Why being UNHAPPY is actually great

First day of the week. Hitting the office right on time, starting your computer, getting the first cup of coffee, checking your email while trying to enjoy the first zip. The routine is killing you 15minutes into the new working week.

And yet, you keep getting back at this desk every day. Emotionless. Unhappy. But steady and on time.

I know why. The paycheck is convenient. It pays your rent. Your family. Puts money into your bank account to pile up for the future. The future… you are convinced that it will be brighter than today. Just a few more office days like these and then…

I had lots of talks like this with colleagues over coffee. Being unhappy, yet neither willing nor able to change.

Truth is, my mornings look quite the same. Yet, I am looking forward to each one of those working days, loving what I do – although I most certainly don`t like each moment of it. Where is the difference?

The greatest traveller is he who has been able once to take a tour around himself.

Confucius

Conficius is talking about taking new perspectives of oneself. Once you are able to change your thinking and getting a new mindset, you become aware of who you are and who you are not. You challenge all those “I cannot, because…” and start questioning “How could I …?” You get bold in questioning all your assumptions, e.g. “I will never be…”, “xy is impossible because…”. And while you are taking a tour around yourself, you might realize that you actually don`t need to travel away from your current location, but rather from your current mindset.

Here is an example: I know that I am most happy, when I can be a blessing to other people. I feel fulfilled when others are having a good time talking to me. [Will I get this right every moment of my life? No. But I am trying. I decided to bring the best version of me into conversations.] Therefore, I asked myself “How can I be happy at work?” Answer: By being a blessing for my colleagues. And while I bring the best version of myself to work, I experience a lot of positive moments, making others – and ultimately me – happy. I realized, I don`t have to change my job. I rather have to change my mindset and attitude. And all of a sudden everything falls into place and I am happy.

If you are currently in this unhappy place, be bold enough to check on your assumpations and narratives. Coaching can be a tool that is helping you getting your thoughts around the important stuff that matters. Be asured: there is absolutely no reason why you should be hating your life. Unhappiness is just a great indicator that it is time to think about yourself and start travelling around yourself.

I am in the wrong job

Once you realize you are not happy in your current position, get real and find out what you really want.

The emotion can hit you hard: I. am. in. the. wrong. job.

Independently of how long you are working in you profession, the overwhelming desire of getting a change can sweep you off your feet. Especially after a longer break over christmas and the first few days back in the job, you feel problematic areas even stronger. Back in the holidays you were at peace, but in your work environment you are being confronted with all this negative emotion.

Feeling this inner turmoil, it’s very easy to attribute all the worst reasons to your environment, colleagues, clients and tasks. Finding external factors for your misery is the easiest way. Truth is that these intense emotions are a good moment to get to know yourself a lot better.

  • Why exactly are you feeling the way you feel?
  • What are your expectations towards yourself, your job and the people around you?

While you benefit from getting to know yourself a lot better [thanks, dear turmoil times in life!], you still need to find some sort of solution for your issue with the working environment. Let’s explore the options.

Change it!

The first question arising is: What can be changed? Where is your influence? What is in your hands?

You can change yourself and you can change the situation but you absolutely cannot change other people. Only they can do that.

Joanna Trollope

The writer Joanna Trollope puts it quite well. You need to accept that you cannot change the people around you. You might change yourself – meaning your attitude, expectations, perspective. And you can also change the situation, e.g. not attending a certain meeting, change your seating or regroup your team members. But other people’s behaviour and attitude – including your boss, colleagues, clients – is out of your hand.

Take a moment of analyzing your status quo. What can be changed about the situation? What can be changed in your attitude?

If you are sensing that a lot of your ‘problems’ lay in the behaviour of other people, you might need to check the next paragraphs for a solution.

Love it!

Sometimes a broader view and a different angle of the perspective works miracles. Maybe you don’t really like all aspects of your daily tasks – but you only have a 10 minute drive to work. Or you feel overwhelmed by a lot of responsibility, yet the potential freedom in structuring your time during the day is unique to your position.

When feeling unhappy about a certain aspect in your work life, there is the risk of focussing too much on this particular thing – increasing the problem even further. At the end you only see the negative.

Take some time to write down all the positive aspects of your job. Actively refocus and check areas you haven’t considered yet: location, travel time needed, freedom of selecting tasks or allocating time, payment, tasks, additional benefits of your employer like canteen, sports or health support. Make sure that your brain doesn’t play a trick on you by only focussing on one negative thing that becomes the center of your universe.

Aside from taking a broader view also think of the people around you. Generally spoken, everyone tries to do the ‘best’ in life. So while your colleague or boss might annoy you, keep in mind that they are also just acting based on their perception of what is ‘the best thing to do’. Even if you consider their behavior as ‘stupid’, other people might classify of your actions ‘unreasonable’.

