These are some thoughts I compiled a while back for when things at work are tough and advice on “how to quit your job” or “follow your passion” just doesn’t cut it. When I first wrote this piece, I was navigating a particularly difficult environment. Packaging my thoughts through the lens of Job Advice was a way for me to explore underlying questions of dignity and the human spirit, while also expressing an experience that at the time I didn’t know how to openly talk about.
The aftermath of the elections has resurfaced these topics for me in a big way. It’s reminded me of what it feels like for another human being to make someone feel small and the way that can call into question our sense of worth and lead us to behave accordingly. In my own experience I discovered how easy it can be to subconsciously and unintentionally adopt the mindset and behaviors of your environment. Needless to say, I learned a lot about compassion during this time and the importance of connecting with our humanity, especially when it is hard.
For those who are trying to figure out ways to exist in an imperfect culture, here are some things that helped me navigate a difficult environment. While these points are framed in the context of work, I think they can also be applied more broadly.
1. GET PERSPECTIVE
Build your own foundation outside of the job that frames the larger sum of your activities and tells the full story of who you are and what you’re capable of. Try not to let things like credentials and hierarchy define you. By being very intentional about choosing your vantage point, you can create the playing field that elevates you above your circumstances.
2. BE KIND
Take a step back and try to be mindful about how you show up in relation to your circumstances. Don’t react, don’t let them define you. Be kind to yourself and to those around you. Consider the likelihood that those who you may be conflict with, are also facing frustration and challenges in showing up day after day.
3. DON’T FREAK OUT
Had a bad day or a crappy meeting? Don’t freak out. Pause, maybe go on a walk. Then deliberately and consistently take small steps towards your larger goal or new opportunities. Everything changes. Have faith in your ability to guide yourself towards a better future.
4. FUEL UP
Being in a bad work situation can be really draining. Finding ways to refuel yourself is crucial because it keeps your spirit alive. It gives you the spark and the motivation to keep going. If you’re not being fueled up by your job, find sources outside of work or talk to your manager or team about finding ways to interject little activities that energize you.
5. LET THERE BE HOPE
Do everything it takes to maintain moments of joy and general optimism. This is the number one priority. There must be hope. Hope in the present moment, hope that the current circumstances can change, hope for a better future.
Lastly, while it’s important to keep showing up in less than ideal circumstances, it’s also important to not put our lives on hold until we find ourselves in a better situation. Make your journey your asset. Draw on your creativity to make your situation work for you, to reap the lesson, to leapfrog beyond your constraints. And remember, “hope inspires the good to reveal itself.”
This post is part of a series called Things Unfinished. It is an exploration of creative endeavors that I started, but never completed. In many ways it is also an inventory of my fears.