You feel like your manager is un-supportive, you hate your work environment, you think your colleagues are lazy, you don’t feel valued, and there is not enough opportunity for professional development.
What if it wasn’t your manager, your colleagues or the environment?
What if it was you?
Before you vehemently protest, hear me out! I have had a number of slumps in my career that had me feeling underwhelmed by my job, it was easy to blame others or the environment or the culture, but that meant I was out of control. I hated that feeling (you might too) and I learnt to shift it by changing how I looked at it. If I was the only part I could control then I would need to focus on me. This all came about after spending six months in a position where there was almost no training and very little support to develop my skills, on top of that I felt like I was being targeted by my manager (at the time), this person would ask me to do something one way and then once I had done it they would suggest otherwise. They would pit me against my colleague and every one-to-one meeting was about what I wasn’t doing right, despite my constant communication and checking in. I felt like I was going insane, I’d never experienced such emotional stress, uncertainty or confusion in previous roles. So, after what felt like months of hitting my head against a wall I was forced into a place of survival! I had to be resilient, self-motivated and completely control my mindset. This included shifting my self-doubts and self-talk into self-belief, I just had to hang in there until I could move out of that particular position. I’d call it something like – “survive to thrive”. I did this through the use of mindfulness practice and gratitude.
I began to truly comprehend the notion that “freedom is a state of mind”. I had felt trapped but I knew freedom lay within me, so I supported myself by staying present and treating each day like an opportunity to develop myself as a person. This was one way of practicing self-care and valuing myself even when others did not. I kept sane by practicing gratitude for what was working well and the positive things in my life such as the great colleagues I worked with, the great friends I had, my supportive home life, my housemate, my health, even the good weather and the grassy noll I had to sit on at lunchtime. This took me out of entrapment, it was a shift in perspective and it grounded me through some of the most humiliating, confusing and trying times. Practicing gratitude at work is so beneficial that I believe it can grow you as a professional and person faster than any course or in-house training.
It is not always simple to be mindful and hold an open and positive attitude towards thoughts. Our inner critic or negative thoughts can be repetitive, usually familiar to us and often intrusive. It is perfectly normal that these thoughts creep in, it’s how we respond that makes the difference. Notice that I said respond rather than react; a reaction is an automatic response – as in we have no control. When in actual fact we do have control, it is all about choice. Negative or ‘unhelpful’ thoughts are often ‘running commentary’, ‘stories’ or ‘recordings’ we tell ourselves out of habit. It can take just one negative thought to piggy back onto other thoughts and they can easily spiral on.
It’s important to recognise and acknowledge that thoughts are not always correct, factual or require action. So, remember to give yourself a break and roll with the setbacks, even if those set backs feel like a direct correlation with what’s going on around you. We cannot control how other people view us or behave around us, all you can do is gently bring yourself back towards being open, mindful and kind to yourself. A great way to shift back into ‘helpful’ thoughts is by practicing Mindful Gratitude.
In the study of Positive Psychology the ability to harness gratitude is a personal virtue or strength, it is consistently and powerfully linked with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish experiences, have better health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships (Siegel, 2009).
I’m lucky enough to now be in a team that is supportive. I still practice mindful gratitude as often as I can because it’s a way of being and a way to continue to grow.
A wonderful exercise to do is to consciously and mindfully record all the things you are grateful for on a daily basis.
Mindful Gratitude practice tips:
- Choose a mode or way of recording your gratitude; this may be in a journal, on social media (publicly holds you very accountable), electronically etc.
- Sign a metaphoric peace treaty with your negative thoughts or self- doubts. i.e “ I choose to love and accept all thoughts, for they are not all true, I understand that I am human, I am not perfect and I will not expect things of myself that do not make me happy”. Begin to develop an attitude that is thankful and respectful towards yourself by acknowledging and accepting your strengths, the good things in your life – These may be small or large, majorly impactful or lessor so.
- Make it a rule, aim, or challenge, to record a certain number of things you are grateful for each day. If this is new to you, you may begin with 1 thing to be grateful for each day. You might then take it up to 2-5 per day. Another option is to start with 1 thing per day for 1 week, 2 per day for 1 week and 3 per day for 1 week and so on.
- Start with simple things- for example things that sustain your life like food, a roof over your head, your basic physiological needs. Slowly work into areas of your life like safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, relationships, career or any other self-actualizing pursuits. This can also include your strengths, personality traits and abilities.
- Be as descriptive and creative as you like by elaborating on how or why you are grateful, your feelings or emotions that are attached. If creativity is your outlet you might like to make it into a poem, a rhyme, a picture, mind map or a song!
- Consider your personal attributes, strengths and virtues. If you are not sure what they are think of things people have reflected back to you, about who you are. Use the positive feedback you have received in your life to reframe your negative beliefs about yourself into healthier ones.
- Consider people and relationships in your life that have impacted or continue to impact you positively (Surround yourself with these people).
- Don’t think too hard or put expectation on the process, let yourself be freely grateful. Allow the thoughts to flow out trying not to second guess or minimise the initial thoughts or feelings that come up. There is no wrong or right way to do this.
As human beings thinking critically comes natural, that’s how we survive adversity and potential threats. It’s only natural that we can think of a myriad of things we don’t like about ourselves or life, it takes effort and energy to work the parts of our brain that will combat the harsh expectation we naturally place on ourselves. Believe me it’s worth it and it gets easier. You will truly feel very empowered and in control if you consistently practice mindfulness and gratitude together.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them”
-John F. Kennedy
Siegel, R,. D. (2009). Positive Psychology : Harnessing the Power of Happiness, Personal Strength and Mindfulness.
Beyond Blue: Yes, mindfulness is really a thing https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/wellbeing/yes-mindfulness-is-really-a-thing