Sitting at a red light, I take a sip of coffee (an Ethiopian, fair trade, shade grown bean freshly ground into a pour-over from my neighborhood cafe) and allow myself to be soothed by the familiar voice of Steve Inskeep on NPR's Morning Edition. The fog from the Monterey Bay is still thick over Santa Cruz county, and I need to use my wipers intermittently to clear the resulting condensation on my windshield.
As a self-employed Life Coach who works either from home or from a co-working office space within walking distance of my house, I am not usually on the road at 7:30am. I notice that I am surrounded by people on their way to work.
I am not on my way to work (I am on my way to my dentist 30 minutes away in the neighboring town), but nestled cozily between all of these commuters and listening to NPR with my coffee, I almost feel as though I am. And I feel strangely sentimental.
After years of sitting in D.C. beltway traffic, I never thought I would be nostalgic about commuting. Three years ago when I quit my job as Head of the Middle School at a small, private school in Maryland, my stressful commute was one of the influencing factors of my decision.
Yet, as I've seen with so many of my clients, when we are unsatisfied about one aspect of our job, it is easy to allow that to pervade our entire work experience until we forget how to appreciate anything at all about our employment.
One of the first things I do with new coaching clients is have them observe themselves in their work environment. I ask them to become deeply curious about their work day. When are they the most satisfied? The most frustrated? What parts do they look forward to, and why? What parts do they dread, and why? What feedback are their bodies giving them about their experiences throughout the day?
Each time, they come back surprised about their findings. "I know I said that I can't stand everyone I work with, but I realized that there are actually three people in my office whom I would consider friends, and whom I actually enjoy talking to every day."
"Yeah, most of my job is mind-numbingly boring, but I really like when I'm brought in at the start of a new project. I feel creative and challenged."
"There is a really pretty park outside my office building. When I make the time to go out there for little breaks, my body feels calmer and I'm more productive."
These little discoveries are important because when we can separate out what we actually enjoy about our jobs from what we don't, we can begin to take effective action rather than remaining stuck in generalized, woe-is-me, nothing-is-ever-going-to-change mindsets that strip us of our power.
Armed with this new self-knowledge, my clients are then ready to begin moving forward. I ask things like, "How can you structure your day so you interact more often with those three friends in your office?"
or, "Let's design a clear request for your boss to get you more involved on the front-end of projects, since that's what you enjoy most and where you are most effective."
or, "How can you schedule more time in that park?"
Figuring out how to be as happy as possible right in the midst of your current, unsatisfying work situation is a win-win. Either you will end up loving a job you never thought possible to love and you'll decide to stay, or you will realize that you've done everything in your power to make it work and the situation remains untenable, in which case you can being looking elsewhere with a clear conscience and a decisive confidence.
Plus, you will have strengthened your happiness muscle, which will benefit you in any situation.
Looking back, I doubt that simply choosing to be grateful for time alone on my morning commute in DC would have changed my stressful work experience so dramatically that it would have kept me from quitting.
But it would have mitigated my overwhelm and helped me feel a little more in control of my day. And it definitely would have enabled me to make the decision to quit from a more grounded place. (If only I had a me to coach me back then!)
Your turn: do you find yourself making generalized statements about how you hate your job? Want some support to discover what's actually going on and how to change it for the better? Get your "Holy Crap I Love My Life" Strategy Session today!
What type of wild woman are you?
Hello! I'm Melanie Munir, founder of Professional Wild Woman - a women's empowerment business dedicated to helping women who are tired of feeling either "too much" or "not enough" to connect to their inner wildness so they can create work that allows them the fullest expression of their unique voice. Welcome!