Monday, April 27, 2015

"Work"ing Out: Is Your Job a "Fit" or a "Fight"

By Matt W. Sandford, LMHC

When we were young people probably asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. And I think for most of us, when we think back on how we answered we chuckle about it. Childrens’ answers to this question can be fanciful, and have nothing to do with the concept of a good “fit”. But what constitutes a good fit? And how can we expect to find satisfaction in life if our job is more a fight than a good fit? What can we do?

I believe that in some ways we are conditioned in our culture to conceive of finding a “good job” in specific ways, such as: it is something I am good at, it is something I like doing, it is something that pays well, and it is something that is respected by others. Our parents and families were likely highly invested in us finding a “good job” and so the expectations were there hovering over us. And with the cultural and family expectations doing their job, many of us pursued what we hoped would be a “fitting” career. We worked hard through studies or apprenticeship and someone hired us and off we went. But after some years, maybe few or maybe twenty, maybe you over time became less and less satisfied and started questioning your career choice. This certainly describes my own journey.

So, for whatever reason you find you aren’t happy in your career and may be feeling like it isn’t really a good fit. But what can you do? You have invested time and money into developing your skill set and you are now pigeon-holed, so it seems. Or maybe you’re making good money and you have a family to support and/or debts to meet, and so you’re stuck in your current job, so it seems. Or maybe you just can’t stomach the process of starting over, or you are conflicted about giving up the position you’ve gained? There’s many perspectives and situations that can create this “un-fitness”.

Let’s explore some of the ways this can manifest itself and then look at a strategy for dealing with it.

·         Has something in your job responsibilities changed? Maybe you got promoted or moved or decided to take on a new role, or the company changed the job description? Maybe at first you were interested in this change, saw it as an opportunity? But it hasn’t turned out like you expected.

·         Sometimes it’s not the work itself, it’s the co-workers or the boss. Maybe you don’t get along, maybe you don’t feel respected, maybe you are micro-managed, or maybe you can’t get the help, support or feedback you need? Maybe you’ve tried to express yourself about the issues and have felt unheard or ignored?

·         Sometimes it can be the pace of the work day, or the amount of time in the office (or out of it), or the amount of time required dealing with customers (or lack of it).

·         Sometimes it can be that your workplace is contradicting, challenging, or eroding your morals, particularly your integrity, requiring you to fudge facts or look the other way. Experiences of this kind can make you want to abandon the whole industry you are in.

·         Sometimes it can be that we conclude we just aren’t very good at the job, and feel that we won’t likely become very good at it. We want to do something that in which we can feel a sense of competence and pride.

·         Sometimes you get into your career and find out that doing the job just doesn’t satisfy your heart and leaves you empty. You don’t care about the job and you want to do something you care about. Or you want to make a difference or help people.

What can you do?

1.   Step Back

This means that making big decisions in life when you are angry, frustrated, confused, scared, anxious or sad is not going to bring you the best conclusions and well made plans. There is such a thing as optimal stress, and it helps us to focus and concentrate. But, when we are emotionally “worked up”, we are flooded beyond this optimal level and we are cognitively compromised, meaning we aren’t able to reason and analyze and process things as effectively as we normally would. So, we need to do something first. We need to step back. This means we need to shift our focus onto something else, distract ourselves if possible, breathe and move on to step 2.  

2.   Get to Higher Ground

This means that after stepping back, we need to get a better vantage point from which to view our situation. When we are stuck down in the bog it is hard to determine which way to go. We need to climb to higher ground to be able to see our way out of the wilderness. There are a number of ways to do this. For some it involves getting feedback from objective others, for some it involves reading and for some it means seeking out God and his perspective.

3.   Detective Time

Now, from this broader vantage point I can begin to investigate what are the elements that are provoking to me. When did these feelings begin? What issues are influencing these feelings? How have I tried to manage them so far? Why do we bother doing this step, some may ask. It is very relevant, because you won’t be able to find something satisfying if you don’t understand what is going on in your heart in the present that makes it unsatisfying. It’s probably not so simple as, “I just don’t like it.”, or “the folks I work with are jerks.” I have come to learn that human beings are very complex.

