I’ve encountered many people who report being unhappy at work. This unhappiness may be based on a number of factors: daily hassles, problems with supervisors or managers, working within unrealistic expectations and timelines or feeling undervalued and unappreciated. Although many employees actually experience a lack of freedom and autonomy at work, still many more fail to take advantage of opportunities available to them. Sometimes, it’s a matter of focus. By that I mean being unable to see the possibilities for growth and fulfillment because of work conflicts, low morale, and discontentment, which can cloud our vision of anything else.
Throughout my vast work experiences, I found myself in such a position when a company I worked with was in a state of transition. During this change process, everyone was required to work with the bare necessities but still required to produce above and beyond what was possible within the designated work day. Add to those pressures, significant interpersonal conflict among many of the employees and administrators who were less than supportive and the result was wide-spread work place dissatisfaction. For a few months, I found myself caught up in the tension at work as I witnessed unfair treatment of coworkers, and a lack of understanding among the “powers that be” regarding what was needed to have a psychologically healthy work place which would provide outstanding care for employees as well as customers. After weeks of praying for direction and clarification of my purpose in this setting, I came to understand that in spite of the multitude of problems evident, the blessings were still present. However, I would not be able to see or appreciate them as long as I was focused on what was wrong.
This revelation came as a result of reading and meditating on a story in the Bible of the 10 spies that went to scope out the land of Canaan, “the promised land” , for the Israelites (Numbers 13). Although the land was populated with “giants”, it was also filled with “milk and honey” and everything they had dreamed of experiencing. When the spies came back and reported what they saw, eight of them emphasized the giants and how the Israelites were like grasshoppers compared to them. The remaining two, Joshua and Caleb were able to appreciate and convey the bountiful blessings that awaited them, just as the Lord promised.
As I reflected on this, I realized that I was indeed missing out on my blessings at work because of my focus on the giants. Although nothing had changed at work, and it didn’t look as though anything would be changing in the near future, I recognized that I needed a different experience. And in order to have a different experience, I needed to shift my perspective and focus on those elements, no matter how small they seemed at first that I liked at work. This was probably one of my most empowering and, I’ll add, life-changing revelations for me. Once I made the decision to change my outlook, I began to see things differently and respond to the stressors in a new way. I focused more on nurturing my relationships with co-workers. I made a concerted effort to leave the building during lunch at least 2-3x/week. During the times that I ate indoors, I ate with co-workers (not at my desk) and we didn’t talk shop or complain about work during those times! As I made these changes and began to experience a positive mood more consistently throughout the day, I was able to be more innovative in my work, which brought more professional fulfillment. I recall feeling amazed at how a revelation led to a decision to shift my perspective and how that shift led to a significant improvement in thoughts, mood, and actions. This represents one of many examples of how changing my focus was truly transforming.
Connecting the Dots:
What area of your life could benefit from a shift in focus?
If you were to look past those “giants”, what blessings would you see?
Are you ready to have a different experience at work, at home, in your relationships? If so, what would shifting your focus look like?
What will you do now as a result of this shift?
I invite you to share your revelations, thoughts, and experiences.
Dr. Leslie Bessellieu is a clinical psychologist and personal/executive life coach who founded Transformations Consulting & Leadership Development, LLC. Feel free to check out her website: www.transformationscoach.net for more information.