Discovery 1:7 – The First Step: Understanding & Acceptance
…continued from 7 Steps to Loving What You Do – Discovery 1:6 – Expectations!
When something goes wrong (and something always does if “wrong” means “not as expected”) how often do you step up and take responsibility? Or do you see it as blame and try to turn the spotlight away from you and onto something or someone else? Most of us are taught at a very young age to turn away from blame so that we might escape punishment. Even if it was only a simple talking-to, we wanted to avoid anything that smacked of shame. So we learned to point the finger away from ourselves. But shouting “He did it” or “I had nothing to do with it” or “I wasn’t involved” or “If she had done so-and-so, this wouldn’t have happened” not only demeans us but causes others to take a defensive stand.
We excel at placing blame and often lack the inner strength to apologize, to make amends, to admit when we’re wrong. We see our professional relationships as just not important and intimate enough to work on and improve.
And even if the people around us—our bosses, our co-workers, our staff—behave poorly and create an atmosphere of tension and mistrust, it is not our job to point to them to justify our own bad behavior. Their bad behavior is none of our business. All we need be concerned with is our own behavior.
At the end of each day ask yourself the following questions.
Did I mind my own business at work today?
Was I critical of others and their performance?
Did I blame someone else for something I wasn’t able to accomplish?
How much time did I spend with my co-workers today?
Is it important to have open and honest relationships with these people?
Granted, we must often rely on others at work to get our job done well. But rather than getting tripped up by someone else’s slack, go on to the next thing. Don’t let your anger and self-righteousness stop you in your tracks and allow you to slack off as well. That would not be their fault. That would be your fault. Then continue to ask yourself throughout and at the end of each day:
Did I contribute my share at work today?
Did I allow someone else’s behavior to affect my productivity?
And if so, did I blame them?
Did I confront problems head on, or did I grouse quietly and complain to others who had no power to alleviate the problem?
What about when someone you work with blatantly blames you for some mishap? How do you handle it? Does it turn into a battle of “It’s your fault,” “No, it’s your fault”? Chances are it’s nobody’s fault, so trying to pin it on someone is a waste of everyone’s time. And so what if it is someone’s fault? How does placing blame rectify the situation?
Instead, try this: insist that no one is to blame and suggest that you all simply look at the problem and decide together how it might be remedied.
If this doesn’t work, take the blame yourself, even if it’s not your fault (unless, of course, this would mean losing your job, but generally it’s never that serious). This admission will usually take the wind out of everyone’s sails. There will no longer be a target for their frustration. Given a real live target—you—they will be willing to let it go and move on to solve the problem. You might be surprised how people will actually look up to you after you admit blame. It is so rarely done that they will be in shock and not know how to handle it. You will not only be safe from harm but you’ll feel like a million bucks and you’ll all be able to get back to the business of doing business, no longer distracted by who’s to blame.
This tendency to blame, to take the focus off ourselves, takes many different forms. If we’re unhappy in our work, we look around to see what or who is culpable. Rarely do we look at ourselves. We might look at the work itself as boring, unstimulating, enervating. Or we look at our superiors, decide that we could do a better job than they are doing and then become resentful and unproductive because of the inequities in financial compensation. Or we blame the company, the guys upstairs, for the state of things down where we are. There is no real target for our frustrations, just the amorphous them, and everyone walks around de-moralized and inefficient. We’ll look at the we/they syndrome later on—for now let’s just look at the issues of the work itself.
I believe that each one of us can find work that is suitable to our skills and interests, and can find satisfaction in our daily work routine.
(You’ll learn later how routine in our lives is not a bad thing.) So if your current work bores you and holds little stimulation for you, you must look at why you’re where you are, how you got there in the first place, and where you might want to be instead. Rather than complaining, blaming and being miserable, look at the realities and consider how much of your misery comes from within rather than from the job itself. Ask yourself the following questions.
How did I land here in this particular job?
What attracted me to it in the first place?
Are there any aspects of it that still interest me?
Putting aside the issue of money
Whether you can see it yet or not, know that it was your choice to be where you are; only you are responsible for that choice, and only you can change it if it needs changing. But before you make any big changes, try approaching your daily routine with a different mind-set. Focus on the positive. Focus on those aspects of the job that once gave you pleasure.
Bring all of your attention to each task, each moment of every day, even the unpleasant ones.
Try not to judge these tasks as unpleasant; approach them simply as tasks to be done, as something to be accomplished, as part of your job. Be grateful for the good and bad elements of your job. In adopting such an attitude you might find that the unpleasantness seeps away. You may never become fully enraptured with every tiny aspect, but your overall appreciation and fulfillment will increase if you bring all your attention to each detail, moment by moment. And then when the blaming and complaining stop you will be in a better position, a purer state, to decide whether you should stay or go, whether it was the job or you, whether you really like your job or not. And then you will have a clearer sense of what is right for you, of what fits with your natural inclinations, of what keeps you happy.
Now, what of those people above you who are responsible for supervising your work and passing judgment on it (or those who have the jobs you covet)? You may be smarter than your boss, more talented and more creative. It seems to happen all the time. People are always complaining about their bosses and their lack of talent and understanding. But consider this: if you are focused on what you don’t have (your boss’s job) or what you should have (your boss’s money) or on other people’s performance, then maybe you’re not doing your job as well as you could. Perhaps there’s a quality in your boss that you’ve been missing. Perhaps you could look for the positive, if you must look there at all. Or maybe for a while you can turn your focus sharply onto your own job and spend all your concentration there rather than allow yourself to be distracted by others.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I want my boss’s job?
Do I serve my boss as well as I could?
Do I help my bosses do their job as well as they can?
What is my role as employee?
Do I undermine my position in the company? How do I do this?
Do I let my envy and resentments interfere with my own performance?
At the end of the day am I proud of the job I did or am I focused on what others didn’t do?
Is there anyone in the company to look up to, to admire and emulate? What qualities does this person have that I could adopt and start exhibiting?
Spend some time writing about your tendency to blame others. If issues from the past come up as you write about today, don’t ignore them, but don’t get lost there either. Acknowledge them, accept them and let them go. Then bring yourself into the present, as an adult, and know that you are responsible for your behavior today, no matter what your past. So spend some time getting to know yourself by writing about your behavior at work, your relationships with the people there, and what you can do to change things today. Spend some quiet time by yourself absorbing your discoveries and letting them go. Breathe them into your body, own them and breathe them away. Clear your mind each day by writing about what happened and how it affected you. Then sit in the quiet of your breath and understand that you have choices, that you can change you. This understanding will then ripple through your life in unexpected ways. You do what you can do and then watch what happens. Enjoy the uncertainty and mystery of it all. Breathe and appreciate things as they are.
To be continued…