Finding Happiness Where You Are
Every single one of my clients comes to me because she wants something different than she currently has. Some want to advance in their current jobs and they need help developing the confidence to do that, but many come to me because they want to find a new job.
So they are often surprised when I suggest that we take some time to work on how they can be happier in their current job. They don’t understand why they would want to spend time on that because they know clearly where they want to go, and they want to get there fast. But I always recommend that you find happiness at your current job before you leave.
Why? Because when you learn that your circumstances do not determine your happiness, you will truly understand the power of your own mind. Also, when you learn how to find contentment in your current job, it takes the pressure off of your job search. You don’t have to worry about taking the first job you’re offered, even if it’s going to double your commute time or require longer hours than you’d like. You can be methodical and confident in your job search and take your time finding the right job for you. Which is the best way to find a job.
Case In Point
A client whom I’ll call Allison was feeling desperate to leave her current job at her first coaching session. She had a new boss and things weren’t going well at work. Although she had thrived at that job for the past seven years, she no longer felt happy there and she wanted out.
We looked at the thoughts that were creating Allison’s unhappiness at work. They boiled down to this:
- My new boss is not communicating well with me, like my old boss did.
- He is not efficient.
- He’s going to run this place into the ground.
- He should be different than he is.
- There is no longer an opportunity for me to advance here.
- I need to get out as soon as possible.
Allison’s co-workers also had their own negative thoughts about the new boss, and when they commiserated together, Allison found even more reasons or evidence to support those negative thoughts, which left her feeling even worse.
Allison was convinced that every single one of her thoughts was a fact, that she was just observing reality. But the circumstances were really:
- She had a new boss.
- Her new boss had made decisions that Allison did not like.
- Her new boss did not send an email to the team informing them of the decisions.
- The team learned about the decisions at a meeting.
Everything else was a thought, a sentence in her mind.
The overarching thought that “he should be different than he is” was causing Allison the most grief. The reason it was creating so much unhappiness for Allison is because that thought was, as Byron Katie puts it, “arguing with reality.”
When Allison was thinking “he should be different than he is,” she felt angry. When she felt angry, she wasn’t productive at work because she was spending lots of time spinning in her mind and also commiserating with co-workers. When she did that, she didn’t enjoy her job anymore. She was miserable. When we looked at the result that her thought was creating for her, Allison realized that she was the one who could “be different” in this circumstance because she was the only person that she could change. Arguing with reality produced no real benefit because Allison could not control her new boss. As much as we would like to change what other people say and do, we simply can’t.
I challenged her to look for evidence to support the opposite thought. What if he should be exactly how he is? How do we know that he should be exactly that way? Because he is that way. That’s the best evidence there is. When you realize that you can accept someone else exactly as they are and still have inner peace, it feels amazing because you realize that you are always in control of how you feel.
Feeling Better Is Always Available
This is best illustrated with an extreme example. In Man’s Search For Ultimate Meaning, Victor Frankl said “[t]he last of the human freedoms” is “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” He learned that when he was a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, which proves that if he could choose acceptance in those circumstances, it is always available to us well.
When Allison decided that there was no use arguing with reality and started choosing to think “my boss is exactly the way he should be,” she felt acceptance and relief, like a huge weight was lifted from her shoulders. The feeling of acceptance drove her to get back to work, become productive again, decline to commiserate with co-workers, and enjoy her work again. She still wanted to continue her job search, but she no longer had a desperate sense of urgency to leave. She could be thoughtful and systematic about her search, to make sure she would find the right job for her.
What about you? What are you telling yourself about your current situation that isn’t serving you or that is creating unhappiness for you? What are the actual facts and what are your thoughts about them? Knowing that you always have the freedom to choose, how do you want to feel in those circumstances? However you want to feel, it’s available to you now.
Go forth, grow, and bloom.
P.S. If you need help figuring out how to get to a place of acceptance and contentment, let’s talk in a free strategy session to get you feeling better and back in the driver’s seat of your life.