I’ve heard several inquiries from people recently about stressful thoughts on their jobs.
So much arises that’s challenging at work, whether we work for someone else or ourselves. Over the years, I’ve heard tons of worksheets on painful thinking about work (and written these kinds of worksheets myself).
The interesting dilemma with work I heard about lately?
Boredom. Or, the equal and opposite work issue….Too Demanding.
This job is soooooo boring! It’s repetitive, dull, doesn’t require my best skills, anyone could do it, stupid, too easy, not teaching me anything, unexciting, unchanging. I hate it!
This job is soooooo fast-paced! It’s relentless, frantic, requires my highest performance at all times, no one else could do it, too hard, never relaxing, confusing, chaotic, constantly changing. I hate it!
Hint: the “I hate it!” part is extra special stressful. Frustration, anger, irritation, despair.
Many years ago, I read an article on high stress jobs. I was surprised at the time to find my own current job, the first full time job I ever had, on the list.
The article spoke about jobs where people have very little assertion over what happens, or when it happens, and they don’t have all that much power to make any changes. Receptionist (my job), or customer service help, security officer, fire fighters.
In these roles, you’re waiting for the thing to happen. You have zero control over who walks in the door or when you’ll receive a call, or what time. You simply have to be available, with very little to do until that happens, or at ease with being suddenly interrupted if you are doing something else.
I remember in my 25 year old mind thinking “Oh! Cool! This makes so much sense!”
The high-performance jobs have the opposite kind of stress. You may still feel you have zero control in the long run, you’re trying to accomplish something vast, or other people (employees) don’t do what you want them to do.
I found huge relief in simply knowing my position could be called stressful. I had been running thoughts in my head about how I should be happy with this job, and grateful to be earning a living, and at ease with the low amount of responsibility required.
So I’d say first, if you are watching your thoughts and you notice ideas about restlessness, irritation, boredom, anger with your job….or anxiety, frustration, over-stimulation, worry….the very FIRST thing you can do is accept that you’re having these thoughts about your job for good reason. Hear them. They have something to offer.
These thoughts are worthy of exploring.
WELCOME, oh thoughts!
(This is a brilliant principle to bring to thoughts in your mind that produce any size stress at all–we’re not doing inquiry to crush stressful thoughts–we’re hearing them, and wondering about them).
Now, let’s dig in to this whole “my-job-sucks” situation with some questions, so you can get to the heart of your concern.
Stressful Situation A: You have nothing to do. No tasks, no projects. All that’s required is you sitting here, you being present. In my very first job, I wasn’t allowed to read. So I literally had to sit in my chair behind a front entrance counter space, with my head showing and generally facing forward. Sometimes I could work on tasks involving typing, or collating, whenever other people brought them to me.
Any time you hear the words in your head “I have to”….you may want to take a look. That’s what the energy of “force” can sound like. “I have to sit here, I can’t do anything else, this is so boring, I want to be somewhere else…..” It’s what it sounds like when you believe you have no control at all, no say, no choice. (Another way you could say it is….victim. But don’t use that to get mad at yourself now).
It was a humongous relief to learn it was normal to be stressed in the job of receptionist. It didn’t mean something was wrong with me! Yippee!
I began paying attention to other jobs at the same organization. I asked managers about positions I could move into. I asked the Business Director about what it took to be a bookkeeper and she told me to take a class, which I did.
I was the Receptionist at that company for six months. Then, I moved into the back library room and became the Information Center Specialist and got to reorganize the store room. It kept going up from there.
This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had the simple idea offered to me in an article (long before I was aware of The Work) that my position was stressful, and I actually longed for more, and that was OK! I noticed who I was without the belief I’m doing something wrong, without the reaction to “my job sucks”.
Stressful Situation B: You have too much to do. So many things. There’s not enough time in one day to ever complete all the things you’re doing. You’re constantly working on projects after hours. You need a vacation, endlessly. People report to you. You need to handle people, planning, goal-setting, details, administrative stuff, creative concepts, meetings. And you need to do all these things really, really well.
