“I’m three weeks into my new job and the stress feels overwhelming! Do I hate the field I chose, or am I simply feeling the natural integration pains of learning something new?” If your mind holds a question like this one, you’re in good company! Poll percentages on workplace happiness all fall near the 50% mark. Roughly 50% of us are happy at work. The rest of us are not.
The problem of workplace unhappiness feels even heavier when we don’t know how to escape it. Most people who are unhappy at work lack the skills to pinpoint their source of unhappiness. Is this you? Do you feel trapped—like a lifetime of workplace suffering is your due?
If so, we’ve got your solution! By practicing a handful of self-awareness tools, you can choose a job you love with clarity and confidence. You will gain the skill to differentiate between normal ‘growing pains’ associated with learning and the abnormal pain of a toxic workplace. These tools will help you know if your current job is right for you, or if it’s time to make a change. So, are you ready to navigate your workplace joyfully? Let’s learn these tools!
Tool #1: You’ve Got to Clarify What You Value Most
“If everything is important, then nothing is important.” This principle means that to make clear-cut decisions, you’ve got to first look inside yourself and distill the handful of things that hold outstanding importance. You’ve got to determine your values scale.
Your values scale is a tool for visualizing what matters most. Your most important values are very heavy, like bricks of lead. They tip your decision-making scales in their favor every time. Your medium-importance values are like apples. They hold weight too, but when weighed against one of your top values, a large pile is required in order to tip the scale in their favor. Your lesser-importance values are like marbles. Their weight adds up eventually, but it’s impossible to tip the scale in their favor when pitted against your most important values.
When you can’t visualize your personal values scale, you’ll make choices haphazardly. Insignificant decisions will masquerade as important decisions and vice versa. Minor problems will engulf you like a flood because you have no tools to determine their importance.
Without a values scale, you’ll waste brain energy and boatloads of your time. With a values scale, you can make decisions with confidence and clarity.
Write down the things you value most in life. Order them from most important to least important. Your values relate to your beliefs and how your heart and mind interact with the world around them. So, an example of a value scale may look like this:
1. VALUES YOU’D DIE FOR
a. These are your most important values—all-encompassing pieces of your life like faith, family and freedom. Be honest. There are few things for which you would truly choose to die rather than lose.
2. VALUES FOR WHICH YOU’D GLADLY WALK THROUGH YEARS OF DISCOMFORT
a. These very important values often relate to your life calling. If you value education, you will gladly navigate years of clinical training to become a doctor. If you value family unity, you will gladly refuse a lucrative career transfer so that you can continue living near the ones you love. If you value learning to walk in the Holy Spirit, you will gladly make unpredictable life changes in order to follow His voice.
3. VALUES FOR WHICH YOU’D GLADLY WALK THROUGH SHORT-TERM DISCOMFORT
a. These medium-importance values often relate to seasons. ‘Seasons’ are short-term segments of life during which your energy takes a specific but temporary focus. Season-specific values might be paying off a new car, learning a skill, overcoming a bad habit, supporting a loved one during a rough time, personal recovery from trauma, etcetera.
Get a piece of paper and clearly define your own values scale. Remember, if everything is important, then nothing is important. Order your values from most important to least important. Be honest! Keep your list as simple, short, and clear as possible. Now, read your list.
Does holding this list help you feel more confident about future decision-making? Great! Let’s learn tool number two!
Tool #2: Choose Your Goal for Now
Life has seasons. It’s perfectly normal—and wise—to adapt your goals to fit the season you’re currently living. Seasons change, and your goals change with them. Stop, and look inside yourself. Look around you. What season are you in right now? What season-specific values will you choose to prioritize right now?
Are you in a season of emotional or physical healing? This might be the time when you choose a goal of mental rest. You might need to submit your position as crew leader to another employee, and switch to a less demanding role. Attaining mental rest might require you to switch your field of work altogether. Remember, if everything is important, then nothing is important. If emotional healing is truly your goal—your top value to live out in this season—you must make choices that allow mental rest to happen.
Alternately, if you’ve worked hard to reach a top-level pay rate, you might choose to remain in a less-ideal workplace until you have attained an important financial goal. Using your values scale, this type of choice is made by weighing high-level values against lower-level ones. If your financial goal is more important to you than working in a field you truly enjoy, then go for that financial goal with all your might!
Remember, this is one season of many. Seasons change. You hold the power to modify your plan at any time! When you choose to walk through discomfort to achieve a goal, this gives your pain meaning. When your pain holds meaning, your self-confidence grows and so does your happiness!
When you’ve accomplished the goal for this season, stop. Re-consider your values. What season comes next? What goals will you choose for your next season?
Tool #3: Practice Naming Your Power to Choose
One final tool: consistently remind yourself that you hold the power to choose. Erase the phrases “I need to,” and “I should,” from your vocabulary. Practice saying, “I’m choosing to,” “I will,” and “I will not.”
Human beings deteriorate when they feel trapped. Here’s the crazy part—the only person trapping you in the workplace is you! No matter the repercussions, you always hold the power to choose change. People may threaten or inspire you towards a specific choice, but in the end, only you hold the keys! Only you know what your value scale is. Only you have the power to make choices that empower you to live your values out!
When you combine these self-awareness tools and put them to use in the workplace, you can enter both comfortable and painful environments joyfully! You are living out wisdom-infused choices grounded on your one-of-a-kind value scale. You’re not trapped! Let’s go change those happiness statistics!