This week I met up with 3 school friends after an incredible 41 years! Apart from some hair loss and the odd wrinkle here and there, we were essentially the same guys that went to school together during the late 60’s early 70’s. Incredibly though, we soon picked up from when we last met as if it were only last week.
It did however take us perhaps an hour or so of finding out what we had done over the previous 4 decades. One of the major themes that cropped up was that we have all worked for major corporations and yet now we were all self employed. Why was that? In the main, it was down to interaction with other people at work and not necessarily the job itself. Hidden agendas, strange bosses and egotistical peers had its toil on what we have done on a regular basis to earn the ‘dosh’.
Current HR research shows how many people are disengaged, dissatisfied, and frustrated at work, we wondered if it were possible to simply love what you do in your current job? And therefore, being in charge of your business life/destiny was necessarily a good or great thing? We all thought it was.
Finding a job you love is age-old advice. Confucius probably has the best longstanding quote about “do what you love.” His words, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” have been repeated throughout history.
Or consider Warren Buffett’s words, “Take a job that you love.” And let’s not forget the prolific thoughts of Maya Angelou who said “…pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
Does anyone advocate the opposite approach—telling people to love what they do? We did not have to look far to find the advice of Steve Jobs who said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Curious about our own experiences in the workplace, we began reviewing previous job titles we have had over the years.
Between the four of us, we’ve held titles like: lawyer, market research manager, property consultant, tax inspector, management consultant, senior auditor, and the list goes on. As we discussed our roles, we couldn’t help but talk about the positions we loved, and those that we knew weren’t the perfect fit. Are we typical of most workers today? Science actually gives us some insight.
The “find a job you love” advice listed above is easy to buy into for those who love their jobs. But for those who still don’t love their work, should they quit their current job and chase the dream of the job they would love? Or can people learn to find meaning and success in their current job? The answer is ‘yes.’
And here’s why.
Research shows that great work (award-winning work) is produced when people focus on doing something others love.
The Great Work Study showed that 88% of projects that earned awards began with an employee asking their own version of the question, “What difference could I make that other people would love?”
However, research is also showing that the trend for youngsters to find a ‘job for life’ following formal education is not necessarily the case anymore. However, trend studies are also showing that they will in all likelihood, not make the decision to try out new employment, or even to work solely for themselves until their mid 30’s.
For us 4 old fogies, we had made the ‘go it alone’ decision at the start of our 50’s, and all of us were very happy to be in that ‘world’.
The bottom line was that although you could enjoy the work in a big corporation, the chances were that the rules, regulations and inter-personal squabbles might knock the icing off that particular cake.
Going it alone is fantastic, as you can only moan at yourself and of course, we only have this life, so lets get on and enjoy all of it!
Disappointments - get over them!
Disappointment tends to hit us when things don’t work out the way we had hoped. While it may be mild, such as just missing a green light on your way to work, it could also be something more substantial, like not getting that promotion you were working so hard for.
When it comes to major disappointments like the one above, it's important to do what you can to move past it as quickly as possible.
Allowing yourself to wallow in self pity may seem tempting, but in the end you don't gain anything and dwelling too long on the times you've let yourself down, or been let down by others is likely to do more harm than good.
Let go of your anxiety
The first thing you need to do is let it out. This does not mean lashing out at others, for that would be pointless. No one will ever be able to understand your disappointment as much as you do.
Crying is a wonderful and natural way to release emotion – and strangely enough, you will feel better for having a good cry, be you male or female. It is perfectly OK to feel bad about what happened for some time. However, unless you get it out of your system, you will never be able to move on.
Think rationally – if you can
This is what you may think of as putting things into perspective. Will what happened to you be relevant one year from now? How about a month from today? A week?
Sometimes, you might have suffered a setback at work. You might think it will mar your long-term career, but a disappointment can be for the better. Some people get fired up in the face of setbacks and start doing better at work, which forces management to sit up and take notice; and they eventually accomplish even more than they would have without encountering those setbacks.
For some people, it is an opportunity to move on to another employer – and still get a pay rise, or maybe that senior position that they wanted. This is how obstacles are often the stepping stones to success.
No door ever closes without another opening. But the problem is we keep staring too long at the door which is closed, instead of paying attention to the one which has just opened up.
