Last week was a tough one. It was one of those weeks that really challenged my resolve to be positive and present. Business trips are not my thing. I’m not a fan of being on the road, away from the people I love most and out of sync with my daily routines. Every time I travel for business and am forced to sit through meeting after meeting discussing topics that are not of interest to me, I think to myself, “I have to quit my job.” Trip after trip, I have the same experience, but when I come back, I get settled into my routine and forget about it until the next trip. But this trip was different. This trip I was not only required to do all of the things I dread—organizing meetings, taking notes on dull topics, listening to others talk about how great they are—but I also found myself in a very uncomfortable situation. I’m not going to get into the details of it (let’s just say it involved someone’s inappropriate behavior and a lot of crying on my part), but it was, in my opinion, a huge sign that I am not in the right place, career-wise. That moment reaffirmed what I've known all along: I am in desperate need of a new job.
For almost as long as I’ve been working at my job, I’ve had this thought in my mind. To be perfectly honest (and at the risk of sounding quite negative): I don’t like my job. I like the people I work with. I like feeling like, indirectly, I’m making a difference in the world. But the actual job itself? I’m not a fan. The highlights of my day come when I’m working on my blog or reading other blogs or doing anything but any task that’s actually in my job description. When I start thinking about it, it makes me angry. Why have I stayed in this job for as long as I have? Why am I not doing something that motivates and excites me? Why have I been so incredibly scared of change, to the point that I’ve stayed when I know I should go? All last week, as I found myself sitting through meeting after meeting, my mind was racing with these questions. Minutes ticked by and the questions grew louder and louder. I could no longer ignore them. They were taking over the positive side of me, the side that really wanted to believe that I could keep doing my job even though I didn’t love it.
I was sitting in one meeting, staring up at the EXIT sign on the wall and all I could think was, “That’s what I need to do. I need to put my pen down, stop taking notes, get up, and exit this situation.” Of course it’s not that easy. As tempting as it has been to simply quit, that’s not the best, most logical plan. What would I do about money? Health insurance? What if I couldn’t find another job? What if the next job I went to was worse than this one? What if I had no time for blogging or writing? The questions kept coming and with each passing moment I grew more and more afraid. The EXIT sign might have been glowing right in my face, but it wasn’t all that easy to get up and walk through the door.
I thought about leaving all day. I went online during the breaks between meetings and applied for jobs. I wracked my brain for contacts and connections and ideas. By that night I was in a bit of a state, upset that I was unhappy in my career and distraught that I was unable to find an instant solution to the problem. It was really hard to be positive about this and even harder to stay in the present, since it was the present that was making me so unhappy. It was clear to me that I’d been scared to change and, by in giving into that fear, I had found myself nearly three years into a job that wasn't at all me. Though I’d always wanted a new job desperately, I was—and still am—terrified at the thought of going somewhere new.
One day while I was away, I woke to another day of meetings and in my in-box found this quote by Betty Bender: “Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile... initially scared me to death.” When I read that my heart started beating faster. It made me see so clearly that I’m going to have to take some risks, make some big changes, if I really want to have a job that’s worthwhile for me. It’s terrifying, but it’s something I know I have to do. Of course, being me, I want it done instantly. I want to quit and job hunt all day. I want to have the perfect new job by the end of the month. As anyone who’s ever looked for a job knows, this is not how it usually works.
In typical Dani fashion, I was thinking at high speed, trying to assess the best plan of attack, the best way to get a new, awesome job in the shortest amount of time. As my mind was racing from the quote I’d just read, I opened the next email in my in-box and read my horoscope. It said: “You're itching to jump ahead quickly -- but you can tell that you can't do so just yet. It's a good time for you to marshal your resources and wait a little longer until you know the time is right.” Though emotionally the time feels right to leave my job, I know it’s not the most logical choice for me right now. I have to be patient. I have to wait for the right opportunities to come my way. Or, rather, I need to create the opportunities for myself. Acting impulsively isn’t going to help me right now. In fact, it’s likely to cause more stress and make finding the right new job even more difficult. Hard as it is (especially when on business trips) for me to stay at my job, it’s important that I be patient. It’s important that I “wait a little longer until I know the time is right.”
