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Monday, January 31, 2011

Can You Decide to Make the Best of a Job You Hate?

Not a fun question.

I mean, if you hate your job, you probably don't want to think about the topic. And if you love your job (or however you spend the time that you allot to money-making endeavours), you probably don't need to read this.

So what can you do about a job you hate?

I have coffee many mornings at a small café near my home here in southern Spain because I love their home. Over time, the employees have come to know me, and so we chat for a few moments while I peruse the not tremendously sophisticated local paper. (Although the BBC, Al Jazeera, France 24, CNN, etc. keep me informed about the world at large, the local paper is the best way to keep up with what is going on directly around me).

The other day, one of the girls who works there looked grim. I ventured the obvious question, and she told me that that the sales staff was just being impossible to the waitresses (a portion of the café is dedicated to the sale of goods). She mentioned that it made her life impossible. She was clearly very unhappy. She could not wait to stop working there, but - and the look in her eyes as she shared this last part was hopeless - she needed the job and could not see a way out into her dream job of website designer for the near future, as she is only able to attend night classes.

I wanted to give her something to take home. Something that would make her reconsider her position as hapless victim, disadvantaged and hopelessly outnumbered by the sales staff.

First of all, I told her, you need to protect yourself emotionally - internally - against the behavior of the sales staff. To do that, here are some of the steps to take:

  • watch for the thoughts that crop up when they behave the way they do
  • concentrate on telling yourself that you will not allow them to mess with your day
  • the only way that will work, is if you decide - by becoming aware of this - that you always have a choice about how you react to given situations
  • part of this has to do with your awareness of the fact that you are totally responsible for your own inner well-being and state of happiness
  • if you accept that, it means that you will never again depend on anything external to make you feel good
  • it also means that you will never again allow anything external to you to make you feel bad because you will have accepted the responsibity of making yourself feel ok no matter what is going on
  • if they are crossing boundaries, make sure you have healthy ways of dealing with that
  • further, you may need to speak to management about the situation
  • also remember that the more you dwell on the way you feel when others in your work situation behave the way they do, and the more you then take that home with you - because of how awful it makes you feel, to load it onto the shoulders of your family, the more you will actually be suffering, simply because you are spending hours and hours of your day concentrating on this
I also suggested she try to figure out how to make the best of this particular job until she could give it up.
How?
  • Figuring out if there was anything in her job that would allow her to feel proud of herself, even if it was only her own private satisfaction of a job well done
  • Further, was there anything in the job she could take home with her? Something that would be of use to her in the future. In her situatin I suggested she use her constant contact with clients - mainly English-speaking foreigners - to perfect her language skills, as she would be able to put the language to good use later on
A final point of course is to figure out how long it would take her to complete her studies in order to be able to start looking for a totally new line of work. But I reminded her: once she was actually in that new place and working at something that was much closer to her heart, she might actually at some point in her professional life find herself in a similar situation again. The same principles would apply.

Awareness and choice can bring much inner freedom...

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