4.   Strategize

When I have gained some perspective, gotten feedback from outside sources, and probed my heart, now I am ready to formulate a plan so that I can experience a better fit and hopefully become more satisfied.

But let me here challenge you. What does satisfaction mean to you? Does it mean to make a lot more money, to gain prestige, or power, or be better than others? If your goals are about your ego, I have to warm you, there is a reason you have been unsatisfied. Your problem is not so much the job fit as it is your goal (although it certainly may be both, my meaning is that one is more dangerous than the other). When a large part of identity is placed in our career, we have doomed ourselves to a life of “chasing the wind”. Even those who find much satisfaction in their career because it feeds their ego will find down the road that it didn’t fill their soul or satisfy them as they hoped it would.

So, when you conduct your evaluation, do not neglect to evaluate your longings and dare to wrestle with the question of what really satisfies. We all get stuck at some time in this life and that means we all need resources and guidance and wisdom along the way.

Hopefully, your struggle with job fit will direct you into a productive heart search that leads to much more growth, meaning and satisfaction in your life!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Choose Your Passion, Not a Job

By: Cara Griffin-Locker, IMH

As children, thoughts of what we would do when we get older were endless. Our dreams, hopes and aspirations were as big as the world we live in. The desire and need to be successful were not yet as strong as our desire and need for adventure and fun. However, as we grew up, money became inherently more important than our childhood aspirations. It is the powerful tool for building empires and lavish lifestyles. Money can make some people happy and others miserable. For some, in today’s society, the pursuit of money can be directly linked to the pursuit of happiness.

The idea that money is the key to happiness is problematic because it often leads people down a career path that may not be meant for them. They choose money over passion and childhood dreams. They choose the materialistic ways of the world, rather than a life of simplicity and passion. Whatever happened to the saying “choose something you like to do and you will never work a day in your life?” If you are in the 20% of people who love your job, then consider yourself lucky. You have made the step to follow your dreams and choose a career that best fits you, not your wallet. However, if you are in the other 80% who choose a career they hate, or maybe you did choose a career that you once loved and desired but the passion is gone, there is hope. It is never too late to follow your dreams, to pursue your goals, to live the life you wanted. Yes, change is hard and often involves a leap of faith but it can be done.

If you are facing this dilemma today, here are some reasons why choosing to move towards a career that you love is beneficial and can make a huge difference:

1. You are more passionate about the work you do when you love it: No one likes getting up early to go to a job that they do not like. This is why it is pertinent to pick something you like to do. If you are not forced to work somewhere solely for monetary reasons, you tend to truly enjoy what you do and you never really work a day in your life.

2. You can connect more to your work and think more effectively: Feeling compelled to do something can be draining. All careers have their draining and dull moments but when you choose something you love, these moments appear few and far between and you can often look past them.

3. You are willing to go above and beyond: When you do something you love, putting in extra hours is not a burden because you are the choosing to do so,makes the experience more enjoyable. During busier times, you may also be asked to do certain tasks that are not part of your everyday schedule. It is much easier for you to put in the extra work if it’s something you actually care about.

4. Nothing will stop you from achieving success: When you enjoy what you do, nothing will stop you from getting things done. Being passionate about what you do leads to an unstoppable feeling where nothing can obstruct you from achieving greatness. Your passion ignites your work.

We will spend the majority of our lives working and there is no other way around this (unless one is born into a wealthy family or marries rich). We must accept this and not view work as something we have to do but rather as something we get to do. Work does not have to be something that you hate doing. Stay true to who you are and what you desire and do the work that fuels your passion and makes you happy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Want to Feel Better? Try the Happiness Formula

By: Dwight Bain

USA Today Newspaper asked readers “What do you want the most?” and the most common answer was to be happy.

While this sounds reasonable, it’s actually quite a puzzle because happiness is very individualized and hard to broadly define. What makes one person happy may not have much effect on another, or might even annoy them.

While the formula of what creates happiness is elusive, (think of Thomas Jefferson’s writing about the “Pursuit of Happiness”), the physical and psychological benefits of happiness are easy to track. Here’s a short list of the benefits of being happier.

