Be happier in the job you have while you plan for the job you want
Unhappy at work? If you want to improve matters, the first step is to accept the situation you’re in at this very moment. This does not mean ‘settling’ or resigning yourself to it – it’s about not creating more stress by trying to resist where you actually are. A thread running through many philosophies and world religions is that suffering comes from resistance, and that only through surrender can you find peace of mind. (Suggested reading: Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ — Kindle edition here*.) Once you’ve surrendered to the present, you are in a much stronger place to start making changes for the future, with the healthy optimism that will help you stay motivated, spot and create opportunities and make lasting changes.
Is the job really a dead loss?
What you can appreciate about your current job? What’s working? What has it allowed you to learn, do, and be? What skills have you developed? Appreciation exercises have been proven to boost wellbeing (see my post on making yourself luckier).
What is it that you dislike? A lack of variety/too much change? Too much structure/not enough? Identifying what you don’t like helps you clarify what you want and start creating that – either in your current job or in your next.Watch movie online Logan (2017)
How long have you been unhappy? Has it been a slow, steady decline, or is it due to a recent change? Do you dislike just one or two aspects of the job? Investigate to decide if this is a situation you need to leave, or one you just need to change. Maybe the company’s a good fit, but the role isn’t. Maybe some good structures and processes would fix the issue. Or perhaps the problem is conflict with a particular person? If this is the case, ask for a talk to clear the air, and if need be, go to the next level up (however often) to calmly and assertively discuss the issue. Oftentimes this is all that’s needed for everyone to feel heard and respected and to vastly improve team dynamics.
If this doesn’t help – if, for example, there’s a culture of bullying and ‘closing rank’ – then you really are better off out of it. No job is worth sacrificing your physical and mental well-being for.
What are you doing that’s contributing to your bad experience? Are you constantly bitching about the job/the company/the boss, to everyone but the person(s) you should be talking to? Does your ‘story’ about the job make you feel terrible? (“I’m trapped/Why should I bother, no-one else does” etc.) Change your story to something more supportive (“This is a good opportunity for me to develop experience while I figure out my long-term goals/I’m glad for the security of this job whilst I develop my career plan/I can bring a lot to this while I’m here”). And check your body language — if your body is screaming ‘I don’t want to be here’, you can hardly feel anything else. Assume a confident posture, keep your head up and smile — you’ll instantly feel better.
Improve your health
If you’re not taking care of your health, you can’t expect to have a positive experience in the workplace, or indeed in your personal life. Nutritious eating, adequate hydration, exercise and healthy sleep patterns are all necessary for full engagement in your work, your relationships and your relaxation time. Mindfulness meditation is a simple, stunningly effective way to reduce stress and improve well-being. (For links to YouTube videos, see www.soulambition.com/TV.) Mindful practices like yoga, t’ai chi or pilates are also a great way to build strength and switch off mentally.
What destructive behaviours are you indulging in? Smoking? Drinking excessively? Staying up late watching tv or browsing the internet? Commit to improvement — decide what good habits you want to put in place, how you’ll make those easy to maintain and how you’ll avoid slipping back into bad habits.
For a simple, immediate improvement, take a deep, slow breath. And repeat.
Think yourself happy, not stressed
A major cause of poor sleep – and thus anxiety, low mood and even depression – is ‘ruminating’ — going over things again and again in your head without taking action. Rumination leads to increased dreaming and less of the REM sleep critical for recovery and good health. What we focus on gets bigger – if you’ve something preying on your mind, ask yourself, “Can I do something about this?” If the answer’s “yes”, make plans to do so; if not, let it go. Pay attention to this mental habit of rumination, and simply say ‘stop!’ to yourself when you become aware of it. Replace this worrying with some quality daydreaming about what you’d like to be and have instead – imagine and enjoy the feeling of being in a job you love, before you even start planning how to get there.
Whether you’ve decided to stay on or to double your efforts to change jobs, you can instantly improve your experience of your current job by committing to giving it your best. Not (just) because that makes you a great employee, but because it transforms the experience for you. Instead of stressing out about where you are, choose to free up your mental and emotional energy to go about creating the next stage of your career.
If you’re sure you want to move on, you might like to book me for some career coaching. Read a selection of my clients’ success stories at www.soulambition.com/testimonials.
[A shorter version of this article first appeared in Northern Ireland’s “Belfast Telegraph” and ‘Sunday Life” in January 2011, and an updated, general version appeared in the Irish Sunday Mirror in November 2014.]
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