I don’t know too many people who enthusiastically declare, “I just LOVE every single part of my job!” More often I hear comments like “I enjoy my work most of the time, but I wish I didn’t have to (x,y,z) as part of it.” For many people, the “x,y,z” has become such a stress-ball, it creates a negative cloud over all aspects of their working life and, since Americans work more than anyone else in the industrialized world, this can be a pervasive problem.
While my employment experience is not in the traditional “corporate” world, as a teacher in a private school for 29 years I have certainly felt the pangs of increased accountability, intense clients (picture “life or death panic mindset”), 24/7 unlimited email overload, impossible expectations from many agendas and “to-do” lists that never got shorter no matter how fast I peddled.
Feelings of inadequacy (“Hey, I was valedictorian of my class, my college GPA was 4.0 plus and I have experience….why do I feel so incompetent??”), depression over not having enough time to complete any task thoroughly, fear that something would slip through the cracks, horror that my attitude was morphing into “me vs. you/ them”, moments of paralysis, a slowly boiling anger that I had been put in an unrelentingly stressful environment, and disappointment in myself that I couldn’t find my way out of this whirling vortex. Whew! I am exhausted just putting those words on paper.
So how DOES one find the way out of this personal inferno? It is easy to think that downright QUITTING would solve the problem (and sometimes it does, I can’t deny that), but for most of us, dealing with what’s in front of us is the real job to be done. And so I turned to mindfulness meditation.
While not an overnight cure, I look back at how my meditation practice has changed my work attitude. (1) I am not nearly as emotionally attached to results. You know how everything in a corporation/business/school is all ABOUT results??? What a mind-blowing concept to simply do the hard work in front of you and then let it go, knowing the results will come. (2) This leads to more relaxation, focus and creative thinking. My mind feels refreshed and I see options; it’s as though a thousand-pound weight about yesterday and/ or tomorrow has dropped away. (3) I am more able to listen openly to colleagues and administration without going right to “blow a gasket–right/wrong–me vs. you” mode. (Meditation is proven to increase compassion!) Add to that not being attached to the outcome (see #1) and communication is immediately improved. (4) I am learning that cheesy, old-school lesson about putting myself first and, as much of a work warrior as I am, it is the key to my positive mindset. Being aware when I am feeling anxious, then taking breaks to breathe and reflect or to put emails on hiatus and give me MY space to regroup are an essential part of the daily routine.
It took mindfulness meditation to re-set and re-energize myself in the workplace. Sure, there are days when directives from top-down make me think, “Well, THAT’S totally impossible” but instead of jumping immediately to anxiety about the future and how things MUST turn out, I breathe deeply, relax and carry on, focusing on the present tasks at hand. Research shows that mindfulness meditation in the workplace leads to resilience, productivity, camaraderie and happy, peppy people. Why not give it a try?