As a life and business coach, one of the things I coach people about regularly is the unhappiness or dissatisfaction they feel at work. What is fascinating is they think their unhappiness is because of their job. They tell me stories about how awful their boss, the culture, co-workers and commute are, and they believe if they could change it all, they would be happy.
Well, I have good and bad news – the good news is your career satisfaction is completely within your reach. The bad news? It might mean having to work on you versus getting a new job. So, the question is, how do you know when you should stay or go?
The first concept I would like to explore is the notion that your job is making you unhappy. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought my job was making me miserable. I blamed my boss, the environment, the work I had to do and pretty much anything else I could find to blame. Don’t get me wrong—I have never been a job-hopper, nor am I a pessimist, so I didn’t just leave a company. No, I made myself miserable the whole time I was there until I could finally justify moving to the next job or opportunity.
What I didn’t realize was that in blaming everyone and everything for my unhappiness, I had put myself in the victim position. As a victim of my job, my feelings would vacillate from unempowered to helpless to angry and frustrated. Intellectually I knew that my happiness was not dependent on external factors, but at the time I was not aware enough to realize that what I was doing was making myself unhappy.
I seriously thought if I could change jobs, I would be happy again. And this is the trap—thinking that if we change the circumstance (our job), we will be happy. The other part of the trap is thinking that if people would change, we would be happy. I can’t tell you how many times I went home complaining about my boss and what he did or didn’t do. I didn’t really truly understand that by wishing my boss would do or be something different, I was denying reality.
The worst part of it is that I changed jobs and, sure enough, a few months later I was dissatisfied again. This is what I mean about changing your circumstance thinking it will make you happy. What happens when we make a change is our thoughts are different than they were, and since our thoughts produce our feelings which produce our actions which create our results, it seems like we are happier, but it’s really because we are thinking thoughts that make us feel better. What’s crazy and encouraging at the same time is that in the middle of your terrible situation you can choose different thoughts.
Often what happens is we think our job (circumstance) is negative, but really it is neutral. It is our thoughts, not the circumstance, that are negative. First, we have to accept that all circumstances are neutral. A circumstance is verifiable in a court of law, so saying your job is terrible is not a circumstance. Why? Because terrible is an adjective which by its very nature is subjective and not verifiable. Think of it this way: you might be unhappy in that job, and someone else might love it. In fact, how many times have you looked around your current company and noticed that others are perfectly happy while you are unhappy? This supports the notion that some people are happy in that environment which means it is not inherently the environment.
I’m sure you are wondering by now when I am going to get to the point and tell you if you should stay or go. First, as an adult you can decide at any time to change careers, and there is nothing wrong with that. That is our prerogative as adults. However, my concern for those who specifically think that changing their job will change how they feel, my advice is to stay where you are until you can be happy in your current situation.
Why? Because if you can genuinely be happy where you are, you can make a clean decision. Not a decision based on unhappiness created from your thoughts. For example, I coached someone who was unhappy and decided to work on being happy before making a decision. It required a lot of self-reflection and awareness, but once she was happy, she actually decided to continue working for the company as an independent contractor instead of an employee.
In order to decide if you should stay or go, it is helpful to determine if you think you are unhappy because of your job, boss or whatever is bothering you. If you realize that your unhappiness is from your thoughts and not your job, this provides the space for you to work on yourself instead of changing jobs to feel better. It is completely up to you to decide when you want to make a change and how you want to feel about it.
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