getting to know ourselves, which is useful just for a start, like just in terms of knowing yourself. Having that understanding of what really does light me up and what's important to me. Like, what's the difference that I want to make? What's the contribution that I want to make? And from there, yeah, but then we can start to see where we can shift things or tweak things, or maybe just add another bit of experience or bit of extra professional development so that I have what I need to move into something else. It's like a sideways move maybe, in my existing industry or whatever it might be so yes, very good point, Ellen. 


Cass Dunn 0:32:40 - 0:34:18

Understanding ourselves our strengths, our values, and then looking at where can we tweak. 


Ellen 0:34:18 - 0:34:23

And I love that phrase. What lights you up? Because I know what I'm working with individuals, particularly around some of these topics, being able to reflect back to someone that when you talked about XYZ, whether it was a project, you ran a problem you solved, a situation you dealt with, a job when you got to learn something, whatever it was, especially for a face to face and even over soon we can still be face to face, we do light up, don't we? You can see it in faces and lies and body movements, posture and just a kind of an energy emanating from somebody. So even, perhaps reflecting on whatever from an interior point of view, what did I feel in those experiences? Did I feel like I had energy? Did I feel like I could have done this forever? I often think about those times in my career when I've worked incredibly hard on something, you know, long hours and stupid hours sometimes, but it didn't feel tiring. It sort of did in an exhausting kind of way. But it didn't you know, I was getting as much energy as it was giving and therefore it was a sign or a signal that there was something about that task.


Cass Dunn




Yeah, yes, something about that task that was lighting me up.



Cass Dunn 0:34:23 - 0:35:39

Yeah, and I see people, even, I've got a YouTube channel at the moment, and it's badly neglected, it's on my list to reinvigorate the YouTube channel, but, you know,I enrolled in a course with a woman who teaches YouTube because that's what I do. There's, of course, for everything. And she talked about how for us, long as she could remember, she was great on video. As a kid, she made videos. It was her hobby. And I’ve met a bunch of people who have a similar story. I just love that creativity of making a video, but never in a million years thought that there could be a career in making videos. But of course, it can be, and that's what I mean about these things that we just dismiss. It's just the final. We think it's a hobby, and I think sometimes in our minds are blocked because we've got this, this is fun, this is play and this is work, and work is hard and it's stressful. You do it just to make money, and sometimes we have pretty low expectations. And maybe it's just a case also of opening our minds a little bit to thinking about the fact that it doesn't have to be like we can, potentially, appropriate potential psychology podcast. But we can potentially really turn, play or incorporate more of that fun in that play into what we do for work. 


Ellen 0:35:39 - 0:36:56

Yes, I might have somebody. I'm just thinking about our audience's perspective. Listening to that going, Oh yeah, I love these creative elements. You know, I do that as a hobby, but I'll never make any money if I try and do that as a career or it's a stretch too far or I'm too old. How might somebody incorporate those elements to get that energy to get those opportunities to feel more successful or more engaged or more meaning in their work without having to throw it all away? 


Cass Dunn 0:36:56 - 0:37:26

I always liked what Elizabeth Gilbert said about this in, I mean, she's probably said it in talks, and I know, she said it in her book Big Magic, and she always said that as much she was always a writer, and she was always creative. She never relied on her to pay her bills. She didn't want to put that pressure on it and she didn't want to suffocate it. And I think that there's probably good advice in that, like until she could really make a living doing that, she didn't rely on it, and so, therefore, it could stay fun and it could stay interesting because she didn't have that desperation about it. So I think that's good advice.


But it doesn't mean we dismiss it completely because that's trivial and I don't have time for, because I'm busy working. It's where can I find those opportunities and whether it's writing or doing videos or putting them on your social media or starting up a blog or taking photos for friends, whatever it is that I think that we all should be expressing creativity in some way. I think those of us who say we're not creative, I said it myself for a really long time. It just means it's been blocked somehow. I think we all need that creative outlet, somehow decorating your house, changing on the furniture. We've all got something but finding ways to express that purely for the pleasure of it. And then seeing where that leads to, like following the breadcrumbs to see where that leads or what might come of that. I can just give you an example actually. I've got a woman in my community. She came in one of my retreats and she recently gave up drinking. It must be almost a year now that she quit drinking. And so what she noticed was that there was and she used work for her husband's business. She was thinking of going back to uni. She was looking for a new career. 


