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Sunday
Jan152012

"Showing Up"

Last week I wrote about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude.  Doing so makes it a lot easier to "show up": to take the steps necessary to achieve greater success on your job and in your relationships, or to move forward on finding the right career or improving other aspects of your life (e.g. losing weight, making new friends, finding an enjoyable and rewarding hobby or volunteer gig).

But what if your attitude isn't all that positive, and despite efforts to shift your mood  you find yourself discouraged and basically stuck?  That's the time to try a behavioral rather than a cognitive approach.  In other words, rather than first trying to change your thinking about initiating an action, just go ahead and TAKE an action, the result of which can be a brightening of your mood ( simply because you've done SOMETHING) that will make it easier to take additional actions.  There's a great phrase that originated in Alcoholics Anonymous which encapsulates this approach: FAKE IT 'TIL YOU MAKE IT.  In other words, do something you may not really feel like doing and often you will find that there's less resistance to doing it the next time.

Some of you reading this may think "A lot easier said than done.  If I'm feeling depressed and demotivated how the hell am I supposed to get the ball rolling?" Well, you probably have more experience with this state of affairs than you might think.  For example, how often do you really feel like walking the dog or cleaning the cat's litter box? Putting on your makeup? Folding the laundry? Making the weekly call to your grandmother or brother?  Emptying the dishwasher?  Or even brushing your teeth?  You do these things because on some level you know that they're necessary for you to have an orderly, smooth-functioning present and future life.  You also do them because most probably as a child your parents nagged you about doing them, which ultimately overcame your resistance and created a habit.

As an adult it's a lot less likely that there'll be parental figures around to do the nagging, and just as unlikely that you'd respond to that nagging even if there were.  So you've got to create your own internal "nagger," a voice within you that keeps hammering at you until you take the indicated step and eventually create a habit of action.  Think of it as the voice that speaks to you when the alarm goes off on a Monday morning and all you want to do is fall back to sleep, but that won't let you because you know you need to show up at work.

You'll find that the "nagger" will be much more successful if the indicated action is a relatively small step.  And I'm willing to bet that, once the first small step is taken, it will become progressively easier to take the next ones.  Perhaps you went to law school with the goal of doing intellectually stimulating work that would provide you with a good living, but find that fifteen years later you're stuck in the Corporate Transactional Department reviewing mind-numbing contracts, and that you're clearly not on a partnership track.  You know you're unhappy but have no idea how to extricate yourself from the situation, and you're working so many hours and find yourself so burnt out that the thought of undertaking a career change seems overwhelming (even if you had an idea of what steps you needed to take, which you don't).

Clearly you're missing the positive attitude that would be so beneficial in finding a way out of this.  So, ask yourself what small step you might be able to take that could begin to initiate the process of extrication. Google "career coach"? Read a book (no, a chapter) on career change?  Talk to a friend who used to work at your firm but has left and is now doing something he enjoys more?  The trick to this process is NOT to focus on the end goal, but to just think about what little step you can take that holds the possibility of broadening your horizons, of shifting your perspective even just a tiny bit.  

Commit to taking action every day - even if, at first, it's a small one.  I'd be delighted to help you in this endeavor, which I can virtually guarantee you will lead to a better place.

 

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