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Your Job Is Not The Source of Your Discontent

By Edited Sep 16, 2015 1 0
frustrated man at desk
Credit: Wikipedia Commons

     I am a clinical psychologist in private practice in Washington, DC.  Many of my clients enter therapy because they are unhappy with their jobs. It is painful to wake up and go to work each day, they lament.  Often, they share that the one consistent motivating force that gets them to work is that they will find a new job searching online, while still being paid at the current job. They tell me they have spent hours looking at potential new jobs on job search websites, polishing up their Linked In profiles, and networking to find out who is hiring, all while the boss's head is turned.

     I point out to them, that what can look like job searching, may be "fantasy chasing", driven by the notion that happiness lies in saying goodbye to current job and saying hello to new job.  I wonder if they are actually living on the less green side of the cliche! Instead of putting all their emotional eggs in the basket of hope in finding a new job, perhaps a more useful energy investment would be had in utilizing company time to play online games or read a gripping novel.  At least then there would be a conscious decision to invest time in relaxing while being compensated.

     My therapy clients who are convinced that a new job would bring instant happiness, insist that they are in a "toxic" work environment.  I don't buy this black and white sketch of a physical location.  Places on a map cannot be polluted without people there to cause the pollution. It is the people to people interactions; bosses to employees, supervisors to supervisees, employees to clients that create the "feel" of a place.  If the people at work are behaving in a disrespectful and aggressive manner, then the people at work have created the toxicity.  Let us not blame the walls, the halls, and the furniture; regardless of office aesthetics.

     Jon Kabat-Zin, author and notable meditator, has a book called Wherever You Go, There You Are. I've never read it, but I like the message it has for people who have jobs and want a desperately want a new one. The person you are today at work, is the same person you will be at the next place of work. You may be busy doing new things, but the things you do will not change you. It is in cultivating important relationships, with both one's Self and with others, that hold the potentials for change and hopes of happiness.

     If you are unhappy with your job and itching to find a new one, first write down what you like and dislike about your current job. This will tell you about your work self and open up ways you can access more happiness today, rather than in the future.  It may be easier to fantasize about the ideal job and search the web for a close approximation, but examining your own work qualities will pay off much more.  Writing down the positive aspects of your current job will tell you more about your "work self".  This self-knowledge helps in making the best out of the present situation.  It can also guide you in making career decisions that are more aligned with your unique skills and thus producing more work satisfaction, that is, wherever you find yourself.



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