Cass Dunn 0:37:27 - 0:39:07

We talked about this together, and then what happened was she realised there were no interesting things to drink when you don't drink alcohol. And she went to a hotel, went out for dinner or something. How this really lovely mocktail menu she thought, this is amazing. So she got busy making mocktails and coming up with mocktail recipes. And then she started an Instagram account and snitch, went out and bought a camera for the very first time, and now she's not only creating these really fabulous mocktail recipes she's styling the photos, taking the photos, making the videos, making the reels. She's collaborating with all of these other non-alcoholic kind of drink makers, which is creating this whole business out of it, and it just was following that interest of hers. It was just something that just lit her up, and she didn't put any pressure on it. She didn't have any expectations of it but watching it grow, watching this thing evolved has just been amazing to watch. So that's a great example. I think 


Ellen 0:39:07 - 0:40:07

It is. And I think that idea of perhaps you know, what we call the side hustle in the entrepreneurial or digital world of people saying like I've got a day job, I'm curious to try something in this area because it does light me up. I'll have a go and just see where it takes us. As you say, follow the bread crumbs is one strategy. I'm wondering from a job crafting point of view, and for those people who are not aware of the term job crafting it is something that's emerged from the kind of around the positive psychology field and allied fields. Where does it say, you know, finding meaning in what you already do and crafting your daily activities, tasks, approach mindset around that. What, might somebody do internally to their role? You just say your video expert who loves making videos what's something that somebody might do and put their hand up for, perhaps because they want to pursue that. But they don't necessarily have the capacity to do it outside of work.


Cass Dunn 0:40:08 - 0:41:09

It might be something, obviously, that's going to depend on the organisation. But I know of people who, for example, have taken over the social media account of the furniture store that they work in or whatever. And then they go around and they take the videos or they take the photos. It's using free apps like Canva and creating the flyers or just incorporating all of those design skills into handouts and things that go around at work or to use in meetings or putting together work procedures but in a really creative way like this. It's just, I think, looking for those opportunities to bring in some of those elements so that you’re ticking off that box like satisfying that little creative need in a way that aligns with whatever it is that it's got to be done in the workplace. I know somebody else who's really social, and I was working with her and she, but she worked in the warehouse of her family's business, and she never really had any social interaction apart from when she went around to make sure that the stock had arrived into the stores. And so we talked to her about reigniting like the social club, which had sort of fallen by the wayside. Nobody was doing it. So she started up this monthly social thing with work and bringing people together and doing like an Employee of the Month awards and just great for team building, great for teamwork, gave her that social connection that she was craving. Nothing to do with her job. Her job was to manage the stock in the warehouse. So, you know, there's all sorts of little things that we can potentially do if we look for the opportunities. 


Ellen 0:41:10 - 0:42:48

Yes, so just that understanding what it is that ticks all those boxes for you and then I suppose, having a little bit of courage being prepared to put your hand up and say, I know no one's done this before, but I think this could be a good idea and I'm really keen to give it a go and just hoping we can always guarantee, of course, that you will get a positive reception when you do that but having the courage to try, I guess, does give us a bit of an inclination as to whether we can tinker with some of these things and make them a bit more meaningful without having to throw the baby out with the bathwater and change careers altogether. 


Cass Dunn 0:42:49 - 0:43:28

Yeah, for sure and look, nothing wrong with changing careers. You would probably know this better than me, Ellen, but how many times do people change careers these days? I think also that one job for life, like starting off when you graduate from school or from uni and then getting the gold watch 50 years later. That's all gone now like so we actually do have the opportunity to retrain and to do something different, and I think that's amazing. But you're right. Before we go down that path, it is worth reflecting on whether that's really necessary or if there's other things that we can do to build on our existing kind of skills and experience. 


