A career has many challenges hidden within it. The key is to focus on the parts that help you grow professionally and personally.
One morning I was feeling very scattered. I went into work but I was totally checked out. I avoided work. It became a game.
First I went to visit Tom. He always told a story about a failed date that he had gone on. His stories always made me laugh. Then I went to the bathroom. I didn’t even have to use the bathroom. Then I went into the breakroom to grab a cup of coffee, and I stopped by Rob’s desk to see if he wanted to go to lunch later. Then I went back to my desk and opened up Facebook on my phone.
This continued for 8 hours -- I actually didn’t do any legitimate work that day. I justified my actions because I didn’t like my boss. I thought that by wasting my time, I got back at her by wasting her time.
I allowed myself to forget about what was important.
I was angry. At myself, my boss, my co-workers, everything. I was angry for no one noticing. I was angry that I was so jaded.
I was sad, and I wanted others to do for me what I couldn’t do for myself. Make me feel fulfilled.
Then I lost my job. I wasn’t surprised that I was let go in the second round of layoffs because I didn’t bring enough value to the job.
So then I started my own business and now I don’t have the luxury of avoiding work. I have to keep adding more skills and knowledge to make myself better. If I don’t, I'll stop being good at what I do.
This mental shift has improved my focus. I also use a couple mantras to improve my focus, and one in particular has been working very well for me over these last few months:
“Do the most important things first.”
That’s it. Focus on what will give me the greatest return on my time.
When I compared these two extremely different attitudes toward my work, I realized how much I had missed out on because I gave in to my fears in past careers.
I missed out on learning opportunities because I told myself that my job wasn't a good fit. Why improve myself for a company that didn't care for me?
I also missed out on challenging myself with new projects because I didn't want my ideas to be shot down. Instead of finding new projects, I avoided them.
I literally turned it into a game that actually increased my anxiety. I wasn't growing my skills and I added to my anxiousness because I would be caught avoiding work. The stress kept adding up until I went to the doctor because my right arm was numb. It hurt to be at work. They ran tests of all kinds, but couldn't find anything. I realized it was stress when one particular meeting with the CEO didn't go very well and my arm went numb again.
I created a toxic work environment that was eating away at my happiness.
Through trial and error, and the wisdom of others, I now know 7 things to do that I wished I had known when I started out on the path of each career.
1. Deepen Relationships
You have amazing people that you work with, every company does. The key is to focus on finding people you can deepen a relationship with, not the people that drive you crazy.
There are probably many talented and caring people who you can build a stronger relationship with. Reach out to them and see what happens.
Who in your department can you learn from? What can you do to deepen this relationship?
2. Learn New Skills
If you’ve ever avoided learning something new, you have to ask yourself why. Are you doing it because you are afraid, or are you doing it because it doesn’t interest you?
You should do work from your superpowers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add to your powers.
Take advantage of any opportunities to learn new skills and add to your superpowers. If you don’t have as many opportunities as you would like, then you have to find new ways to learn new skills by seeking out help from your boss or co-workers or outside resources.
3. Find Joy In the Struggle
You, your co-workers, and your boss all struggle with something, the most common struggles being money and relationships.
Your struggles will not stop until you die -- that’s your life journey. Learning how to find joy even in the tough times is the sign of a well-trained mind. Next time you are struggling at work, find just one thing that you are grateful for about the situation. Then you can begin to shift your mind to thinking about improving things you can change.
4. Make More Time for Undisturbed Work
Focus is one of the key components of your superpowers. You must find time to do undisturbed work because this is where you will see the best results. The people who have time to get in “the zone” are the ones doing great work.
If you work in a busy office, try using headphones as a signal to your co-workers that you don’t want to be disturbed. You’ll notice that when you signal your co-workers that you want to focus, they’ll catch on very quickly and leave you alone during this time.
5. Know Why What You Do Matters
When you know that your work matters, you will go the extra mile to make your work better. If the work doesn’t get done, you know who will be affected and how.
Ask yourself, “Why do I do what I do?”
When you can find a clear answer, it will be a lot easier to do great work.
