Going Even Deeper
This is the third article in the series addressing career happiness. The first article (October 1, 2018) discussed happiness at work. The second article (October 31, 2018) focused on going a little deeper into developing and maintaining our happiness with others and explored ways that we can unconsciously defeat ourselves and settle for unfulfilling careers and lives. In this third and final article we look at the behaviors and beliefs that keep us not just from career happiness but also general fulfillment in life. Our careers are important, but our identity and purpose extend well beyond the boundaries of our vocation.
Own your part / stop blaming others
If you are unhappy, ask yourself what your part is in your unhappiness. Our whole lives are the culminations of our millions of small decisions. We create our own reality. I know people who are miserable in their jobs because they are in a role for which they are not a good fit. So, after a long period of agonizing, they look for a new job. Yet they seek and interview for a new company, but convinced they aren’t qualified to do anything else; they end up in essentially the same job as before. They are miserable again but don’t realize they are making the choice to be this way.
Any time you are unhappy, search for the choice you are making that is keeping you there.
Understand what you are resisting and ask yourself why
Unhappiness is a state of dissatisfaction with what is – dissatisfaction with the way things are. People tend to worry they are going to get something they don’t want or won’t get something they do want. This implies that the way things are this very moment are lacking in some way. But there is nothing wrong with this moment, only our resistance to accepting it for what it is. The moment is what it is - we decide if it is good or not; if it is satisfactory or not. Accept the moment as if you chose it. Resistance is the source of all pain in your life.
Recognize the lies you choose to believe
So many people I coach, or counsel fall into the trap of negative self-talk - that inner voice that is constantly talking to us in the background. This inner voice is a culmination of our conscious thoughts, unconscious beliefs and underlying biases and, can be very damaging. While self-talk can be supportive and positive for each of us, the proportion and nature of the inner dialogue is overwhelmingly more negative and self-defeating. Some people feel like they have to ascend to management roles they despise in order to be regarded as successful. Others can create entire scenarios in their minds based on one passing benign comment from the boss. Maybe we think we know how someone will react to a situation, so we begin getting upset or anxious long before the other person even has the chance to respond. The examples are endless. This negativity can be unrealistic and even harmful, paralyzing people into inaction and self-absorption to the point of being unaware of the world around them.
When it comes to career and personal happiness, the primary self-talk offenders are:
I am not good enough, or I am somehow “less than” others. This is a pervasive lie that affects all of us at one time or another and is very damaging. We may compare ourselves to others without even knowing very much about them. When we compare our “known self,” which includes all of our failures, fears and regrets, to others’ “public self” we always lose. Why do we believe that who we are isn’t enough? Why do we feel we can’t find a better role or shouldn’t go for that promotion. It keeps us from trying.
I am better than others. Anytime we believe we are better than or less than others we are falling victim to our own ego. The greatest life lessons ever learned came from the most unlikely sources. Believing this lie keeps us from learning.
Things will get better when I get to some point in the future, or things were better in the past. “If I could just get through this project life will get better.” “Once I make a certain amount of money then I can enjoy my life.” People who are unhappy are generally spending their time everywhere else but right here, right now. There is greater attention these days on “presence” and “mindfulness” which I find a positive trend. However, these are ancient truths. The truth is our lives happen right here right now. We can choose to look forward with anxiety or look backward with regret, but we are wasting time. Staying in the moment is where joy and peace can fulfill you. Many times, the sadness we feel is something we try to fill with outside pleasure to make us feel better. We can do this with anything: money, power, status, relationships and even work. And while they may make us feel better for a short while, they never last and so we are constantly searching for more. Stay in the moment. This lie causes us to waste our lives waiting for our “real” lives to begin.
I have to prove myself. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, kids my age received a heavy dose of traditional values and work ethic. Beliefs such as “you have to pay your dues,” “hustle to get ahead,” and “you have to prove yourself” were common. While working hard and willingness to learn new skills are always critical qualities, the mistaken belief that we have to pay dues or prove ourselves implies we are not good enough now. Don’t confuse the need to learn new skills with self-worth. Our jobs are not who we are – they are what we do at this time. Even what we do changes over our lifetime and stage. This lie can also trap us into a mindset that we have to do what is expected from others – our boss, our family, our peers or society. Doing what is expected should never be more important that doing what is right for you and all concerned.
So, what to do?
Choose Your Stress Response
One of the things that undermines happiness is stress. We cannot choose whether we will have stress in our lives, though we can limit it. However, we can choose our stress response. We can choose responses like anger or panic, which will make us negative and unhappy. Or we can choose positive responses, such as focusing on solutions, taking a time out, or even sleeping on a stressful decision. Explore different stress responses and choose some that help you stay focused. Not giving in to a negative stress response will help you stay happier and healthier. Learning to navigate stress in a positive way will lead to greater workplace happiness as well. Stressful situations will always arise, but when we choose a positive response, we can emerge from those situations with our happiness intact!
Gratitude is one way to find the positive in every day. Taking the time to practice gratitude helps focus you on your blessings and the positive aspects of your day and your life. A gratitude journal is one tool used by many people as they learn to practice positivity. Take the time each day to list three, five, or ten things you are grateful for. These can be major or minor, large or small. You can share your gratitude journal with others, via a blog or social media, or you can keep it private. Some people like to have a list of things they are thankful for handy, so they can review it on a day when gratitude is harder to come by. The continuous practice of gratitude helps keep you in a positive mindset even when life is challenging.
Be still.....slow down
Our brains are designed to seek out, recognize and update patterns we see all around us. It is one of the most powerful tools we have. But rather than using our minds, we allow our minds to use us. There are so many things competing for our attention these days our brains are adapting to filtering more and more out to survive. Be still....be quiet....find some time to be silent and in the moment every day. Turn off the tv and radio. Turn off the news. Meditate or just.....be. Five minutes will produce a remarkably noticeable benefit.
Add green to your surroundings
Studies show that green is a color that promotes happiness. One of the easiest things you can do to promote happiness in your workspace is to bring in some green! Green plants literally bring life to a space – in Feng Shui, they are thought to bring positive energy into a room where they are placed.
Choose to be happy
Ultimately, the most important thing we can do to promote happiness is to choose to be happy! We will all face difficult days and situations, but we choose how we react to them. We can choose to be miserable or choose to be happy. Happiness is contagious and by making this simple decision we not only improve our own wellbeing, but we also create collateral benefit to all of those around us. May you find all of the happiness that is already inside you.