Ellen 0:43:28 - 0:44:03

And do you have any other tips or strategies that you use with your clients around that stuck feeling? Because I think that probably is where a lot of people struggle a bit with work and career. Is that you know, I know there's something more I know there's something different I'm just stuck. And I don't know quite how to get past that. 


Cass Dunn 0:44:03 - 0:44:21

I think that some of what we have talked about, like going back to what feels meaningful? What am I good at, like the strengths, there are obviously different kinds of strengths profiles that you can take, whether it's the VIA strengths, which is the character strengths profile, which I'm sure you've talked about before, or the gallup strength, which is more the workplace strengths. But, you know, like I said before, even the skills that the things that come really easily to me, what feels good for me, what's natural to me, what have I really enjoyed doing? I think truthfully, we've all got the answers. I think we all know what it is that we really want to do, and often it's just a block of I'm telling myself that it's not possible to do that, and sometimes it really is just that, I think often it is, I really know but I'm telling myself a story that it's not possible. There's no money in it. I'm too old. I'm too young, I’m too this, I’m too that. I'd have to change my whole life. There's a lot of fear involved in that. And so working to move through that and take just taking small steps. I think like we've said, like, what might you do to just get




Cass Dunn 0:45:33 - 0:45:35

a bit more information about that? Or what might be one way that you could just dip your toe into that or get a feel for what that might be like? Or how might that be possible? And you know, the other one that comes up all the time is that it would take me. I'm already 45 or whatever, and that would be another five years at uni. And I always say to people, well, five years time is going to be five years time, regardless. You're either gonna have the degree by the end of it or you're not like you could still be exactly where you are now, you know the time is going to pass anyway. 




Cass Dunn 0:46:05 - 0:46:06

So this whole, oh gosh, that would take me so long. Why we let that get in our way? The time is going to pass regardless. We can use that time to make progress towards something. Or we can just stay spinning around feeling stuck. So it's sometimes we just got to give ourselves a bit of a nudge to just do something. And I always say as well clarity comes from action. Clarity comes from engagement. You've just got to take the step because we get so in our heads overthinking, How will it work? How, what will it look like? How would that work? You know, and sometimes there are real obstacles, I understand that, but sometimes we are our own worst enemy with our overthinking mind. We just got to f-ing do it, you know, like Nike. Just do it. Just make a start and see what happens 


Ellen 0:46:06 - 0:46:54

Yep and it's so interesting, isn't it? Because I've had that conversation with people before to have said, you know, I've said I think deep down. You know, you probably do know what you wanted to do, and they're adamant that they have no idea that they really don’t. But all of those again, we know, I guess the psychologists and many of us have learned just through life experience that we do tell ourselves all sorts of stories, and we spend a lot of time just getting in our own way. I had coffee with somebody recently who had just sort of stumbled upon this idea of I think I'm just getting in my own way. And I’m like, oh! I've spent years getting in my own way. I still get in my own way, you know, in terms of just the stories that I tell myself, and then the things that I won't try because I’m just not sure that it's the right thing to do. And you're right, it's usually born of fear and an uncertainty and all of those feeling things that if we can just part them and say, let's just give it a go. It's experimenting, isn't it? Just let's give it a go and see what happens, and I'll find out another way.


Cass Dunn 0:46:55 - 0:48:02

Exactly. I think we can take that experimental approach. I think that's a really good point, Ellen, because I think too, certainly the people that I work with, and it's everybody wants the ironclad guarantee but if I do this, it will work out. It'll be the right thing, not gonna make any move until I know that I'm making the right move. And especially people who are prone to, maybe anxiety. They got that low tolerance for uncertainty. Want to be able to plan and predict and control everything, And that's the way they've always lived in the way they've always been brought up, and there's a real resistance to just taking a chance on something. And it gets in the way of so many things, not just work satisfaction, but so many things. So if we can shake that up a little bit and get a bit comfortable with being a bit uncomfortable and losing that expectation that we have to have all the answers up front and just make a start toward something and see what happens, follow those bread crumbs. See what happens next. 