I know the timing will never be perfect and there’s never a good time to make a big change, but I need to be careful and logical and not always jump ahead the way I love to do. I may not be happy with my job right now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be positive. What’s the difference, you ask? I might know for a fact that I’m not going to be happy at work, but I also know that I can be positive about the work I am doing. I can look for the things that are good about my job, and, yes, there are plenty of good things about my job. I have the ability to learn and try new things. Even though I hate the business trips, sometimes the travel is interesting and inspiring. I work with great people, people who really encourage me to do well and want me to succeed. There are great things about my job. For now, I need to focus on those things and make the most of them. It's not easy for me to do this right now, but I've come up with a list of ideas of how I can make the most of my job right now even though I desperately want to change it. Here are my ideas for making the most of the moments I have (even when they're not ideal...):
How to Be Positive When You're Not Living Your Dream
- Try as hard as you can to be in the moment. Okay, I know this sounds like the opposite of what anyone (me included!) would want to do when s/he is having a hard time. When you're in a tough spot, the last thing you want to do is keep reminding yourself that you're in that spot. But try to think about it on a smaller level. Yes, I hate being on a business trip, but when I'm walking to meetings, I try to think about the things that are happening to me in that exact moment. I try to think about the sun shining on my face, about the the interest people I'm passing by on the street. I think about the fact that it's warmer than home and that I'm lucky not to be feeling sick or cold or upset. When I start focusing on the tiny little bits of the moment (and not thinking ahead to the god-awful meeting I'm about to attend), everything seems a little bit better. Try it the next time you're doing something you don't want to do. I bet you'll find it a lot more enjoyable than you thought!
- Avoid looking at the worst in things. Last week I really found myself looking at the worst in everything. Once I started looking for the bad, it was like a downward spiral. I started seeing the bad things everywhere. Don't make the same mistake I did. While it's going to be pretty much impossible to completely ignore the things that are bothering you (and that's also not very healthy to do), it's important that you don't go around seeking the bad things. It's so easy to find the negative things about a situation when you look for them, so don't. You're only going to make yourself feel a lot worse (as I did last week) and you're not going to change anything. Focus your attention on the good (or on how you can make things good in the future), and you'll make a lot more out of your current situation. Being positive can impact your mental, emotional, and physical health so even if you're in a bad situation, you're going to be a lot better off if you have a positive attitude about it.
- Think about what you want to change. Now I don't think it's super healthy to spend all of your time sitting around thinking about what you want to change since that is drawing your attention toward the negative things, but I do think it's important to consider what you would like to be better and how you might go about making it better. When I was sitting in meetings all week, I took some time to think about how I would want to be living my life and what it is that I really want to be doing. I realized that, on a high level, I want to change my job. But I also discovered that I wanted to change my attitude (which is why I'm writing this post!). I uncovered that it wouldn't be the best idea to just quit my job and hop on a plane back home, so I had to change my attitude about my situation. Thinking about what you want to change can help you realize that the situation you're in doesn't have to be permanent. Maybe you have to stay in it for a little while, but there is hope that in the future you will be able to be in a position that makes you very happy and fulfilled.
- Find other ways to enjoy your life. It's hard when things are going wrong in one area of life to want to focus on anything else. When I'm miserable at my job, I want to put all of my attention and effort into finding a new job. I have spent a great deal of time over the last week venting and discussing and overanalyzing and feeling downright stuck in the spot I am in now. I've been more unhappy over the past week than I've been in a long time. But you know why that is? Because I was putting all of my thoughts and effort into one area of my life -- my job. In reality, I'm a lot more than just the job I do Monday through Friday. I have a social life, a love life, a blogging life, a great life. I have a lot going for me that has nothing whatsoever to do with my job. While I've been focusing on the one aspect of my life that's suffering (my career), the other aspects of my life that are great have still been there. It's my new resolve to spend more time focusing on the things that make me happy, while still spending time figuring out how to get out of the situation that's making me unhappy. I'm not going to ignore my unhappiness at work, but I'm not going to let it become the center of my life either.
Right now I'm going to do the best I can do make the most of the moments I have. I know that I'm not happy about work and I know I need to make some big changes, but I don't have to miserable until I make those dreams of mine come true. I feel as if I've just woken up and realize that I need to change, that I have to change. As scared as I might be of the idea of getting a new job, I’m going to work as hard as I can to create opportunities for myself -- and while I'm doing that I'm going to have a positive attitude. My goal right now is to be proactive and positive. So now I’m off to research jobs and find out how I can do what I’ve always loved—writing—as a career. And, hey, if any of you know of any writing/editing/creative gigs out there, feel free to let me know about them. I’m here, I'm finally awake, and I’m ready for a change.
How do you stay positive in a situation you can't change?
How do you overcome fears about change?