“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” ~Charles Swindoll
I remember working at a job where I absolutely could not do anything right.
This was one of those jobs where it was extremely fast paced and you received 100 tons of work that must be completed by an unrealistic deadline. And here’s the kicker: your time at work was spent in meetings, all day. I’m talking about four to seven hours of your day. You get the picture.
So you may ask when I had time to do the work. Unfortunately, after work hours, in the evenings at home or on the weekends, when I was supposed to be spending time with my family.
Now don’t get me wrong, at times I was able to steal a half hour to an hour on the job to work on tasks that needed to be completed; however, I found it tough to consistently focus and devote my undivided attention when I was shifting gears all day, every day.
It almost seemed impossible to win against an environment of nonstop “busyness” with no real progression in sight. I was losing fast.
I did not perform well during my time there and did not have the impact I thought I would and wanted to have in my work, and within the organization. I failed (or so it seemed to me).
One day, I finally decided it was time for me to leave. While I initially had mixed emotions about leaving, I knew I wasn’t helping myself by staying at the organization; I was totally out of balance!
I needed to breathe, I was drowning at work, too busy doing the work at home, not fully paying attention to my daughter, and I became a stressed out monster, having emotional meltdowns far too often.
Upon leaving, I received a card from my department staff and some people shared their reflections with me, which revealed that I had done so much more than what I knew. How could I have shared my light with others after falling short in my role?
What I learned is, people are always watching how you respond and react in tough situations. Your character is revealed when going through darkness.
I was able to reach out to others and bring out the best in them through in-depth conversations during supervision or in morning talks with colleagues. Even though I was dying inside, I always came to work with positive attitude, a smile, and people picked up on that energy.
I provided guidance to some with their career goals, assisted with developing their voice and professionalism in the work environment. I had somehow helped others become acclimated to the job and feel like they were productive and contributed.
When I reflected on what kept me going, I remembered the four things listed below were key:
1. Shift gears with your thoughts.
We can control our thoughts by monitoring them, and when we find ourselves having negative thoughts, change it to something positive. With self-talk we can be proactive and plant the thoughts we want.
For example, there were times I would feel sick before heading into the office and I told myself how much I hated being there. But changing my thought from “I don’t want to be here” to “What can I do to help someone today?” allowed me to open myself up to the possibilities for each day.
2. Meditation is key.
Spend at least ten minutes in the morning quiet and doing nothing before starting your work; prepare your mind for the day. A prepared mind will help you to sustain the stresses that life will place on you. You will feel the pressure, but when you are mentally prepared it will be much easier to cope with them.
3. Get pumped up.
Before heading into the office listen to a song that motivates you, makes you feel good, and will push you. This can be your song of the day to play at your desk to keep you going. Two of my songs were “Happy” by Pharrell and “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.
4. It is what it is.
When challenges are out of your control at work, don’t beat yourself up. Accept what it is. By accepting the things that you have no control over, you will have the energy to concentrate on the things that you can control. You will end up maintaining your happiness, and perhaps even your sanity.
When you find yourself in a situation where there’s too much that you simply cannot accept, or that is unhealthy to accept, it is time to take responsibility for making a change. Instead of staying in a situation that will build bitterness and resentment, start looking for something new that will contribute more positively to your life.
In the end, through my unhappiness, I had somehow been encouraging, supportive, and motivating to others. I shared my sense of humor and brought out the humor in others. In what I deemed as a professional failing nightmare, I unknowingly had brought positive energy and a boost to others.
How you respond in tough situations may unknowingly help others, as well.
Man meditating at work image via Shutterstock