Hello everybody, welcome to episode 106 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and today we’re going to take a gander at a question I’ve sorta hoped would come in for a while. Again, sort of. We’ve got a question about frankly, what the deal is with work and how to make it not so miserable. It’s a loaded question, but hopefully I can come up with something worth listening to. Here it goes…
QUESTION: “The OLD podcasts are a huge part of my journey to mindfulness! I listen every day on the way to work, yet work remains to be my biggest problem! How is it that so many of us dislike work, myself included? It’s just not easy to up and change jobs, but is the only alternative to stay in jobs that don’t fulfill us? I can safely say I’ve never had a job that wasn’t enjoyable for more than a few months, and I know I’m not alone. What can I do about this without flipping my life upside down? What can any of us do?“
The Misery of Work
Oh man. This question. This is a huge question. Well crafted, well put. Yeah, what is the deal with work and why does the misery of work just always seem to win? How and why do we default to disliking work, even mindfulness practitioners like yourself? To what can we attribute all the madness and suffering people in the work force put themselves through?
I’ve tried to wrap my head around this concept for a while now, because it’s just mind-boggling.
So here’s what I’ve come up with.
Emotions Run High with Popular Narratives
The masses have sort of followed the same pattern with the narrative surrounding work as they have with any other popular narratives. A lot of people share work stories that incite arousing emotions like frustration, stress, even anger.
These are the kinds of emotions that get people’s attention and cause whatever context they’re shared in to go “viral” so to speak.
Once this has been exposed to enough people, emotions run high, the feeling brain easily overthrows the thinking brain, and everyone is now repeating the same rhetoric not only because it’s emotionally charged enough for us to keep interested and not have to do much of our own thinking, but it makes us feel like part of the group since everyone else is doing it – which, of course, we just salivate over.
More problems are created than actually exist, and we take a vacation from seeing the opportunity to separate ourselves and finding the opportunity that lies amidst pain.
In short, enough people have decided that work must only be frustrating that the vast majority has chosen to follow.
Which, of course, leaves the question for everyone to ask themselves: Am I willing to question this pack mentality? Am I willing to change work for myself by going against the grain and making it my own?
Most people subconsciously answer “no” to these questions, but again, you don’t have to be most people. As an individual on the path of mindfulness (and thank you by the way for your kind words about the podcast, we’re happy to help) it’s up to you to understand that work is part of the balanced and happy life that you seek.
It is not some kind of separate entity, some kind of faceless beast, it’s part of the equation. Just because enough people have decided that work is a necessary evil doesn’t mean that you have to decide that.
The Mentality Around Work
Why should you not bring the life lessons you seek to live by into your work? Why should work not be a space for you to practice living through your values, being charitable, kind, present, creative, communicative, and so on?
Work, like any other part of life, allows countless chances for you to exercise any of these traits. If anything, it offers the best chances, because it’s easiest to do these things in stress-free environments.
In an environment like work, where many people have decided that stress is a necessity and it’s something you too have convinced yourself of thus far, is it not the best chance to practice the mindfulness techniques you’ve been learning? How could it not be?
The mentality around work has to change before the work itself. Sure, changing jobs to find something more enjoyable and, more importantly, more in line with your values is tough, but it’s not impossible by any means.
Having the Right Mentality for Work
But before you do that, before anyone does that, you have to catch the fact that the worse your mentality about work is, the more problems you’re apt to finding at any job you go to. So the more peace you can find in a job that has responsibilities you DON’T like, the more peace you can find in a job that has responsibilities you DO like.
Otherwise, you’ll default to finding problems as we often do and as it seems you already have if you’re telling me you’ve never had a job you’ve liked for more than a couple months. You’ll eventually decide you aren’t being paid enough, you’re not getting enough vacation, the management sucks, the coworkers are unbearable, etc. All the jobs you’ve hated only have you in common, and that goes for everyone out there who’s in a similar boat.
So being open to new jobs, while something I’ve always encouraged my own clients to do (it’s just work, after all, not your whole identity) has to be preceded by the right mentality. So before you or anyone goes looking for something else, don’t do yourself a disservice by not first making the most of the job you’re currently in. Put the self-work in and then go from there.
Work and Contentment
Once you’ve found or genuinely tried to find contentment, only then should you expect to find another job that would make you feel better long-term. But as it stands, you’re likely to keep finding the same problems no matter what job you find yourself in.
With that in mind, you might as well get started on the self-work and reframing required before making any big professional changes that, right now, are likely to only end up in more disappointment, not to mention whatever turbulence you may perceive (emphasis on “perceive) happening while you’re in between jobs.
Asker, thank you so much for sending this in. I hope I was just firm enough, but not too firm in my answer. I don’t ever mean to pick on you guys too much and sometimes my anxious side worries that I have. Ah well.
This is a fun and important question that I had fun answering. Also, book recommendation for anyone who wants to explore this further: check out “Awake at Work” by Michael Carroll. It’s a pretty good one.
That wraps us up though, friends. If you have questions of your own about things you’re struggling with, please email them to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll answer them here on the show for you to the best of our ability. Ok, have a wonderful rest of your day everyone, and I’ll look forward to next time. Bye for now.