But what often happens is that we are unable to think clearly, when our emotions cloud our judgment. This is perfectly understandable. In such a scenario, you would do well to talk to a trusted colleague, friend or family member, who will lend you his/her shoulder to cry on, and offer sympathetic advice. Another person’s perspective of the matter might be just what you need to get out of the funk you find yourself in.
Is this really something to get disappointed about? Having someone steal your car is terrible, sure – but is it as bad as your car getting written off in an accident? So while things may look grim from your point of view, it's important to keep in mind that things could be worse.
Count your blessings
We often focus on what we don’t have or what we didn’t get, instead of what we already have.
Try taking a little time to reflect on what is going right rather than what's going wrong. You may have had a terrible day, but in the end it's just one day and there's always tomorrow to look forward to.
If you're healthy, with food in your fridge a roof over your head and money in the bank (even if it's not as much as you wish), you're still doing a lot better compared to the millions who can't say the same.
If you've got good friends or a family that really cares about you, then there's still certainly a lot you can still look forward to.
In the grand scheme of things, even being able to read this post puts you ahead of those who never had to opportunity to learn how to read or get an education. Think about that…
Being grateful for what you have is a definite way to help you shrug off your disappointment. What is more, it can also help you be less affected by disappointment in the future when something undesirable happens.
Take time to heal
If it is a major disappointment, you need to take your mind off it. Do something that you enjoy. Then when you come back to the situation, you will find that you don’t feel as bad as before.
Self healing is an important element to dealing with disappointment – you can do it.
Take time to recognise your really good points and uniqueness in your life will aid your healing. We often spend time beating ourselves up over so called ‘failures’, but how often do we spend time congratulating ourselves and giving ourselves a good pat on the back?
See if there is anything you can learn
Most of the time, there is always a lesson to be learned. There are plenty of people who deal with disappointment the right way – by making the effort to ensure similar disappointing situations can be avoided in the future. This might require you to make changes, but it will be worth it. If you failed an exam, your best recourse may simply be to study harder.
If something didn’t happen, it could be because something better is meant to happen. Michelle Yeoh was so set on being a ballerina that she trained in ballet right from the age of four. Just imagine how crushed she must have been when told that she could never ever pursue her dream because of a spinal injury that she suffered as a teenager. She turned her focus to choreography, which led her to drama, and then film. Today, she is an internationally renowned actor.
Simply Accept that disappointment is a part of life but limit its affect
At the end of the day, you simply need to come to terms that life is always going to have its ups and downs. If you lived a life without any problems or challenges to overcome, it would eventually be dull and hardly worth living.
So in its own way, the occasional disappointment that comes once in a while – just like happiness – is a good thing. It helps you stay grounded and balanced.
Failure is indeed an option
So, lets turn this around and accept that failing could be the inevitable outcome. What then?
After overcoming obstacles all of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King was convinced that “the measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and adversity”
In our society, ‘fail’ has become an objectionable four-letter word, both personally and in business. We rarely use it, and most of us try not to even think about it, often resorting to blaming others about our personal misfortunes or perceived ‘failures’.
Young children learn early on that failing is not acceptable behaviour. In some cases, children are so frightened of failure that they often will not try out a new sport or accept a new challenge like learning a language. They have been conditioned to see failure as too harmful, too destructive and therefore to be avoided at all costs. It is far easier to say no and stay in a ‘comfortable’ place, than to risk ridicule from your peers and the outside world.
History is littered with examples of ‘failure’ that turned in some ways to triumph or success. The retreat of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk in 1940, Apollo 13’s abortive space mission, Earnest Shackleton’s Antarctica disaster are all examples of ‘failures’ that turned into triumphs of some sort. I too, have faced ‘failure’. My Indian Ocean Row in 2003 was a failure – in that we did not get to the end goal of rowing across an ocean. Did I find it easy to accept then – no. Do I find it easier to accept now – yes. I see it now as a triumph in understanding and developing myself.
Conversely by turning it around, it is also interesting that success is usually preceded by failure. In fact, most successful people today find that their success is the result of persisting beyond the disappointments and failures. Usually, not one failure but many failures enables them to discover their route to success.