·          Happy people are better liked

·          Happy people have more satisfying relationships with others

·          Happy people have 13% fewer fights and arguments

·          Happy students are 20% more likely to get “A” grades

·          Happy teens are 10 times less likely to start smoking

·          Happy people have an income that is roughly 7% higher

·          Happy people have 10% fewer stress related illnesses

·          Happiness reduces blood pressure by 12%

·         Overall, positive emotions can add up to 7 years to your life
Lack of happiness leads to a feeling of discontentment, discouragement and sometimes even despair over how they perceive their lives are not working out. It seems tied to a perception of what creates the feeling of having “Enough” to be happy. Enough money, enough food, enough entertainment, enough friends, enough shoes… and that list could go on and on.  Since there is no end to trying to achieve, accomplish or accumulate more, for some people there is no end to how moody and grumpy they feel, not even realizing their expectation of wanting more was creating their own feelings of unhappiness.
Yet having material possessions can’t explain how a general feeling of happiness floods some countries, while being absent in others. In 2013 the most grateful countries were India, South Africa, the Philippines and Nigeria with the United States coming in eleventh but not as far behind as the least happy countries of Denmark, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.

Here is the key to finding and experiencing greater happiness, no matter if you are six, thirty-six or sixty-six. You have to think differently. Feeling happy is not based on externals, like having a good hair day or finding a parking spot near the front of the store rather it’s based on a mindset because happiness is an inside job. It’s based on attitude, not circumstances.

 “Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” – Abraham Lincoln

Here is a rapid formula to find more happiness, and it’s easy to remember because it spells out the popular phrase from a Bobby McFerrin song, who challenged listeners to “Don’t worry - Be Happy.”

– Belief.  Your belief about your circumstances greatly affects your feelings of happiness. If you are unhappy with not having a new pair of shoes, spend some time with a person who doesn’t have any feet. When you change your belief system, you change everything.

– Expectations . What you expect about your life will set you up for feelings of blessings or problems. If you are looking for the best, you will find it. If you are looking for something that isn’t working the way you want you will find that too. Consider the old phrase – “Two men looked through prison bars- one saw the mud, the other saw the stars.”

H –  Help others.  People who helped others were 20% happier than people who didn’t get involved in trying to make a positive difference. This can be done through your family, school, church or community and is the foundation of what happier people do. They add value to other people.

A –  Accept circumstances.  No amount of worry can pay your rent. Being mad and moody will not make your marriage better. Facing your life directly, and taking action to work on it is the key to finding greater happiness. Stuffing your feelings inside and being mad at the world only hurts you.

P –  Prayer.  Being a person of faith who believes that God has a greater plan for life is one of the keys to experiencing greater happiness, meaning and joy. Prayer is the process of giving up control of the things you can’t control to God, and then trusting in a power greater than yourself to manage the events and circumstances of life. The single greatest element to experience a life filled with happiness is to have a little faith.

– Perspective.  How you perceive a situation really does create your reality. If you believe people like you more when you smile and act friendly you will see that they do. When you have a positive mindset and outlook on life you will usually find more blessings than problems and that will create greater happiness.

– Yell “Yes”  to celebrate the blessings and good things in your life, every single day.

Happiness may be hard to define for some people but when you practice this simple formula you will be living out the wisdom of cartoonist Bill Keane who said, “God is Good and Life is a Gift. That’s why they call it the Present.”
About the Author –  Dwight Bain is a counselor and life coach focused on creating positive change based in Orlando. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Secret Lie of Narcissism

By Christine Hammond, LMHC

Beneath all of that bravado and charm lies a hidden secret the narcissist doesn’t want you to find. They will do anything to protect their secret from you.

They might lie about it.  Or they might divert your attention with an innovative story. Or they might project their secret onto you. Come close to figuring it out and the result is warfare for control.

Narcissists will use all types of abuse to dominate you. They use verbal (i.e. threats, intimidation), physical (i.e. restraining, choking), emotional (i.e. fear or guilt tactics), mental (i.e. gaslighting, silent treatment), financial (i.e. withholding, exploitation), sexual (i.e. forced, coerced) or spiritual (i.e. isolation from family, legalism) forms of abuse.

Their fear is this… information equals power. If you know their secret, you will then embarrass or humiliate them. This is the worst thing they can imagine... others thinking less of them.