While thinking about all aspects of your status quo, you might already get a different attitude. Are you able to love certain flaws and downsides of your current job – including colleagues – when considering the whole package?

If not, maybe the last option is for you.

Leave it!

Sometimes the feeling of not belonging to a certain place is a good wake up call to leave a job or position. But leaving includes a risk: Why are you sure not running into the same problems in your next job?

If you leave only to avoid certain problems, chances are high that you will end up in exactly the same problems – only with different people. This is why the first two paragraphs are so important to you – or even more important when you consider leaving over staying.

Ideally, you know yourself and the environment you need to thrive. Then you can start searching for that spot in the working market. Rather be ‘drawn to’ a new opportunity, than ‘running away’ from your status quo. With all respect, be aware: if you choose based on wrong motives, you might even end up worse than your current state.

I. am. in. the. wrong. job.

If that’s your feeling right now, use the momentum to explore your status quo. Where is this emotion rooted? What actually needs to change? What do you want in your work life?

Stop complaining and get real.

My life is f***ed

When bad luck is piling up, it is easy to get lost in despair. Losing sight of the blessings in your life, will leave you empty and defeated. Get inspired how to handle those moments.

Emptiness. Thoughts are running and yet there is no precise idea. Every inch of my body is hurting. I have fought. Argumented. Given my best. And yet: didn’t win. And then again, it doesn’t really feel like ‘not winning’ but rather losing. Losing 100%. While my mind is still spinning, this feeling of failure is creeping in. The emotional journey is hitting fast forward button and all of a sudden I am convinced that I am a failure. The failure in person.

From a lot of talks I know that this vicious cycle is quite common to many people. It is invisible. It starts slowly. It intensifies when energy level is low. And then it drags all emotions down and sucks up all energy, hope and vision of a person.

It can hit you in your educational journey, family life or business endeavour. It can hit you for a few minutes or follow you over weeks. It can affect your smile only for a day or your whole life for a season.

So, what can be done when sensing that emptiness or when you are in these moments of despair?

Very often the emptiness starts due to one or two moments that didn’t go well – e.g. an argument with someone or a hope didn’t materialize. Because a strong emotion is connected to these moments, our brain tends to focus on these occasions much longer than on others. This in turn leads to increase of the bad emotion and the start of the vicious cycle.

In order to escape this cycle – at any stage – you need some strategies. Here are some proven ones.

When certain parts of your life are in turmoil it is helpful to actively focus on other areas of your life. Your life doesn’t consist of that one educational path or that one relationship or the one deal you didn’t win – although your brain is telling you that this is THE ONLY PROBLEM.

Write

Take action and write down everything you can be thankful for. Especially in the area you feel defeated. Yes, the one relationship didn’t have an awesome moment – but what about all other relationships!? Yes, the one teacher gave you unfair feedback – but what about all other teachers!?

Start reminding yourself that you are more than your feeling of emptiness. You are more than failing in a moment.

While writing you will feel stress leaving and calmness settling in. Your brain is forced to think proper sentences and put your thoughts in order. That’s why journaling is such a great tool when your emotions are spinning.

Move & Create

Once you are calm, it’s time to check what you need in order to recharge. Most likely, movement should be involved, independent of how you are feeling. Maybe you meet some friends and just relax with them (but don’t start the vicious cycle again by complaining about your problem). Or you get some creativity started by writing, cooking, baking, drawing … creating something. Creating requires concentration and new thoughts – shifting your focus actively.

Think & Decide

Once you are recharged you can go back to the moment of despair and check if you need to change something in your life. Maybe you really need to change your path. Or maybe you just need to learn how to deal with the situations you are in because these moments won’t change even if you change your studies / relationship / job.

You are not good enough

When doing a career, stop sabotaging yourself!

Just recently I watched one of my favourite stand-up comedians. He was putting himself in the perspective of someone living and thinking only in stereotypes and thereby the whole scene clearly got preposterous. Although the audience knew that he was acting out, the truth of the displayed mindset was too real to applaud immediately. Rather – the audience went quiet every once in a while, knowing that this mindset was part of their reality, too. The comedian got to his goal. Making his audience aware of the little box in their heads that sets boundaries to their mindset.

Sometimes your mindset is bound to stereotypes or limited by lies, too. As long as they are not challenged, you probably won’t even notice which fixed assumptions are navigating your thoughts.

But here is an important aspect: Your thoughts are directing your decisions. Your mindset is influencing your behaviour unconsciously.

As long as you are happy with your life, choices and results, you probably won’t see a need to check on your mindset. (Sidenote: it still might be valuable to reflect on your self-believes.) But when you are not as successful as you want to be or if you are successful but extremely exhausted, it might be helpful to check on your assumptions.

