Get off the hamster wheel this rentrée

Credit @LindaHervieux

Credit @LindaHervieux

«I am so fed up with my job. So ready to kiss it goodbye and be done with

«What do you dislike most about it?»

«It sucks all energy out of me. It’s only been 10 days since I came back from holidays and I already feel depleted. I run around like a headless chicken between work and home, never able to satisfy anyone. There’s nobody to thank me. No time to enjoy life at all. I need a job with the perfect life/balance and … some recognition

My client Claire dreaded each September when she had to face old challenges again. She was torn between multiple commitments, feeling overwhelmed, fearing that she’ll go down with another burnout, trying to please everyone and yet secretly hating her job. She also felt increasingly resentful of her boss, some enthusiastic-looking coworkers and even her husband.

Is there a bit of you that is feeling like Claire, battling with overwhelm, stress and resentment, blaming your current work, and imagining that a solution lies outside, at some Ideal Job, with the perfect work/life balance and a lot of recognition?

I hate to disappoint you but here’s the hard truth :.

Unless you understand and tackle your issues here and now, they’ll follow you whereever you go next.

You can choose to blame your current job and company, fantasize about a new job and deny your responsibility. Or you can roll up your sleeves, do some work and see if you feel better.

1. Dig deep and find the root cause of your dissatisfaction.

Once Claire went to the core of her unhappiness, she realized that she was excellent at keeping her commitments to others but … she rarely kept the promises she made to herself. Each year she told herself that she’d take better care of herself and her health, she’d spend more quality time with her children, and that she’d build in a better balance between work and rest of her life and that she’ll start planning for next step. Somehow all those good intentions went down the drain a few days into September.

What exactly makes you unhappy, overwhelmed, drained or bored? Is your daily life in line with your biggest values? Do you honor promises to yourself? Do you live and work with integrity ? Are you using your biggest talents ? Is there a story you’re telling yourself that is keeping you small and powerless? Keep looking until you find underlying issues. Whatever the source of your unhappiness is, once you’ve nailed the root causes, it’ll be easier to find a solution.

2. Claim your power back.

Through the inner exploration, Claire found that she was afraid of disappointing her boss, which stopped her from saying ‘no’ to anything. Hence the gigantic workload, overwhelm and burnout. Rather than defining her value and her self worth herself, she handed that job to her boss.

It’s your responsibility to make yourself feel happy and to validate yourself. Of course we all need feedback, but feedback, no matter how positive or negative, cannot and does not define your self-worth. You are already worthy and unique. The higher your self esteem, the more likely you are to feel that you can deal with whatever situation you face. If you feel sensitive to others’ moods and comments, learn how not to take things personally and how to inoculate yourself against negativity. Setting a goal – any goal, for instance running for a marathon or taking up exercise again – and achieving it is a proven way to boost your self-confidence. Knowing your greatest talents and strengths is another way.

3. Kiss perfectionism goodbye.

If you grew up with a demanding parent or perfectionist teachers, you’ve probably inherited that perfectionist gene. Claire used to put her life to pause whenever she encountered a problem. She would get tense, and could not relax until that problem was solved. This is a common trait to many high-achievers. There is no quick fix for this but becoming conscious of the pattern is the first step. Wise up to the fact that there will always be new problems. You have solved them in the past, you’ll do it again. Put things in perspective. My son used to ask me when I’d get upset  «Has someone died, mom?» Meditation and gratitude exercises will help you ground yourself. If perfectionism is stopping you, like Claire, from delegating effectively, ask yourself what that habit is costing you and what you will gain if you let it go.

4. Relationships are everything.

As an introvert, Claire didn’t feel comfortable asking for help or input, or brainstorming with others for better ideas. And her irritation towards outgoing colleagues who chit-chatted with everyone was hiding her own desire for a bit of that social ease.

We all need other people to thrive, advance in your career and be happy. When you know your value and feel confident, you will be able to be more open, generous and compassionate towards others. If you tend to come in to the office with a chip on your shoulder, ready to counterreact non-verbal negative language of a colleague, release all judgement. You will get your power back when you choose to respond in kindness. Learn what you contribute to the team dynamics and change it. Dedicate a bit of time to nurture relationships with people around and watch how things will start tranforming internally and externally.

5. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

When Claire uncovered how she undermined herself at work, she suddenly saw the elements she liked about her work: she enjoyed its international nature, and the projects that allowed her to use her favorite skills.

It’s never all black. Make a list of the positives in your job. Are you learning new skills, building up expertise, making new contacts? Does your work allow you to have a nice apartment, the sense of security that you won’t be on the street tomorrow? Even if your boss is a jerk and your workload seems overwhelming, your life is still 10 times better than one of a Syrian refugee separated from her loved ones. In the end you might still choose to look for new opportunities but reganining a positive perspective will help you feel more empowered and resourceful. 

6. Actions beats it all.

Instead of making new promises to herself, Claire’s decided to act. She asked for training in presentation skills, to boost her public speaking skills. As she practised asserting herself and setting new boundaries with her boss, her self-confidence picked up. She became less judgemental and delegated more effectively, and to her surprise, she noticed that her stuff and colleagues acted friendlier towards her.  She made a commitment to see her children 2 full evenings a week and have kept it. That victory gave her confidence to make another step: she committed to go for a 20 minutes walk during lunch break. Putting her health ahead boosted her self-esteem even further.

Ask yourself if there is anything you can do immediately to decrease the sense of dissatisfaction, overwhelm or dullness. An action that will make you feel better and is connected to a larger sense of meaning. Whether it’s updating your LinkedIn profile, setting up a coffee meeting with someone whose job you admire, taking a lateral move to escape the nuisance boss, or taking on a new project that allows you to use your talents more fully: any small action in the right direction will make you feel more confident and get you off that hamster wheel.

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