Ellen 0:48:03 - 0:49:00

And do you think that gets a little easier to do as we get older? I’ve had conversations recently, with mostly women to be fair just because they're my social circle also, but maybe this applies to men too. Men, if you're listening, let us know that we care a little bit less about what other people think. As we get older, it's easier to release ourselves from some of those shackles. Which doesn't mean we don't still get in our own way, because we do, but at least we could shed a few of those perceived expectations of others because we just don't care as much anymore.


Cass Dunn 0:49:00 - 0:49:33

Yeah, 100%. You know, I was talking to Ria Pitt on my show, and she was like, Oh, my thirties now, like, I just don't care as much. And I was like, wow, already like, that's pretty good to just be in your thirties and already be at that point. We don't because it took me a lot longer than that.


Ellen 0:49:34 - 0:49:53

I was well into my forties.


Cass Dunn 0:49:53 - 0:49:56

I'm probably still getting there to some degree, but yes, so I think different people get there and in their own time. But certainly, as you get older, I think you start to realise that I know for me I just turned 49. So I'm looking down at 50 my next birthday, which feels like, what?! How did I get here?! But I'm going.


Ellen 0:49:56 - 0:50:17

I'm 49. It's


Cass Dunn 0:50:17 - 0:50:19

It’s a short life. It's a short life. So who am I living it for? How much more of this short life getting shorter all the time? Am I going to spend giving a shit about what anybody else thinks? And I think that's the key, that's the issue, isn't it? Like we just start to realise that we don't have a long time and you know what else I think we also realised that, no, I don't care anyway. They're too busy worrying about what they think about themselves or worrying about what other people think about them like nobody actually cares what any of us are doing. We put so much into what we think other people will think they're too busy worrying about how or what you think of them. I like to remember that. 


Ellen 0:50:19 - 0:51:00

A very useful strategy while we're talking useful strategies, the book Crappy to Happy Love What You Do, which is the second in your series of three books and you go through some of the things I just wanted to kind of run through some of the things. I think they've mostly talked about this already but one of the first ideas that you present is that start where you are. You learn a bit more about who you are and start with what you have in front of you. Start to think about how you might craft your present circumstances to get a bit more of that fulfilment rather than feeling like you have to kind of embark on something entirely new and then working through some of the parasite concepts or we call them posit concepts of strengths and meaning and engagement and flow and why they're important and how they help so the reader can wrap their head around those concepts on. And then you do the talking, you touched on this, I just go quickly a little bit further. You talk about relationships and connections. So how does that play out in work? And I know this leads into your new book, too, but how does that play out in work? Why? Why is that important in work and how do we foster those connections? 


Cass Dunn 0:51:00 - 0:52:10

I included that deliberately because I think that I have certainly had the experience, and I think we've all had the experience of having some of our best friends we've met through work, so having people that we really get and we get along with and we resonate with the same values can make a huge difference. Particularly if you're working in a stressful environment, having people who are around you who get what's happening, who you can rely on for support. You have those trusting relationships with and have also had some really, really crappy bosses who have just destroyed my experience of work like a job that I would have otherwise really liked, just ruined by a controlling, micromanaging, difficult boss or colleague. And so the relationships that we have in the workplace can have such a huge impact on how we experience work so I think that's why it's important. And also we're all human, like our fundamental need for human connection doesn't go away when we walk into work as much as we like to think it does, and I've met people, you know, people who say I don't need to be friends with anybody at work. I just come in and I did my job and I get out of there, but we've gotta be in the space with these people and the more that we have those trusting relationships, the more we feel comfortable to make mistakes, the more we feel comfortable to, you know, if I don't have to put a mask on when I walk into my workplace and pretend that I didn't just have the crappiest morning because I had an issue with my kids or whatever, that I can walk in there and walk into an environment where I feel supported and you have least somebody that I can trust and have a conversation with and can help me through that it makes a huge, huge difference. 


