You don’t have to change jobs in order to shift the way you feel about your work. You can gain a whole new perspective just by thinking about things a little differently.
Have you ever heard the saying, “change your mindset, change your life?” Well, there’s actually an awful lot to be said for the idea. It may even be especially relevant when it comes to your career. You have a lot more control over your experience at work than is immediately obvious. The way you think about things really matters.
Your thoughts change your experience
Imagine this: Two colleagues are told that they have to travel across the country to attend an important series of meetings. Neither of them loves to travel. In fact, when the idea is first proposed, neither of them have any desire at all to participate.
However, within a day or two, one colleague manages to pull himself out of this mindset and instead begins to look for new angles. Maybe it will be nice to get away and change up the routine a little. This is a chance to meet new people, and who knows where that will lead. The other person, on the other hand, leans into the discomfort instead. He thinks about how demanding and unappreciative his boss is and how unfair it is that he’s been asked to travel. He just knows that it’s going to be a horrible trip and an absolute waste of time.
Now, even if these two colleagues attend the same meetings, do you think they’ll have identical experiences? Unless someone changes their mindset, the answer is: probably not. They’ll be affected by their ways of thinking, their internal dialogue, and that will have an impact on their experiences.
As a general rule, if you’re feeling angry, you’ll find things to think about that make you feel even angrier. And, if you’re feeling grateful and excited for the future, those feelings will perpetuate themselves, too.
Answer these questions to change your mindset
Unfortunately, just knowing that the way you think is important isn’t enough. (Although, it’s a really good start.) In order to see real changes as a result of this awareness, you have to actually shift your mindset.
Asking yourself certain questions, and contemplating them in a thorough and earnest way, can help you to examine and change the way you think about things at work.
Why not give it a try? The next time you’re feeling stuck in a negative loop, try asking and answering these seven questions to gain a new perspective. You might just be surprised by what a major difference it makes.
1. Will this matter in five years?
Time goes by so quickly. However, the days can still feel really long and difficult sometimes. When you’re in the thick of it, the problems you’re confronting at work can seem very important. However, many of them are not. Time will pass, and you’ll put things behind you that feel like a really big deal today. There are lots of events, struggles and challenges that you won’t even remember dealing with a month from now, or a year from now.
So, if you’re feeling bogged down or bummed out by a problem at work, take just a moment to step back. Ask yourself: Will this matter to me in five years? Doing so could help you gain some much needed perspective.
2. Do I know for sure that this is true?
One of the biggest problems with our inner monologues is that they seem so true and so powerful. When you have a thought, especially over and over again, it can start to feel more like a fact than an opinion.
Byron Katie, author and speaker, recommends a process aimed at helping people to reconcile their stressful thoughts. It’s actually a pretty simple method. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. When confronted with a stressful thought, Katie recommends you pause and ask yourself the following questions:
Is it true?
Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
How do you react, what happens, when you believe the thought?
Who would you be without this thought?
Going back to our business travelers for an example, what if the angry employee asked himself these questions about his idea that his boss didn’t appreciate him and that the trip was going to be a total waste of time?
Stepping back from a stressful thought, and questioning its validity, can go a long way to help shift the way you think. Even better still, questioning what you think you’re totally certain of can help loosen your grasp on your ideas and beliefs which allows you to be more open to new perspectives and your own new creative ideas.
(To learn more about this method, watch Katie walk people through these questions during a live talk, The Work: The Power of Self-Inquiry.)
3. How would I handle this if everyone I know could see me?
It can be difficult to know how best to proceed with a given situation or problem. In these instances, it might be helpful to ask yourself, “How would I handle this if everyone I know could see me?”
What would you do if your children were watching? Or, your parents and grandparents? How would you handle the problem at hand if your actions and interactions were being broadcast live to everyone you’ve ever met?
Thinking in this way can help you to gain a better understanding about what’s really important. And, it can support you in sorting out what to do next. Best of all, thinking in this way allows you to hold your integrity and your moral values front and center. You’ll be better able to understand, and do, what you think is best when you adapt this broader perspective.
4. If you were twice as strong and twice as confident, what choice would you make?
Self-doubt and self-criticism can really work against you in a professional context. Negative emotions and beliefs limit and constrict the way you see the world, and the way you understand the options available to you. Ryan Howes, Ph.D., a writer and psychologist from Pasadena California, says that asking yourself how you would move forward if you felt twice as confident and twice as strong can be helpful.
“This doesn’t mean it’s always the right choice, but it does show how much power they’re giving to fear,” Howes told PsychCentral.
Fear can cloud your judgment. Trying to see past that kind of negativity allows you to uncover other options. Then, you can determine how best to proceed with a more level head.
5. What are my instincts and emotions telling me about this?
It might seem pretty woo-woo at first. But, listening to your feelings can really help to shift your perspective.
Don’t forget that, at the end of the day, human beings are just animals. You have instincts that tell you when you’re about to encounter danger. However, many people haven’t been conditioned to honor these feelings. Instead, most are taught from a very early age to rely upon facts and reason alone to make decisions. As a result, sometimes your head might be telling you one thing, while your gut and your emotions are simultaneously screaming at you to run the other way. And, you might even choose to ignore your gut in these instances, to your own detriment.
Pausing to ask yourself what your instincts and emotions are telling you about a given situation gives you access to another kind of valuable information. Honor your feelings enough to hear and understand them. Then, you can make more informed decisions about how best to proceed.
6. Do I know for sure how this is going to work out?
It’s worth questioning assumptions at work. After all, just because one type of outcome has been observed before, that doesn’t mean that pattern will persist no matter what. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “knowing” how something is going to pan out. You may have a lot of experience in your industry, or at your job. You’ve seen a lot and you may know more than those around you about what to expect as a result. But, do you really know for sure what’s going to happen next?
Ask yourself honestly what you know for sure. And, examine where there’s uncertainty. This can help to loosen your attachment to a firm or rigid perspective. You might find you don’t really know how things are going to play out going forward. And, that could help you give yourself over to what’s happening right now in a different way.
7. What can I learn from this?
Your perspective really matters. It has a huge impact on your experience at work and in the world in general. And, you have choices to make when it comes to how you perceive things. Your career will benefit if you can think about the challenges you encounter in constructive ways.
Learn to focus on the lesson, not the problem. Every single challenge you face at work has the potential to teach you something. You just have to look for it. All you have to do is aim to see the lesson rather than the problem. It’s really that simple. And, your career will benefit if you see every day, and every “problem” as an opportunity to learn. In fact, just moving in this directly more reliably will help a great deal. Think about how much you’ll grow and improve as a result of this mindset? And, you’ll feel a lot happier along the way, too.
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