A great example of course is Thomas Edison and his desire to perfect the electric incandescent light bulb. Many ‘failures’ eventually led him to success and his now famous quote “We now know a thousand ways how not to build a light bulb”. A good 10 minute talk about present day failures being something that you can embrace and even applaud can be found in the TED talk by Astro Teller called ‘The unexpected benefit of celebrating failure’ http://www.ted.com/talks/astro_teller_the_unexpected_benefit_of_celebrating_failure/transcript?language=en - t-527199
So, what choices do we have when faced with potential or actual failure?
Without doubt, the easiest choice is to be satisfied with failure and give up entirely. I mean completely walking away from something and never thinking about it again - ever. However, I say a very real option is to be persistent in achieving success, and ‘sticking in there’ by thinking about the motivation behind these 3 ideas:
So, it is up to you entirely what to do when things get tough – elicit help of course, work hard naturally, but keep going yourself is the key. Shifting perspective is sometimes more powerful than being smart, so a different perspective on the feeling and word ‘failure’ can bring unexpected results. You can most certainly do much more than you think you are capable of.
Finally, I give you one of my favourite quotes ever. It sums up what we all know to be true. No-one can knock the person who actually tried and gave it their best, whatever the outcome.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat”.
To be blunt if you want to succeed at anything, you will need to have a certain level of confidence.
This does not mean that you need to boldly and fearlessly attack every aspect of life. We are not all extroverted and seemingly confident people. There will be areas however where you know yourself that you lack in confidence, suffer from nerves or even feel physically unwell.
The first thing you need to do is to identify where you need more confidence, and where you do not. For example, you maybe nervous of public speaking (most people are), and you need to get over those nerves in order to succeed. In this case, you will need to gain confidence in speaking in front of people.
If you lack confidence in cooking a good meal however, that more than likely will not affect to your speaking ability! So, you need to identify where you want to gain confidence, and where a lack of confidence does not really matter. So, this means we can gain gain confidence in many areas, - and in those we want to!
Succeed in what you do
One of the dangers of a lack of confidence is that it can fuel failure. Failure then leads to decreased confidence, which then leads to failure, which leads to well… you can see it is a self fulfilling circle. Lack of confidence and failure feed on each other, and they will drag you down.
So, the first key to gaining confidence (could be obvious this one!) is to succeed rather than fail. How do we do that?
Clever but small goals initially
Your first successes do not need to be major successes. You just need to succeed at something to start lifting yourself up, and break out of the failure/lack of confidence cycle.
Choose a small goal to achieve. It could be anything you want, and does not necessarily need to be seen by others – you just to pick on a goal that you want to achieve. Focus and set your mind on achieving this goal. Give yourself a realistic time frame, and then determine what you need to in order to succeed.
Once you achieve this goal, you will start to see that you can succeed. Keep setting yourself small goals, and work towards achieving them. Successes here will lead to confidence, which will lead to more success, and so on. Before long, you will be able to attack those identified critical areas where you lack confidence.
Find and model confident people
Find mentors to help you along. Seek out someone who at least appears to be confident and watch them. In NLP we call this modelling - seeing, hearing and feeling what they are doing to be able to do what they do! Also find groups and organizations that deal with the specific area will help you to build confidence.
Do not confuse confidence with arrogance. Being confident is a good thing, being arrogant is a bad thing. Confidence is the idea that you can achieve something and that you can succeed. Arrogance is the idea that you are better than others.
Smile at your vulnerability
Embracing your vulnerability and no longer hiding from it means that you’re no longer concerned about others’ judgment of you. When you act in such a manner your relationship and confidence with yourself surges. This is strength and confidence combined!
The more you do this the more you will actually grow in confidence. So the paradox to being more confident is that you need to accept and embrace your frailty, and, then, your confidence will likely grow. If you try to disguise your insecurity, you betray yourself and stay mired in insecurity.
Confidence is the key to succeeding in any aspect of life. Whether you want to succeed in business, creative endeavours, fitness, weight loss or family, you need to have a certain degree of confidence. Start by setting yourself small goals, and find small successes. Build on those successes and you will find yourself gaining confidence in all areas of your life. Once you have confidence and success, then you can start helping those who lack confidence themselves. That's a great thing to be able to do!