Cass Dunn 0:52:10 - 0:53:49

So I do think it's really important and that looking at how we cultivate those relationships and how we build those that trust in the connections. And it's not like we have to be best friends with everybody that we work with but the more that we can foster positive, supportive relationships in the workplace. And I think that the better our experience is going to be, the more productive we're going to be as well, for the bottom line, for the organisation. So yeah, I think it was important to include. 


Ellen 0:53:49 - 0:54:15

And you think that's something that we underestimate or don't take, perhaps into enough consideration if we are thinking about a new role or a new job or even a new career. I know we look at, you know, job specs, and we talk about the tasks that we're going to do. And do I have the qualifications? And will it satisfy my technical skills, et cetera, et cetera. But not often I don't think, do we actually consider, are these the people that I want to work with? Are these the kind of relationships that I want to have given that they do take up so much of our time in a positive sense, you know? The people that we sometimes see more or spend more time with than the people in our homes. 


Cass Dunn 0:54:16 - 0:54:58

That's a good point. I actually hadn't even thought about it from that perspective, but you're right. And I mean, we can't screen them, can we? We can't say before I take the job just let me do a walk around and have a little five-minute coffee with everybody in the office, see if I vibe with you people, but we probably are quick to walk away from, you know, when we're thinking about changing jobs, we don't necessarily think that we're walking away from established relationships, too, and that that's something like that, something to take into consideration. 


Ellen 0:54:59 - 0:55:30

It was interesting. I did a consulting gig quite a few years ago now, and it was working with groups of people who were in manufacturing and their manufacturing industry was just closing down in Australia, and this has been a long process. A lot of them have got over the initial trauma of finding out that their careers, their jobs, etcetera, we're going. And when I asked them about what was most difficult for them at that time about making this transition to considering new careers or what they were going to do next, the hardest part for them was leaving the people because this had been an industry and an organisation where people worked there for 20, 25, 30, 35 years sometimes. They had relationships with their colleagues that had lasted longer than marriages. Yes, consistently, that was the message that came through was, you know, the rest of it I can cope with, I'm really going to miss the people.


Cass Dunn 0:55:31 - 0:56:24

Yeah, it's significant, isn't it?


Ellen 0:56:24 - 0:56:27

Yeah, I just found out that stuck with me those conversations with those people about. Yeah, actually, that is important. And we underestimate its role in our experience of work and how satisfying it is and how meaningful it is and how happy we are in doing it.


Cass Dunn 0:56:27 - 0:56:43

Yeah, it's important. 


Ellen 0:56:44 - 0:56:45

Cass, the final thing that you cover in the book that I really like and I think could be a lovely thing to end with is around being brave. So, the final chapter is be brave and we're kind of touched on this, but what are your top tips for being brave? Anybody who wants to try something new, whether it's crafting the current role, embarking on something different, making a fundamental change in life. 


Cass Dunn 0:56:45 - 0:57:07

Look again, we go right back to the beginning of this conversation. I talked about that willingness and ability to tolerate discomfort in the service of something that is meaningful and important, so I think that's what we have to come back to. It's like taking a deep breath and focusing on the bigger picture and the possibilities and then taking the risk blind for the promotion, having the difficult conversation. You know, there's all sorts of ways that were called to be brave in terms of creating more fulfiling work, life and with any sort of fear where you get stuck by what could go wrong or what I might lose. And I think if we can shift our focus onto what is there to potentially gain here and then just manage those. You know what is that saying? Speak, even if your voice is shaking. You know, manage that discomfort and just take a leap. And so much possibility awaits, so many possibilities await if we can just move past that fear and all of the growth happens outside of our comfort zone. So, sometimes we just have to push ourselves to our edge, I just think. And that's what we should be approaching not just work, but all of life, really. So, it is a good note to finish on. I think even with my 30 minutes meditation that I'm challenging my people to do. It's when we push ourselves to the edge of our comfort zone that that's when we get the breakthroughs and we get the growth and see what's really possible. 


