There has been a lot happening in my life. Some good, some not as good. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on what I learned in all those years of behavioral therapy. 🙂 Yes, yes, how to behave. 🙂 Although I doubt I’ll win any blue ribbons for best in show. *grin*
I just finished reading an article that came up in my Twitter feed: The key to loving your job in the age of burnout by Cassie Werber. I don’t usually read these articles. I’m not burned out (yet) and I rather like my job and my work. I clicked through on this one because the associated image was interesting. It looked like footprints on water, but had to be mud or sand, but there was someone on the dock next to the footprints. 🙂 It was the picture – I thought if I could see it more clearly I’d be sure of the substance. I’m still not 100% sure of the photo and I’m not sure I am completely comfortable with some of the observations in the article about the nature of work, the gig economy, part-time versus full-time employment, and bespoke careers. That may be because of my age and experience. But I do know that there are several key observations that I consider “truths” to a happier life.
“More and more, our sense of self is connected to the kind of person we believe ourselves to be—a combination of profession and meaning—and not to our place of work. In this, we’re reverting to an earlier mode: before we had companies and careers, we had professions (for example, stone mason) and tasks (build a bridge.)”
Yes, absolutely yes. My corollary to this is that we need to appreciate ourselves and value ourselves in order to be confident and content. To phrase that differently: other people cannot ‘fix’ us. Happiness (contentment) begins within. The foundation is internal, not external. Yes, other people and external factors can make us unhappy, sad, stressed and other negative and bad things. But if we can see that as OUTSIDE of our core, we have the strength and belief to keep going and not despair. Or so it is for me.
“Despair, and railing against the unfairness of the system, are both reasonable. Many people, globally, do not have the freedom to choose. Some work situations—losing your job through no fault of your own, being bullied, suffering discrimination—are certainly unfair. But the narrative of entitlement to a fulfilling job obscures the fact that it’s not our job’s job to be meaningful. It’s our job to find meaning in what we do. Some of us have the option of changing our work situation if that becomes absolutely imperative. But we can also change the narrative we choose to explain our work to the world and to ourselves—and in so doing, change our experience.” (Boldface my addition to highlight the text.)
WORDS! The words we choose to express ourselves and describe our situation make so much difference. I used to say such things as: “I can’t STAND IT ANYMORE”, “This is killing me”, “I HATE him”. It’s very hard to feel as if I can make a change when I use such absolutes. I’ve learned to dial the emotion back a notch: “It is so frustrating when this happens”, “This is so uncomfortable”, “That behavior is not enjoyable”. The latter group of phrases gives me room to maneuver. Did anything about the external situation change? No. But how I perceived it did. I can handle frustration and discomfort. Those are normal experiences.
“… the difference between finding a situation bearable—possibly, indeed, happy—and unbearable is about whether we experience ourselves as performing a willing sacrifice, or simply as suffering. When working hard tips over into working too hard, or with too little reward, sacrifice has slipped into suffering. … “Sacrifice might be hurtful and exhausting, but it is a conscious choice,” he writes. “Suffering is the result of feeling that we cannot slow down or else we will be shamed and lose control. Sacrifice makes us who we are. Suffering keeps us captive.””
You need to read all of the article to understand the “because” part of sacrifice. We sacrifice for a goal. We tell ourselves a narrative to put the sacrifice in context, to make us feel that the ‘suffering’ is bearable and acceptable because of the end goal. We have choices. There are at least 2 choices in this sacrifice/suffering discussion. The first choice is that we choose the language to describe it, we CHOOSE whether we make it a sacrifice or suffering. The 2nd choice is the harder one. We can choose to change the situation (leave the job, leave the relationship, not fix the roof). I used to argue this one over and over and over and over. “It’s NOT a choice” I’d scream, “I HAVE to fix the roof if it leaks!!!” And Howard would say, “No you don’t. You can let it leak.” And I’d point out that the wood would rot, the house fall down and on and on. And he’d reply that it was a choice I was making – to NOT let the wood rot. There are obviously practicalities involved. But there is also a choice, when you stop, breathe and look at it. Once you frame it as a choice, it’s easier to confront. If you can confront it, you may also see how you might bring about an actual change, not only an emotional perspective change.
One of my former co-workers, Jim De Piante, had fantastic presentations about managers and project management. I have always remembered something he said (and my apologies to Jim for any mistakes in the quoting): “Think of your management as your client.” That change in wording shifts the perspective radically. It goes back to the point that words matter. It goes to the point we have a choice. The difference in connotation between ‘client’ and ‘boss’ is HUGE. When we have clients, we are in the driver’s seat, helping to make our clients successful. When we have a boss, we are powerless with no buy-in to the outcome. I think of this approach whenever I have the endless tracking and administrative work that comes with being part of a huge corporation.
“Unreasonable conditions and real misery need to be met with concrete changes. But other conditions, Petriglieri says, can be radically changed by reframing what we expect from ourselves—and how we see what we do with our days in the context of our lives as a whole. “There’s some pain that needs a solution, and some pain that needs a story,” Petriglieri says.”
Tell yourself a story, and choose your words with care. 🙂