Growing up, I remember listening to the Stephen Stills song “Love the One You’re With” on the radio, and thinking, “I really don’t get these lyrics.” Why should you “love the one you’re with,” if you really want to be with someone else, or if you really don’t like the “one you’re with” to begin with?
Now, as a mature adult (some of the time!), I have begun to understand Stills’ way of thinking. I’ve tried to apply this to my life many times:
“I don’t want to be at this boring (work-related) dinner, but I have to, so I might as well enjoy it.”
Or, “Ugh, I don’t want to talk with her, but I guess I should start up a conversation.”
I’ve always learned so much from these situations. I usually wind up learning something new, or enjoying someone’s company when I really didn’t expect to.
The same goes for our careers. Can we love where we are in our professions, without it being exactly where we want to be? It’s really unpleasant to work for someone you have no respect for, or who has no respect for you. Or maybe you feel it’s awful just to work for someone else at all! It can also be just as disheartening to work for yourself, as I do, as a solo practitioner, with no one to bounce ideas off of! And your clients—well, they’re often demanding and unappreciative. What is the answer for being in a position where you just want to run away?
Love where we are! But how do we do this? I have found three practices very helpful:
- Gratitude: I thank the Universe (substitute your term of choice: God, the divine, etc.) for providing me with a job in the first place, with a salary, with clients, with a roof over my head. Thinking in this way retrains our brain. We understand that we are much better off than many others, and that we can find joy in many aspects of what we do. We focus on the good and we are grateful for what we do: how we somehow manage to service even the most difficult clients, in a professional and ethical manner. And how we do our best to “get it right”. One trick: I always try to think the “next best thought.” When I am speaking with a difficult client, sometimes the next best thought can only be, “I know I’ll be off the phone in just five minutes with this difficult person.” And somehow that gives me the patience and fortitude to last until the time is up, and actually allows me to breathe; I can actually feel my stress dissolving! I also feel grateful that I am not that difficult a person (most of the time!). I try to lift my feelings by being hopeful and optimistic, and not negative or depressed, about my current situation.
- Compassion: Trying to see things from another’s perspective is also a tool that proves helpful in an unhappy situation. What is my boss really thinking when he asks me to stay late to finish a brief? What kind of pressure is he under from his superior? Why is my client being rude? Did she just have a fight with her husband? We can only hope that we can be treated with this same understanding when we say hurtful things to, or make demands of, others.
- Everything is unfolding exactly as it should be. Yes, it’s true. All of these circumstances and situations have been put into our lives for a reason. The difficult, messy parts of our lives give us food for thought, lessons to be learned and, most importantly, impetus to change. The circumstances provide us with a jumping off point that can only help to better our lives.
Having these tools to use in difficult times can make a huge difference in our world view, and helps us in making decisions as to what our next steps should be. It provides clarity and thoughtfulness in our approach, instead of acting in haste, or in anger and frustration. I use these practices frequently in my own life, both personal and professional, and have found a more peaceful resolution and a kinder demeanor come from just a small shift in attitude.