For the next few lines the scenario is plainly focused on success in business – although you can extend the thought-provoking ideas also to your private life. One classical mindset will be taken as an example and examined from the out- and in-side. Maybe you find yourself in this. Maybe you have a different mindset that needs challenge. In any case, be bold to rethink your assumptions.

Let’s assume you are convinced: “I am not good enough.”

This conviction can be deep inside you although you are very successful in your career. Still, whenever there is a new challenge, you will need to prove to you or others that you are good enough for it. In consequence, you are almost always overachieving. You are best in class or top in your peer. Nevertheless, deep within you, you know exactly what you could have done better… in essence: you are not good enough.

This inner mindset of not being good enough costs you a lot of energy. It is this fear that keeps you up all night studying and turning the numbers on a sunny sunday. And even when you score best, deep within you are not satisfied. This voice isn’t silenced.

For your own time of reflection let me ask you this:

  1. How well does your mindset serve you?
  2. What other assumptions do you believe and where are they leading you to?

My bonus shows I am undervalued

If you handle failure the right way, you win nonetheless.

There are these times – the promotion has been denied, the deal has been lost, the project failed. The bonus is lower than expected and the pay raise had been higher once. Despite all the time and personal invest, you are confronted with failure. What usually worked, all of a sudden doesn’t.

Although everyone knows that the paycheck doesn’t reflect a person’s worth, very often people feel tremendously undervalued when not achieving their aspired goals. High performing business people invest so much time and energy into their professional success that the reward gets mentally linked to their identity and self-esteem. As long as win follows win this connection feels awesome. It is not only a professional win – it is also a validation of the person, to some even their personality. Sometimes the feeling of invincibility is visible from the outside by posture and gesture.

This grown connection between success and personality or even identity becomes dangerous when success is being delayed. Or worse: if failure is settling in. One bad situation might be handled. But if failure after failure is hitting, the impact cannot be ignored. All of a sudden the business flop feels like being a failure as a person. Bad comments of colleagues on top and the self-esteem crumbles. Depending on the person, the downward slide can take pretty long and is quite devastating.

Crack the causal connection of success and identity

When in a downward spiral it is quite easy to spot the unhealthy connections between success and self-esteem. It can be felt deep inside. Thoughts of failure keep nagging. So, if you currently feel like you are a total loser check on this connection in your brain. Yes, you might have failed in business issues. And no, that doesn’t define who you are as a person. Use this awareness to crack the causal connection of success and identity within you and explore who you are as a person. Thereby you win as a person although you are walking through failure.

But even when there is no failure trend in sight, it is helpful to disconnect personal success from the feeling of self-worth. Only because you are successful, e.g. got the promotion or won the big deal, doesn’t mean that you are more worth than anybody else. Step away from entitlement and be thankful for what you have. This way you can enjoy your success and you are prepared for times of failure.

Sometimes life sucks

Have you ever witnessed a good friend walking through the aftermath of a disaster? Be it a devastating illness, loss of a loved one or financial ruin – grief is involved. Find out how you can be a good friend in hard times.

“He is dead!” – the horrified scream is reaching my ear. It is 4am in the morning. I am on my phone listening to a close friend. She just lost a close person and the pure horror in that reality is shaking us both to the core. Death. End of all hope. Pure pain.

Aside of weeping there is not much more. What can be said? What are the right words? Immediately I realize that there are no words at all that can picture the emotional rollercoaster that we are in. At the same time we are just connected via phone – leaving no chance to put an supporting arm around her shoulders and squeeze her gently. So what to say!?

“I hear you”, I whisper. “I am feeling with you.”

Have you ever been in such a situation?

Not you but a close friend needs to walk through hell. And you cannot change it. You are a bystander. Somehow emotionally affected – and then again not affected at all. To see a friend in pure devastation and not be able to do anything can be challenging, too.

Therefore, I would like to share a few thoughts on that. Thoughts I draw from the experience of having walked through hell myself and from several experiences when I walked with close friends through their valley of death.

Be there. Listen. And don’t leave.

When the disaster hits, noone is prepared. Whether it is a devastating illness, the death of a close person, adultery of a spouse or financial ruin – when it hits a person’s life, there (usually) was no preparation time. The horror, shock and emotions need to be put in words. So when your friend is in this, give him/her some time to talk. Or sit in silence. Or weep. Or scream. Whatever is needed.

If you are unsure whether you should stay or leave, ask your friend. Or tell him/her, that you will stay in the room next door – so your friend can choose what is needed. The same is true if you are distant – write that sms saying “I am thinking about you.” “Let me know when you want to talk.” “I am happy to listen.”

