Be ‘awake at work’ and uncover what’s best for you
Many Australians are not happy with their jobs. According to the ABC Local Radio’s morning show last week, a recent survey about job satisfaction in Australia showed that over 45% of Australians are not quite satisfied with their jobs (20% not happy, 26.8% not sure). I do not have access to the actual survey but I’m not surprised either; as I regularly come across quite a number of people from all walks of life who are not happy with their jobs.
Well, the problem is that most of us cannot simply switch jobs if we are not happy. There are many practical and mental blocks preventing one from walking into boss’s office and giving him and his job the flick. Most have financial commitments, families to support, hopes and aspirations, fears, entrenched beliefs about work and work ethics; you might be in an older age category when retraining and transitioning into another work area would be practically impossible. Or perhaps you might be between jobs and under similar stresses because it feels extremely difficult to find a new job in your own field or transition into a different field that you have always dreamed of. So, what is the solution?
Practice mindfulness at work, change your self before changing your job
Work could mean any of the forms it might take, such as working as an employee, working for yourself or even looking for work which is itself a kind of work.
If you are unhappy with your work and you are unwilling or feel unable to change your job, then your stuckness usually has to do with your fears, assumptions, expectations and false beliefs about yourself and/or the job. Of course it could be the nature of the job, the toxic stressful work environment, the lack of fit to your talents and skills, but the point is why you stay put or continually trap yourself in a more or less similar work time and time again!
An extremely effective and powerful way to get unstuck is to start working mindfully or as Michael Carroll puts it to be awake at work. That way you uncover the truth and will either begin enjoying your work or cultivate the power to leave your job for one which is more aligned with your nature; and would do so in an appropriate manner.
In his book ‘Awake at Work: 35 Practical Buddhist principles for discovering clarity and balance in the midst of work’s chaos’, Michael Carroll–a Buddhist seminary graduate, a successful businessman and executive coach–offers 35 principles that we can deploy in our work to bring back aliveness to our jobs and get to know ourselves and colleagues at a more direct level, without our habitual foggy glasses! Part of the book description reads:
“Carroll invites readers to contemplate these slogans and to use them on-the-spot, in the midst of work’s chaos, to develop clarity, wisdom, and inspiration. Along the way, Carroll presents a variety of techniques and insights to help us acknowledge work, with all its complications, as ‘a valuable invitation to fully live our lives.’ In an engaging, accessible, and often humorous style, Awake at Work offers readers a path to rediscovering our natural sense of intelligence, confidence, and delight on the job. “
It was tempting to outline the 35 principles here but then I felt that just listing them could be more harmful than useful. That’s because without providing more explanation of the principles one runs the risk of misunderstanding them based on one’s current assumptions and beliefs. For example, one of the principles is “Keep your seat” based on a Samurai principle where a Samurai lord would lead his troops by taking position on a hill crest, staying present “like a mountain, his attention and heart never wavering from his troops and the battle” right to the end without ever attempting to flee to safety; to the extent that he had instructed his attendant to behead him with a single sword stroke should it seem that he was about to be overrun and killed by the enemy.
This principle can easily be misunderstood to mean to “protect our territory, determined to defend our job or title or prestige under all circumstances”. Or we might wrongly take it to mean “not to flinch, like the game of chicken where we test our will against another’s”. No, that’s not what it means because by keeping our seat in those ways we end up “feel[ing] suspicious rather than alert, stubborn rather than confident …we feel smug rather than confident, entertained rather than precise, detached and unavailable rather than composed.”
We keep our seat because to do so means that we are in direct contact with the truth of the moment during times of stress and crisis at work. We neither wither or boast, we learn to do what is right without fear or favour. It means to learn to be present, authentic and true to ourselves and in that mode of natural being we “act from our innate courage, alert to shifting circumstances, precise in our words and deeds and confident in being thoroughly present and available” in any situation which may arise at work whether disappointing or rewarding.
So instead, I encourage you to take a look at the book content and reviews on the web, at your local bookstore or a library; and if you feel it is of benefit to you then buy your personal copy which I believe would be a really worthwhile investment.