Ellen 0:57:07 - 0:58:33

What a wonderful tip and reminder. And I do believe that our conversation today has given our listeners a bit of the what and the why and the how of loving what you do and finding satisfaction and fulfilment in work because, of course, that does flow on to all the other areas of our life. Cass, your third book in the Crappy to Happy series is coming out soon. You want to just tell us really quickly about that so people know what to expect and where to find it. 


Cass Dunn 0:58:33 - 0:59:02

Yes, so book number one was Crappy to Happy Simple Steps to Live Your Best Life, so that was happiness just generally. This one was Crappy to Happy Love What You Do and the third one is Love Who You're With. So, it is the relationships edition, and again these books are only small. They're only designed to be a toe in and to give people some ideas of where they might do their own more reading or exploration but it does go into a lot of stuff about our attachment history, old patterns that might get in the way of our relationships, have tried to cover our friendships, as well as romantic relationships, managing conflict, sustaining friendships and even how to end relationships well. So it comes out in March and I'm super excited to see the little trilogy on bookshelves around the country. I've said to the publisher, I just want a box set and I'm done,




Cass Dunn 0:59:54 - 0:59:54

So it comes out really soon.


Ellen 0:59:56 - 0:59:57

Wonderful and a wonderful little set of tools for everyone who is keen, perhaps to move from languishing to flourishing, as we'd say in each of those domains of life. So we will put all of the details of those in the show notes for today's episode as well, of course. The details of Cass’s podcast Crappy to Happy her online programme, to her website, her social media, you too could follow on. Follow the stories of her chickens and dogs and cattle that I like to watch and what are Cass’s chickens? 


Cass Dunn 0:59:58 - 1:00:33

My chickens are an endless source of entertainment. 


Ellen 1:00:33 - 1:00:34

So all of those details absolutely everything will be in the show notes for today's episode. Cass, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your insights, your wisdom, your great and many collected experiences. Both as a clinical and coaching psychologist but also a meditation teacher. And then just all of that accumulated life wisdom in this first half of your life. 


Cass Dunn 1:00:35 - 1:00:58

Almost 50 years of life wisdom. Thank you for having me.  


Ellen 1:00:58 - 1:01:01

That was Cass Dunn, psychologist, podcaster and author of the Crappy to Happy series of books and Cass has very kindly offered Potential Psychology Podcast listeners a 15% discount on all of her books and online programmes, which is absolutely a deal with snapping up. You can go to, explore all of her books and programmes and decide what you like, then into the promo code Potential at the checkout. We have, of course, included detail of and links to all of Cass’s books, as well as her podcast, also called Crappy to Happy and her website and social links, all in the show notes for this episode. You'll find the link in your podcast app and also at which is the episode number for today's show.


So, I think now it's time to talk about what's next and our upcoming episode here on the Potential Psychology Podcast and I'm intrigued to know, have you tried Hypnosis? Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are increasingly popular adjuncts to traditional psychological therapy, but they're also used for birthing, for habit change and for high performance. And I was aware of this but knew very little about it. So, to rectify that and to share my learning with you, I have Erica Flint, certified hypnotist and accredited hypnosis teacher based in the States on the show for our next episode. And Erica's goal is to help bring hypnosis into mainstream healing and thinking. Here's a little of what she has to say. “You know, I think one of the biggest misperceptions about hypnosis is that it's mind control. And so folks often wonder if the hypnotist is controlling them. And, you know, there's often kind of this entertainment quality that goes along with wanting to wow, and do like, let's blow their mind. Let's have something exceptionally kind of magical and, well, how did that happen? So, it kind of plays into that, that hypnosis might be some level of mind control. So, on the flip side of entertaining stage hypnosis, we get a lot of questions. So, this is one of the things that a professional hypnotist as one of our primary job is to go out and talk with folks like you to really help people understand what is the nature of hypnosis, and how does it actually work to serve and help people and help the community and help humanity?”


Ellen 1:02:59 - 1:03:00

That's our next episode coming to your ears on the 17th of March. If you don't already subscribe to the show, hit subscribe or follow, depending on where you listen to your podcasts, and that episode will arrive in your listening feed as soon as it drops. Until then, stay safe, go well and do what you can to fulfil your potential.