Since 2008, if you were able to maintain, or acquire work that offered a decent salary and benefits, in society’s eyes, you had nothing to complain about. Basically, in society’s eyes, as long as you are able to pay your bills, and continue to be productive enough to buy your way into the American Dream of Debt – car, house and upkeep, and family … well, that is really all it expected of you.
For me, the American Dream was meh. It wasn’t JUST that I never could afford it. It just didn’t interest me. Even when I was married and had a decent corporate job, I had no interest in putting a down payment on a house. I didn’t want to spend my weekends doing yardwork, or endlessly shopping. I wanted to hang out with friends, swim in the complex’s pool, read, write, veg-out. One thing I noticed, when working the typical 9-to-5 job, is that there was never enough time to enjoy the things I REALLY enjoyed doing. It felt delicious to call in sick, which I did a lot – often for the sake of my mental health. Working for me, in a confined environment, within a strict schedule has ALWAYS been detrimental to my general state of mind, IF I saw no end in sight.
It has always amazed me that so many people eagerly anticipate a 9-t0-5, which since the general trend of downsizing has turned to 9-to whenever THEY say you can leave, career. There were only two periods where it served me well, when I preferred to work than go home to a bad marriage, and before being married, when I was focused on throwing all my money toward paying down my debt. Other than that, I have done EVERYTHING I could to avoid working in an office – although I soon will start up temping for a while to pair down my debt/save up for a 3 month sojourn in Italy, while building up freelance work to support me while in Europe.
To me, a 9 to 5 job, is an means to an end, NEVER the end.
So with that preface, you understand my prejudice – I imagine there are people who have the opportunity to work on projects they love or at least interest them or feel worthwhile, and with people they find entertaining/pleasant, and in an environment that is peaceful or fun, and pays a decent salary. And if you are one of the lucky ones, this post isn’t for you. But if you have a job that looks good on paper, but in real life, for whatever reason, sucks the ssssssssssssspirit from your soul … and you just don’t know what to do … here are some tips.
Two Strategies for Improvement
When your Life sucks, and you have a BIG PROBLEM to solve you need to address the problem with two different strategies. The first is the Short and Immediate Strategies and the others are the Pie in the Sky Motivators.
The Short and Immediate Strategies are those that address your present reality at its roots. This involves developing a habit of making lemonade out of lemons. You do WHATEVER you can to make the best out of a bad situation.
For instance, if you hate your job – you need to break it down into components of WHY you hate it? And list from Most hated down to least hated components. And then you deal with the WORST problem FIRST.
Let’s look at Anxious Amanda –
Amanda is an executive marketing assistant and has the following problems with her job – Needy Boss, Gossipy Co-workers; Low-energy after Lunch; Hectic Mornings; Hell Commute. She has decided that the thing she hates the most about her job is her commute. She looks at WHY she hates it –
Most hated – Commute makes me late and crabby every morning and exhausted in the evening.
So she takes the Worst First and starts brainstorming solutions/alternatives –
1 – Could she commute a different way? By public transportation? Could she walk/bike part of the way, combined with public transportation and end up working out AND commuting at the same time?
2 – Could she listen to an audiobook, or a relaxing subliminal meditation while driving?
3 – Could she arrange to arrive earlier and depart earlier, so you avoid the worst of the traffic? or arrive later and stay later?
4 – Could she arrange to do an hour or two of work at home, and come in later, or leave work earlier and finish up at home?
5 – If she can’t change her hours – maybe she can leave home earlier to go the gym or to a cafe and do some personal work and then walk to her office, and at the end of the day, do errands near your office, and wait out the traffic.
6 – Could she carpool with friends, family, or strangers?
7 – Could she call friends in different time zones, or talk to another friend who is also commuting ?
8 – Could she align her schedule so she can take public transit at the same time a family member or friend takes it, and use this time to “visit.”
9 – Could she do learn something during her public transit commute – study a language, sketch in a journal; journal in a journal; research her dream job.
10 – On Cell phone – Could she do “busy-work” via your cellphone – get to zero on Inbox; do errands on the phone; etc.
You need get as creative as possible thinking of all the options/solutions. When you are brainstorming, write down anything that comes to mind. If you are having a challenge thinking creatively, get the help of friends and family to help you think of solutions. And make-up at least 10 different solutions or more, don’t stop at the obvious, and don’t judge the solutions while you are thinking them up. They are just ideas, that can be refined and reworked to fit your situation. You may mix and match ideas – For instance if you are stuck in a car commute, without flexibility – One week you could start on an audiobook, another week you might call a friend, and start studying a language via audiobook; another week, you might listen to subliminal positive messages while driving. After a point, you may start to enjoy that hour commute, because it gives you alone time to do/enjoy things you don’t have time to do otherwise.
I am going on and on about commuting, because within a month, I may have an hour and a half commute – minimum, each way, depending upon where I end up working as a temp.
For me, whenever I am unhappy – I think of the WORST FIRST and then challenge myself to think of all the ways I could improve a situation, and settle upon the most satisfying and easiest ways to solve the problem. And then once I find a solution(s) to that problem, I start on the other problems on my list associated with a problem job, or any complex problem (marriage, health, finances).
And a curious thing often happens when you solve a problem that was KILLING you previously, you get a HIGH of accomplishment, and this glow decreases your suffering in other areas, as well. But this high won’t last, so before the glow entirely disappears, and you lose that extra bit of confidence, you need to take on the next new WORST FIRST –
The whole idea of WORST FIRST – is to make your present life as pain-free as possible. And sometimes, when you have solved these problems, you realize that it maybe this particular job ( or, marriage, finances)might not be as bad as you thought. It is always best to make the small and immediate changes first, before you start making the big drastic ones. Why? Because simple changes CAN be revolutionary. Sometimes our happiness in a situation can be attained with a some relatively simple tweaks of our life.
BUT, after you have whittled away at the WORST FIRST, or while doing so, realizing that this particular job is still sucking away at your sssspirit …. then you need to start brainstorming for your PIE-in-the-SKY- Motivators. Next week I will address the Pie-in-Sky-Motivators, and how to go about creating them, and making action plans.
My basic theory about life is this – You need to figure out how to be the happiest you can be wherever and however you are, because all you have is this moment.
With Worst First you address Squeaky wheels of daily suffering, with Pie-in-the-Sky-Motivators you create a dream that will propel you through the aches and pains of daily life toward greater meaning.
In the meantime, if anyone is trying to tackle a large complex problem and has settled upon their WORST FIRST, and needs some help brainstorming, I would be happy to offer any suggestions : )