6. Take More Breaks
Try taking short breaks more frequently when you're feeling stuck or overwhelmed. The key is to make it an active relaxation. You need to bring yourself back to the present moment, understand what is going on inside your head so you can let it go and bring yourself back to a happier state.
Next time you feel your frustration rising, drop everything and feel what is causing this pain, follow your thoughts until you hit the core cause then just repeat this mantra:
I change what I can, accept what I can't and enjoy the challenge of every situation.
7. Don't Take Anything Too Seriously
Life is short, and the older you get the better you understand this concept. You can choose to spend your time worrying, or choosing acceptance or taking action. It's your choice. Like the mantra above, it doesn't help to worry about things you can't change. If you don't like your boss, you can't stress about why you think he should be fired. All you can do is focus on yourself and do your best.
By strengthening your mind to focus on the positive, external people and circumstances cannot dictate your happiness. It's this last one that some people never try to implement into their career. If you know that happiness is an inside job, then even a co-worker's snide remark won't ruin your day.
Which of these concepts have you struggled with? What could you do to incorporate at least one of these ideas into each day?
16 thoughts on “7 Pieces of Career Advice You Wished You Had Known Earlier”
Yay, positivity! What a staggering true concept: Your struggles will not stop until you die — that’s your life journey. I totally agree. It's our own responsibility to find the joy in every struggle.
I especially like the part about finding the amazing people at work- those you can benefit from and deepen relationships with vs those who drive you crazy!
It's amazing how self-destructive people are in the workplace. The lack of focus by constantly checking the smart phone, the bitching breaks in the coffee room, surfing the net. None of which solves anything for anyone. At the end of the day we have to make choices - which is your last point.
Its all about being with inner self while doing whatever we do. Recognizing how deep our relationship with it actually is. Life is a learning process, remaining a student for life is the best way to get most out of it. Focusing on inner state of mind and being totally responsible for it gives us the power to steer clear of any situation however good or bad. Its the struggles and failures that makes us grow stronger by a quantum leap, so welcome them. Your happy state of mind would ensure you enjoy even the most boring routine activity. Finding rest in any activity is an art worth learning. You naturally tend to focus on what you know you do matters. Knowing even the trivial task at hand is part of the chain may be weakest but would effect its strength. Perspective shifts for better understanding. Have fun doing what we do for we can never get out of this life alive. Yet whether we are dead or alive and kicking while we live here is determined by our inner state of mind and how we face reality. Lastly as you shared we must never hesitate to speak our mind specially when asked to.
Number 1, Deepen Relationships really hits the spot for me. Not only do we enjoy going to work if we have healthier relationships there, but it can be valuable for both parties professionally.
Excellent article...hits upon all the ways I have been sabotaging myself at work. Thanks!
Hi Deborah! I'm glad you liked the positive perspective. Sometimes focusing on the good things can make a big difference in our career.
Hi Peter! You are so right. We have choices. We really don't have to stay at our job if we really don't want to. We choose to stay there to earn a living. We can find another job. When we feel like we have to do something it limits how we can be happy.
a great post Karl... it really resonates. keep up the good work and stay happy 😉
Hi Neeraj! I agree. Life is a learning process and when we open up to every situation as a teaching moment it can help us process and enjoy the present moment so much more.
Hi Luke! I think deepening our relationships should be our main focus at work. It's these relationships that will build trust and deliver the best results.
Hi Martha! I've so been there. I'm glad I could help.
Hi Cheryl! Thank you. I can't take all the credit I have a great editor. 😉
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"Ask yourself, “Why do I do what I do?”
When you can find a clear answer, it will be a lot easier to do great work."
This is so true! Thanks for sharing your story!!
I can completely relate to your article . It is easy to surrender to the daily grind and miss the endless opportunities we are blinded to by continually shuffling your feet at work . For me it is the continual personal growth/education and strengthening the mind . Currently I have a challenging boss but see the opportunities ahead and this helps keep me focused - for now 🙂
Thank you for sharing
"Find Joy In the Struggle" - Couldn't agree more. Most of the time, my co-workers and I just laugh about our problems in the office. What we do is focus on finding the solution, let it pass and just move on.
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