In general, what really helps is when you make yourself available (as much as possible; it is okay that you maintain your own life, too). People in pure pain don’t know themselves anymore. Everything that was so clear yesterday, is hard to even remember today. On some days getting up, getting dressed and eat even seem unmanageable. So, although you don’t want to force your friend into anything, be a bit proactive and prepare some dinner (although he/she might not eat much) or ask him/her out for a walk.

You don’t need to be an expert

The feeling of being overwhelmed with the situation as a friend very often leads people to the assumption that they are not “equipped” enough to stay in that situation. All these questions in your head “What should I say?” “What can I ask?” “What if I say something wrong?” very often leads to silence and disconnection from the friend in need.

Remember: your friend is in this for the first time, too. You don’t have to be an expert. And you don’t have to find a solution. At best, you are just there – as you would have been, when the catastrophe didn’t hit. And you can be honest, too. Just say “this really sucks“. And then laugh together. What a f***!

You don’t need to Find the answer

Whatever happened – you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes terrorizing your friend with questions. Same is true for “good advice”. Even if you had been in the same situation, chances are high that your friend lives in a different reality than you did. Your friend needs time to figure out for him/herself.

I really encourage you, to be there and listen. But be very cautious to give advice or to ask “why”-questions. Ask your friend how he/she is feeling. Ask him/her how the day was. What is easy? What is hard? Give him/her a stage to express his/her feelings. In that way you raise the chance for healing and a feeling to be understood.

Every day is different

In times of grief it is amazing how rapidly emotions can change. One day you are not able to see any hope, another day you might have first – crazy – dreams for the years to come.

Therefore, if you are supporting someone in grief, ask him/her how she is feeling. Don’t assume. If you haven’t talked for a day – check on the status quo. And don’t judge – regardless what the answer is. Be there as a friend and listen. For your friend that very listening will mean the world.

Take care of yourself, too

How are you feeling? When seeing a friend suffer it can be extremely overwhelming and stressful. Admit to yourself what the whole situation is doing with you. Start journaling – and put your emotions in words.

Although you are not the one in pain, somehow you are in pain, too. Be honest about it, tell friends yourself. And be gracious to yourself. Pain and sadness draw a lot of energy – therefore it would be quite normal if you need to sleep more and when you are not as powerful at work as you usually are.

I assume when you made it through the article until this point you are or have been walking this road. Let me tell you this: Thank you! Thank you, that you are the friend who is not running off despite the horror. Thank you for walking. Keep on.

UNFAIR!

Unfair, screams the heart! Move on, says the head! Leave resentment behind and use your energy in a more productive way.

Last day before bank holiday. Everything needs to be set until end of business. One call rushes the next, stress increases, words get louder. Not only is everyone looking forward to the offsite but also everyone is stressed out from not having had a few days off for months. In this heated environment it happens – my boss treats me unfair. Having invested night after night into a presentation, some questions are still unanswered – rightly so. Now, all of this seems to be my fault. Uff. Unfair.

Do you know these situations? You worked your a** off but all the work is not being recognized? You invested time, heart and brain to reach the 95% – and damn are they good! – but the feedback focuses the 5% that could be enhanced? What do you do?

Just recently I read a book on leadership and how a leader should position herself in order to forster each team member. In this context the author Simon Sinek is changing the perspective to an interesting angle. Leaders are human beings, too. They react under pressure pretty much the same like everyone else.

So when our boss comes down hard on us and we don’t know the reason, it is equally our responsibility to express concern for their well-being.

Simon Sinek, LEADERS EAT LAST

I highly favour the emphasize of responsibility in this perspective. Instead of complaining to be treated unfairly changing the perception by considering the situation in which my boss is stuck. This requires and trains real leadership skills in you! Complaining is easy. You don’t even need a degree to tell everyone how unfair you have been treated. But to decide to leave your hurt, puts your ego aside – and that requires strength.

So what did I do in the mentioned situation?

I would lie if I tell you, I wasn’t mad. As you can read, the situation made it into an article. Nevertheless, considering the overall situation with tons of calls, stress and tight timelines I asked myself if my boss is a great boss in general – and yes he is! And he is a human being who gets stressed out, too. And that is fine. In addition, he was right – there were open points to be clarified. So we got back to business, found solutions and turned in the result by end of business – without wasting any minute on discussing fairness-issues.

Which situation of unfairness is still in your mind?

Let me guess: these situations of unfairness cost you way more energy in rethinking them than it adds value to your life, right? And if you don’t see this aspect, ask your spouse or colleagues whether they want to hear that old unfairness story again. They might not.

It is about time for you to leave the resentment behind. Find an explanation why someone has been unfair to you if you need to. Forgive what happened.

And move on.