If you spend time on social media, watching commercials, or even reading self help books, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are supposed to be happy all the time, and that something is wrong if we’re not.
But folks, we are human. We are not supposed to be happy all the time.
In fact, if we’re doing life right, half the time we are going to be unhappy, and half the time we are going to be happy. I would even argue that sometimes you will WANT to be unhappy.
Wait. What? Why?!
Because there are always things happening in the world that are outside of our control. A war. A pandemic. Abuse. Violence. Death. Illness. To exist in the human world is to experience unhappy times. And unless you are a sociopath, you probably WANT to feel unhappy about it.
These are extreme examples that I use to make a point. That to live the human experience is to live a life with ups and downs.
Here’s the crazy thing. When we believe we are supposed to be happy we often try very hard to make unhappiness go away when it happens. We think something is terribly wrong and it shouldn’t be that way. And when we do this not only are we unhappy, but we are unhappy about being unhappy!
We increase our own suffering.
Let’s see how this impacts us at work with the example of stress. As many of you have, I have experienced challenging problems at work. There are stressful situations like a missed deadline, a heavy workload, a changing priority, an unhappy customer, or an unexpected challenge. I am not unique. I’m sure this happens to you and others. I don’t like when those circumstances come up and I find it stressful. In the past, I would argue with the reality of what was happening and make myself even more miserable by ruminating and thinking “It’s not supposed to be this way”. I would complain about it, and I would avoid the feeling, distracting myself with food, or some other avoidant behavior. The result was that I would experience the original stress plus the increased unhappiness caused by the ruminating, complaining, and procrastinating.
When I learned to recognize work stress as the 50% of life that isn’t terribly fun then I started to allow the stress to be there. “Oh this is one of those stressful days”. I gave myself some compassion, and instead of arguing about what was, i focused my attention on what I wanted to do next. Overall the net result was actually less stress and unhappiness in my life. Eliminating the argument that stress shouldn’t be there has reduced the suffering I had caused myself.
So if you are experiencing things at work that make you unhappy just know that you are totally normal. And if you try to resist it, or argue with it, recognize that you might be making it worse for yourself.
Try to recognize the stress for what it is, and allow the stress to just be there. Then you will be able to move through the experience and you will come out the other side stronger and more emotionally resilient.
Life is 50/50. When we learn to see that for what it is rather than argue with it, then we can truly enjoy the 50% that is joyful.
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