So what is this precious secret? Hidden deep inside, all narcissists have an overwhelming feeling of insecurity. Their lack of self-worth stems from some unmet need. Find the unmet need and you have discovered the Achilles’ heel. Here are a few examples.

Need for love. Many narcissists are raised by narcissists who practice conditional instead of unconditional love. This uncertainty of love often manifests in the insatiable desire for affirmation, attention, intimacy, or sex. When they don’t feel loved, narcissists seek out anyone who will satisfy their need.

Need for safety. When a narcissist has been traumatized as a child and hurt by someone they love, the need for future safety becomes myopic. They are consumed by the need for security and protection for themselves and family members.  Unsafe environments breed the desire for greater control and stronger intensity.

Need for acceptance. Repeated bullying at a young age can cause a narcissist to feel like they don’t belong. This can create a sense of isolation in peer groups. Or instead some narcissists strive in vain to appear to be all things to everyone in order to be accepted. A lack of acceptance often brings out offensive behavior and overreaction to others.

Need for respect. Over use of the phrase, “That is disrespectful” indicates the narcissist feels everyone is against them. Their strong sense of entitlement and favorable treatment creates a tense atmosphere whenever they feel impertinence. Whenever they report being disrespected, expect a verbal or even physical attack as demonstration of their intolerance.

Need for fundamentals. This is not as common in younger narcissists because they have not endured an economical depression. But for the older generation who grew up during the Great Depression, the need for food, shelter, and clothing became a driving force. Not having the fundamentals leads to hording and miserly attitudes.

So what do you do with the new found Achilles’ heel? Recognize that at the heart of a narcissist is a very broken person with the same needs as everyone else. The difference is that their secret need is concealed because of their deep shame and guilt. This is no way justifies their poor behavior but it can help to explain it. How you handle the information is your choice.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Breaking the Worry Cycle

By: Cara Griffin-Locker

She sat with her breath held as the bills lay on the kitchen table.  She did not know how they were all going to get paid or how they would have anything left for food or daily essentials. She started to second guess her decision to leave the job that she had had for eight and a half years. She questioned the wisdom in losing the paid vacation and the health care benefits. Everything started to become overwhelming and the worrying was taking over. It was starting to consume her; what seemed possible now seemed so impossible and the thoughts of having to keep working was very unsettling.  The worrying started to take its toll physically, she found herself not being able to sleep and her appetite had decreased. She realized that she was losing control.

Most of us can probably relate to this scenario - worrying about bills, wanting to be a stay-at-home parent, etc.. If we take a minute we will realize that life is full of things to worry about: what to wear, the kids, vehicles, being able to pay the mortgage, will there ever be enough money? The list is endless; we can exhaust ourselves worrying about the day-to-day stuff. Worrying not only affects a person mentally but physically as well. It can take on many forms and ailments such as headaches, decreased sleep, loss of appetite, stomach aches and so on.

If you are like most people, you probably do not know how to stop the vicious cycle of worrying. Here are 5 helpful tips to help you take back the control that worrying has stolen.

1.       Write down your worries. Writing down your worries will determine whether they are productive or unproductive.  If a worry is productive then it is something that can be resolved now, for example needing to secure accommodation for a vacation, whereas unproductive worrying is something that cannot be resolved now, for example having to make payments on a bill you cannot afford to pay off. Also, when you write down the worrisome thoughts, think of realistic alternatives.

2.      Think about how you would handle your worst case scenario. This often allows for processing and decision-making in a rational state of mind.

3.      Take action on what you can change or have some control over. Evaluate the worrisome thoughts that you feel you cannot take any action on. Consider whether they are excessive or distorted and which ones have very little basis in reality.

4.      Practice relaxation and stress-reduction techniques. A simple thing you can do to help quiet your mind and calm your emotions and body is to breathe in slowly to the count of six and breathe out slowly to the count of six. Do this for 5 minutes; gradually increase to 20 minutes over time.

5.      Accept what you cannot change or have power over in your life. Praying can help with accepting the things we cannot change. Also, remember that God is bigger than any worry you may have. Giving things over to Him is vital.

Stopping the vicious cycle of worrying is a process and one that does not happen overnight.  However, if you start by changing your thought process and implementing these 5 helpful tools, you just may be on your way to a more worry-free life.