A career has many challenges hidden within it. The key is to focus on the parts that help you grow professionally and personally.
One morning I was feeling very scattered. I went into work but I was totally checked out. I avoided work. It became a game.
First I went to visit Tom. He always told a story about a failed date that he had gone on. His stories always made me laugh. Then I went to the bathroom. I didn’t even have to use the bathroom. Then I went into the breakroom to grab a cup of coffee, and I stopped by Rob’s desk to see if he wanted to go to lunch later. Then I went back to my desk and opened up Facebook on my phone.
This continued for 8 hours -- I actually didn’t do any legitimate work that day. I justified my actions because I didn’t like my boss. I thought that by wasting my time, I got back at her by wasting her time.
I allowed myself to forget about what was important.
I was angry. At myself, my boss, my co-workers, everything. I was angry for no one noticing. I was angry that I was so jaded.
I was sad, and I wanted others to do for me what I couldn’t do for myself. Make me feel fulfilled.
Then I lost my job. I wasn’t surprised that I was let go in the second round of layoffs because I didn’t bring enough value to the job.
So then I started my own business and now I don’t have the luxury of avoiding work. I have to keep adding more skills and knowledge to make myself better. If I don’t, I'll stop being good at what I do.
This mental shift has improved my focus. I also use a couple mantras to improve my focus, and one in particular has been working very well for me over these last few months:
“Do the most important things first.”
That’s it. Focus on what will give me the greatest return on my time.
When I compared these two extremely different attitudes toward my work, I realized how much I had missed out on because I gave in to my fears in past careers.
I missed out on learning opportunities because I told myself that my job wasn't a good fit. Why improve myself for a company that didn't care for me?
I also missed out on challenging myself with new projects because I didn't want my ideas to be shot down. Instead of finding new projects, I avoided them.
I literally turned it into a game that actually increased my anxiety. I wasn't growing my skills and I added to my anxiousness because I would be caught avoiding work. The stress kept adding up until I went to the doctor because my right arm was numb. It hurt to be at work. They ran tests of all kinds, but couldn't find anything. I realized it was stress when one particular meeting with the CEO didn't go very well and my arm went numb again.
I created a toxic work environment that was eating away at my happiness.
Through trial and error, and the wisdom of others, I now know 7 things to do that I wished I had known when I started out on the path of each career.
1. Deepen Relationships
You have amazing people that you work with, every company does. The key is to focus on finding people you can deepen a relationship with, not the people that drive you crazy.
There are probably many talented and caring people who you can build a stronger relationship with. Reach out to them and see what happens.
Who in your department can you learn from? What can you do to deepen this relationship?
2. Learn New Skills
If you’ve ever avoided learning something new, you have to ask yourself why. Are you doing it because you are afraid, or are you doing it because it doesn’t interest you?
You should do work from your superpowers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add to your powers.
Take advantage of any opportunities to learn new skills and add to your superpowers. If you don’t have as many opportunities as you would like, then you have to find new ways to learn new skills by seeking out help from your boss or co-workers or outside resources.
3. Find Joy In the Struggle
You, your co-workers, and your boss all struggle with something, the most common struggles being money and relationships.
Your struggles will not stop until you die -- that’s your life journey. Learning how to find joy even in the tough times is the sign of a well-trained mind. Next time you are struggling at work, find just one thing that you are grateful for about the situation. Then you can begin to shift your mind to thinking about improving things you can change.
4. Make More Time for Undisturbed Work
Focus is one of the key components of your superpowers. You must find time to do undisturbed work because this is where you will see the best results. The people who have time to get in “the zone” are the ones doing great work.
If you work in a busy office, try using headphones as a signal to your co-workers that you don’t want to be disturbed. You’ll notice that when you signal your co-workers that you want to focus, they’ll catch on very quickly and leave you alone during this time.
5. Know Why What You Do Matters
When you know that your work matters, you will go the extra mile to make your work better. If the work doesn’t get done, you know who will be affected and how.
Ask yourself, “Why do I do what I do?”
When you can find a clear answer, it will be a lot easier to do great work.
6. Take More Breaks
Try taking short breaks more frequently when you're feeling stuck or overwhelmed. The key is to make it an active relaxation. You need to bring yourself back to the present moment, understand what is going on inside your head so you can let it go and bring yourself back to a happier state.
Next time you feel your frustration rising, drop everything and feel what is causing this pain, follow your thoughts until you hit the core cause then just repeat this mantra:
I change what I can, accept what I can't and enjoy the challenge of every situation.
7. Don't Take Anything Too Seriously
Life is short, and the older you get the better you understand this concept. You can choose to spend your time worrying, or choosing acceptance or taking action. It's your choice. Like the mantra above, it doesn't help to worry about things you can't change. If you don't like your boss, you can't stress about why you think he should be fired. All you can do is focus on yourself and do your best.
By strengthening your mind to focus on the positive, external people and circumstances cannot dictate your happiness. It's this last one that some people never try to implement into their career. If you know that happiness is an inside job, then even a co-worker's snide remark won't ruin your day.
Which of these concepts have you struggled with? What could you do to incorporate at least one of these ideas into each day?