If you have followed me for any length of time you will realize that I am NOT a proponent of doing things that make you miserable. I do not recommend staying in a job you hate or any other life-killing behavior. However, on the assumption that at the moment you are in a circumstance or situation that is making you miserable, and that at the moment it is the best alternative you have in front of you, there are some things you can do to improve your experience of it.
This article is focused on work, but the general principles can be applied to any circumstance you turn into misery for yourself. The following are some of the things that work best for me and I think if you put them into practice they will work for you as well. I’m going to use the example of a job you don’t like for much of this article, but the ideas can be applied to anything.
Accept That You Don’t Control the Universe
If I could snap my fingers right now and be free from having to earn a living, be transported to a beautiful white sand tropical beach in front of a lovely glass-fronted home, and be waited on by beautiful half-naked girls in grass skirts, I would snap my fingers. But alas, the universe doesn’t work that way. Instead I will continue to write this article.
You control your actions and sometimes things go your way, but mostly they do not. Even if it is possible, whatever it would take me to get to the home on the tropical beach with the grass skirts would not be worth it (and after a few months it would lose its impact), so here I am writing this article happily. When you accept that you control your actions but not the outcomes, you automatically become much happier and thus less miserable. Stop continually focusing on the gap between where you are and where you want to be and your misery level will drop dramatically.
Accept That You Choose Your Actions
If you say you have to go to a job you don’t like, you are speaking a falsehood. You do not have to do anything. You are choosing to do it because you believe it is the best alternative you have at the moment. I know people who don’t work, who don’t have an income, and are overweight. Somehow they have shelter and eat more than they need without going to a job they hate. And they have consciously made that choice. When you truly accept that you are choosing your actions, there is an immediate and significant change in attitude that improves your outlook. You chose it so stop wallowing in your self-pity.
If You Are Going to Do It, Get Something Out of It
This is one of the most neglected methods of finding the positive in something you don’t like. I guarantee you there are a huge number of opportunities in and at your work to develops skills that will improve your life. You can learn peaceful well-being at a job you don’t like and you will thereby gain a huge benefit that will last the rest of your life.
Ignore what you don’t like about your job and instead focus on your skills training. Screw the job and enroll yourself in The University of Self-Growth – your employer is paying your tuition and providing the classroom.
- When you walk into the office instead of telling yourself how much you don’t want to be there, enthusiastically and with a smile greet the people you see. Start your day off with a bang and practice an optimistic outlook.
- Practice not gossiping and talking about other people negatively.
- You can literally spend all day practicing being in the moment, not being affected by what happened five minutes ago and not worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow. An incredible skill-building opportunity!
- Work on building personal and professional networks.
- When you write emails or other documents, practice your written communication skills. Work on a crisp, clear, style of writing that is perfect for emails. You can also practice presentation skills and computer skills.
- Take any training offered that gets you away from the job and lets you build useful skills. Ask for training for anything you can relate to your job. You will be surprised how often it is allowed.
- By definition if it is a job you don’t really like, you will have tremendous opportunity to practice the skills of remaining calm in stressful situations, detaching from outcomes, looking for the bright-side of things, and being happy no matter what your circumstances.
- Work on improving your negotiation skills.
- Practice the art of listening.
- Practice the art of understatement.
- Practice being engaging and witty.
- Stay alert at all times for opportunities to grow in some way. You will never run out of them.
To get the benefit, you have to stay aware of consciously building specific skills. Otherwise, you’ll just fall back into the “I hate my job” habits.
Reflect on the Positive
Take some time to deeply reflect on the positive benefits of whatever it is you are choosing to do that you don’t like. And I mean some time to reflect deeply. If you go to a job you don’t like five days a week, then spend 30 minutes any time you feel down reflecting on what you get out of it. I know people who say they don’t like their job who use that job to obtain:
- An active single social life at trendy places
- A beautiful climate-controlled home
- Travel and Vacations
- Nice cars and clothing
- A wonderful family who is well clothed, fed, and schooled
The list is endless. Reflect on the fact that probably most of the people in the world would snap their fingers to have the life you you have. Think about the other joys you have in your life that the job you dislike makes possible. Think of that beautiful smiling child you are taking care of by doing what you are doing.
Whatever it is you are doing, reflect on why you chose to do it and focus on those positives and do not dwell on what is making you miserable. I’ve done this and it works wonders for me.
Don’t Take The Train Ride of Misery
An architect was building a magnificent cathedral. During an inspection he passed three workers toiling away in the hot sun doing the exact same task – smashing rocks with a sledgehammer. He asked each what he was doing and why. The first man answered “I’m breaking rocks because I get paid to break rocks.” The second man answered “I’m making small stones that will go into the wall of that building and I do it to feed my family.” The third man answered “I’m helping construct a wonderful cathedral. People will come from far away to gaze upon its marvels. I’m doing it so I can learn how to build a cathedral.”
When you are starting to do whatever it is that is making you miserable, you have a choice and it is truly your choice. It is not being forced upon you. You can chose to hope on the train full of miserable complaining people and join in all the wallowing, or you can skip it and take a nice pleasant walk instead. This was a very hard lesson for me to learn, but I finally learned it. I spent years talking myself into frequent misery and joining others on the misery train. I still fall into that trap sometimes because I am human. As often as I can remember to make that choice, I talk a pleasant walk instead.
If There Was Ever a Job For the 80/20 Rule
If you can get 80% of the results with 20% of the effort then this is the time to apply it. If you don’t like cleaning the house then don’t try to make it spotless. Get in the moment and spend a small amount of time happily making it look decent instead of a lot of time making it look perfect.
Apply the 80/20 rule at work every day. On the least desirable tasks, spend 20% of your time getting most of the results and then move on to something better. Most people have far more leeway in their job than they believe. If you will simply get the courage to take control and empower yourself you will be surprised by the results.
You can’t work intensely and enthusiastically for hours on end without burning out. Besides if you don’t like your job you’ll never be motivated to work like that. So what most people do is a half-assed, hit and miss, watching the clock, wallowing in their misery job. So consider an alternative win-win that you can feel good about.
Work intensely and hard, really getting into it for a period of time; say 30 to 45 minutes. Then alternate that with a break; even a longish break. Take a walk, take a nap, meditate, listen to some music, read a book, surf then internet, go into the coffee bar, or whatever you can get away with. If you do this throughout the day, your employer and you will both benefit. You will contribute more to him and you will get more out of it than doing it the miserable half-assed way. You will probably be many times more productive than you were before. I can also guarantee you that the time you spend working will be more enjoyable as a result. Forcing yourself to go with gusto for a period of time is much easier and more enjoyable than sloshing through a whole day. Don’t feel guilty or feel like you are cheating because you are not. It is a win-win.
Focus is the Key Point
You are miserable when you focus on the things that are wrong. You are happy when you focus on what is right. Focus on what you can learn from whatever you are doing to help you in the future. Focus on the moment and not the miserable past or your worried future.
In A Word It’s “Attitude”
I could go on and on, and perhaps I’ve gone on too long already. I wish I could explain it in 200 words, but I can’t. Ultimately it’s something you have to experiment with and work out yourself.
The bottom line is you can choose a positive or a negative attitude about whatever you are doing and in that choice lies the difference between joy and misery.
What do YOU think? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
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