I am going to be writing a series on the idea that if we can change the way we look at stress and our personal power we can be more effective in how we approach finding a job and how we handle the pressures of the job.
This isn’t just about taking deep breaths and getting a group together to sing Kumbaya. It’s about rethinking a lot of things and then bringing in new thoughts and behaviors. I start with the premise that if you don’t change the way you think, you won’t change the way you behave – at least not for very long.
Let’s look at how screwed up our thinking is about stress. For example, how many times did you hear during the holiday season about how stressful the holidays are. “Christmas just drives me crazy.” This all comes from our distorted belief that “stress” is somehow “out there” in the world and not a result of our thinking processes. The word stress has gone from a word representing a physiological internal process to one representing a nebulous force out there in the world. We are “under stress” and “coping with stress” and dealing with “stressful jobs” and “stressful holidays.” We have no problem saying that finding a job is a “stressful” situation.
But play with this thought; Stress isn’t out there. All that is out there are situations. They might be situations we like or don’t like, but whether we have this adverse “stressful” physiological reaction happening in us depends on how we think about those situations. Now I know you’ve heard this before. There are a lot of writers and speakers who sort of talk the talk – that we must be responsible for our lives etc. But when push comes to shove they still talk the talk of victims. “How did that event make you feel?” is a favorite question of parents and counselors. “How does not having a job make you feel?” These experts think they are really doing a good job of getting to your feelings. The only problem is that the question they ask implies that the event – whatever it is – is totally in control of your feelings. Wrong.
Or here’s a popular statement at stress conferences; “Stress is part of life. The only people who don’t have stress are dead people.” The first time I heard that 30 plus years ago I thought, “There’s a hell of a choice. Stress or dead.” It’s a stupid statement.
I have worked with people in all types of tragic circumstances including people who have had their children murdered. Some people stay angry and hateful and bitter, and they obviously can make a good case for that. Others however choose not to go in that direction. One person told me and a group of survivors I was talking to that it finally dawned on him after waking up every day for ten years and hating the person who killed his daughter that she deserved better than that from him. He said that she hadn’t lived all those years just for him to hate someone. So don’t tell me you can’t help what you think. You are not the tail on the end of the dog. You have choices.
Power is about choices. If you don’t see the choices you don’t see the power.
If you are going crazy finding a job, the odds are you are telling yourself things (and that is a choice!) that is making it much worse. “I always knew I was a loser.” “I’ll never get what I want.” And then when you have an interview I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re telling yourself, “Oh my God. I have to get this. If I don’t get it I’ll never get another chance.” Everything is riding on this.” Talk about doing a number on yourself!
I guarantee you though, that if you keep seeing the power in your life as outside of you – “I can’t be happy until I get a job,” you will be stuck until you die because even when you get the job you will just transfer that thinking to something else. However if you start to accept some responsibility for your inner life, you will begin to see that the way you think is triggering most of your stress response.
I realize that changing the way you think is very difficult. When I speak about this at my presentations I sometimes have people say, “Easier said than done.” Well, duh! It is easier said than done. Life is easier said than done. But difficult is not impossible. It’s just difficult.
If you are tired of your life being a mess, make different choices. Just because you’re screwed up don’t blame Christmas or your boss or your job status. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Dr. Phil just saying “Build a bridge and get over it,” as if it’s simple. This is hard to do. The first time you start to change your thinking, your life in general still might not be great, but you will start to feel a certain sense of power coming back. Take back your mind. Take back your life.