I’ve gotten to this place in my work world in more recent years.
When believed, these thoughts can produce stress within, just like a boring job.
Like my first situation, if I don’t have the belief I should be grateful, and dismiss my concerns….I begin to inquire.
So let’s look more deeply at the kinds of concepts that spring from my-job-sucks thinking:
- I need to get out of here
- this whole place sucks, and everyone who works here (I find my proof)
- I hate non-profit organizations/ health-care system/ corporations/ schools (or whatever kind of place you work, make a blanket statement)
- I’m a loser
- I should be more grateful
- let’s look at the want ads for anyplace else but here (and let’s look every day)
- I can’t leave right this minute because I need the money
- no one can help me
- I can’t handle it
The thing is, all these thoughts, for me, were inside the reaction to the very first feeling of frustration, the very first thought: I don’t want this.
Almost immediately on the heals of that thought was one solution I frequently moved to, before I ever learned about The Work: I should make myself not think this thought.
It was like a No Win situation.
I hate it, and I shouldn’t hate it. But I hate it. But I shouldn’t hate it. But look over there, I have proof for why it’s hateful (did you see what my boss did? Did you hear that co-worker? Jeez!) But I shouldn’t be so contrary. But I guess I’m the kind of person who hates this. I shouldn’t be hating this. But I do! I QUIT!!
It’s an all-out war in there! Yowsers!
What if you questioned the thought “I do not want this (I hate this)”?
Let’s do it!
I do not want this moment. I do not want my thoughts about this job or this moment. I do not want this boredom. I do not want this frenzy.
Is it true?
YES. Duh. This moment repeats itself over and over. I have to sit here, or quit. Of course I don’t want this! What do you mean….I have to suck it up? Dang right it’s true!
Are you absolutely sure you don’t want what is happening to be happening in your job? Right in that uncomfortable moment?
Who would you be without this dreadful story of my-job-sucks and I hate it?
I’d be back in my own business, curious about the duties requested for this position, curious about other opportunities, consulting and gathering more information. Not saying “no” to this. Not saying speedy quick “yes” to something else.
Turning the thought around: I hate my thinking about this job. It’s my thinking I don’t want. I do not hate this moment–I actually love it. What a place to be, getting to be here, alive, and see what happens next! I like having work, too. I like the money, the support, the learning. (You might find the specific things you love about your job. I remember finding an example once at a job I thought I didn’t want….Example: it has a fountain that’s gorgeous between buildings by the name of GRACE).
Turning it around again: my job doesn’t want me, it hates me (especially when I hate it). One example might be that it’s not my permanent job. I may be called to expand and do other more interesting, more wonderful things. Or, I may notice my job is supporting me so hard, and I don’t even notice. (Find examples again).
Turning it around one more time: I hate myself, when I’m hating this job. I don’t want me, when I don’t want the job. I’m fighting with the environment, the duties, the activities, the people. It’s not the real me. The real me is open, mysterious, accepting, relaxed. The real me is willing to speak up, explore, ask for help, share my inner thoughts about jobs, change it up, have fun.
Could it be just as true, or truer, that I LOVE this job? I want this job? Maybe you are the one who gets to dance with this job, in unexpected ways, without resistance.
What is “this job” anyway?
Who would you be tomorrow, your very next day at work, without your story of being in the wrong place?
A Suspended Blue Ocean
Is a suspended blue ocean.
The stars are the fish
The planets are the white whales
I sometimes hitch a ride on,
And the sun and all light
Have forever fused themselves
Into my heart and upon
There is only one rule
On this Wild Playground,
For every sign Hafiz has ever seen
Reads the same.
They all say,
“Have fun, my dear; my dear, have fun,
In the Beloved’s Divine
O, in the Beloved’s
Let me know what happens, as you inquire.
This is gonna be good.
“Sit, stand, lie down a little. But the story we run as we’re doing it–take care of that.” ~ Byron Katie