What do you do with tension between the very stuff of who you are and how you protect your livelihood?
When it comes to working for a living, it seems you must meet the requirements of work however that comes about.
Else you don’t make a living, right?
Or at least that’s how things are often set up in the prevailing culture, with money and all that.
So what do you do with intense emotions or with those times when your individual needs are seemingly at odds with what’s going on with work?
A luxury dilemma?
It’s impossible to proceed with this question without acknowledging that in many places on this planet, work is still the stuff of harsh survival.
When there’s work related pain, someone or a voice inside you will be quick to argue with it saying that “at least you’ve got regular work”.
I want to feel the tragedy of harsh working conditions that exists for many people and to remember that our individual efforts are interconnected with the social structures we live in.
And, I’m exploring the question of inner life at work for situations where there’s room enough, even if only just, to see where your choices CAN make a difference.
You cannot escape your social context but you can choose how you respond to it.
Which is where your inner life comes in.
When I reflect on my most painful work experiences, there’s one common denominator.
I wonder if you’ll recognise it?
When things were bad, they were especially intimidating where I thought there were no better alternatives available.
When I was working in language schools, I loved the teaching and contact with the students. But I really struggled with the politics and the atmosphere in the staff room.
I took it hard, most days, and developed debilitating migraines as a result.
To survive, to protect my job, I pushed to deliver good lessons and pushed my experiences of discomfort away.
I told myself I should be grateful that I could work in my field at all. I had had a spree of lousy jobs at first on arriving in UK.
If I left that job, I thought, I’d have no alternatives but returning to hardship.
On and on it went, thinking that I had to choose between working OR attending to my wellbeing.
It never occurred to me that it didn’t have to be an “either, or”.
In my worldview and in my social circles back in the nineties, inner life was just not part of work conversation.
Thankfully, migraines changed all that 😉
If you know about vomiting from pain, you’ll know that it was a hard prompt to rethink the work vs. wellbeing issue.
And yet I’m glad for my migraines because being stuck in thinking that I had to choose between work and wellbeing was even worse.
Some things that help no matter what
Looking back, there were so MANY better options in handling the staff room tension.
1. I could have found more excuses to nip out to revive, such as going for a walk or talking to the students instead.
2. Empathy for whatever was underneath the bitching would have made it easier to be around.
3. Admitting and grieving my discomfort would have given me relief and it would have helped me to move on sooner.
There’s more but I don’t want to bore you.
Today, I call one of my coaching programs “Better Options” because I want to support people to access happier alternatives without having to suffer as much as I did to discover they exist.
For those who have been struggling at work like me, you may also wish to know that life itself is a player in what happens.
The truth of the situation will keep expressing itself in your thoughts and feelings.
Your body, your heart and your interactions will keep mirroring what’s going on back to you. They are there, your inner life is there to increase your chances of discovering better options.
For too many people still, inner life and especially the world of emotions seem like things that should be left at the door as you start work.
People are afraid that there isn’t enough time or resources to both do a good job and track wellbeing. When they are worried about that, they will warn you against “navel gazing”.
And certainly, in reaction to “busy is better” bias in the culture, people have gone to the other extreme: of partying or processing to the detriment of taking care of what needs to be done.
For me, though, bringing inner life to work is not an optional extra but a condition for effectiveness and wellbeing.
One example would be how often clients push and shove without progress, just like I did in my employment years, only to discover an obvious and doable improvement very soon into a session with me.
Not because I’m a good coach (even though I am 🙂 but because they’ve stopped to consider what it is they’re actually pushing and shoving FOR.
Engaging your inner life in your work life increases effectiveness because it brings you spiritual clarity into your actions.
When you are clear about what you’re needing and wanting, when you feel it in your gut, it’s MUCH easier to know what to do and do it.
On the other hand, when you don’t track your personal and emotional needs as you work, sooner or later you’ll make mistakes and/or get ill. The recovery from those setbacks however is very costly.
Ongoing maintenance is more effective than crisis management but only ever time.
(Thank you to Molly Gordon for this fun turn of phrase 😉
Support for work challenges
So how about you?
What kind of challenges in the area of work are up for you at the moment?
I’m looking for work related topics to blog about this year so one way you can start tapping into better options is by emailing me a summary of what you’re struggling with.
What have you tried that hasn’t worked?
Has this article helped you in any way?