By Shamyla Tareen
After a whole year of writing about my Happiness Project, I decided I was not quite done blogging about the good stuff. I collaborated with CHAI again; we thought it would be interesting to explore what “wellness” means. Wellness is an all rounded concept; not just physical or emotional, shown by the Wellness Wheel below. There are several important components, and people can use these different aspects to evaluate and improve their overall health. I hope you will tune into the blogs and leave suggestions and comments, as it is always great to hear from you and to learn what others are doing to improve their lives!
‘Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.’ ~ Rumi
I have a secret. I’ve never really loved a single job that I’ve had in my adult life.
Don’t get me wrong! I find deep meaning in helping people directly, which is why I became a social worker. For me, that is about making a profound difference in people’s lives and directly impacting children’s safety and wellbeing. I am both proud of the work I’ve done and grateful for these opportunities. The satisfaction of helping those in need – and remembering how once I had no one to speak for me but can now give back- has enormous value.
But … there’s always been something. Or someone. My bosses were too demanding, not good managers, or not giving me the projects I wanted. There were inept or rude colleagues, hostile and insatiable clients. At some jobs, there were more politics than at Capitol Hill! Sometimes I didn’t fit in with the work culture. Other times I was not properly trained, and ended up doing something completely different than what I was hired for. The work-life balance thing was not working for me, or I was completely overworked and underpaid. Or the coffee machine sucked. (This last one is a joke!)
I cared so much, but I couldn’t fix the wrong. The world, the structure, the organization, the bureaucracy….. It’s incredibly difficult to take a back seat and watch injustice happen. When I start to rebel, it either turns into apathy or protests, coalitions, and petitions signed from POTUS…. not really, but you get the idea. The social worker in me has to fight for our rights (to party…. and other things!)
At every job I found amazing people. When I got my latest job, my dad jokingly warned: “Do not make another work sister!” He is right – I have a few dear “work sisters” who have become great friends and mentors; they allied with me through the tough times and laughed like loons during the fun. But for every work sister was another colleague in cloak and dagger… even social workers can be difficult, God bless them one and all!
Here’s the real problem Everything mentioned above is all about “them.” My colleagues. The owners. The bosses. The clients. The hours. They said this, they did this. They, They, They!
What about me? What is it about these jobs that I keep choosing? Why would I rather complain and vent then have a positive attitude no matter what, and do what I can with what I have? What is it that keeps me stuck and unhappy? Why do I always get into the same situations? And when confronted with difficult behaviors, how do I react? How do I choose to spend my energy and my time? What is about how I behave that may provoke strong reactions in people?How can I better advocate for myself? How can I find peace in the midst of chaos?
Through much soul searching and seeking answers, I realized the following ( still in progress by the way):
I spend so much time wallowing in what I hate – I pay scant attention to what’s good. Even the free food.
Finding a solution – like giving 110% to my work or my clients, going with the flow, and coming up with new proposals and outlooks – boosts my morale. I can always come up with new ideas!
Every job has taught me new skills. Every skill became a rung on a ladder that could be climbed at the next job, even if not directly used. In this way, learning is never lost. For example: changing 12 toddler diapers post nap-time in 20 minutes is a skill that will forever be valuable!
Venting can reinforce the negative and add resentment. Sometimes it is important to vent, but sometimes it just turns into a big old whine-fest with similarly disgruntled colleagues at a very sad lunch. Newsflash: no one wants to give the biggest whiner the biggest promotion.
If someone still doesn’t like me (unfathomable!) or still can’t pronounce my name after years of weary corrections, I can just opt for the saner option – say it with me! – let it go.
I am aware of my strengths and my weaknesses. I am not afraid to ask questions (at the right time) and not scared to speak my mind in meetings. I try to be prepared about a subject before talking about it. That has helped me advance in my career, and in this way I look like someone who is at least 65% intelligent and confident.
Here’s an idea from a boss: taking “mental time” for yourself. It’s vital for peace – taking half an hour (or more, if you can hide in the bathroom stall) to clear your head and just be quiet. It helps to get grounded and be more focused. It’s also effective in keeping me from throwing my computer out the window.
There’s no such thing as a fantasy job where you will love every single moment of every single day. There will be days where you’re just tired and you have to suck it up. Maybe you’ll be just content, rather than deeply satisfied. That’s probably why it’s called “going to work” instead of “going to fun.”
I’ve heard the average American changes now their career 5-7 times in their lifetime. Although my proud Pathan grandfathers would have been confused by this, I think this speaks volumes for how we can look at our well-being in relation to longevity, modern technology, and modifying our expectations in relation to different eras of our lives. I also read the following excerpt from an online article worth sharing. To understand how much our careers shape our identity and wellbeing, think about the opposite: Losing your career. “Consider what happens when someone loses a job and remains unemployed for a full year…. even in the face of some of life’s most tragic events like the death of a spouse, after a few years, people do recover to the same level of wellbeing they had before their spouse passed away. But this was not the case for those who were unemployed for a prolonged period of time — particularly not for men.” (source: http://businessjournal.gallup.com/content/139373/business-case-wellbeing.aspx )
As usual I asked friends for their input. One friend wrote back in an email, “would it be rude to say it’s ironic that YOU of all people is writing on this topic?” I laughed; she has a point. But that’s why I am writing this: it’s part of my soul searching journey to incorporate wellness into all aspects of my life. I can make my career Hell… or I can turn those lemons into lemonade. As I gaze out the kitchen window, I sip my coffee and think to myself, “well, Kid. A lot of impossible things have already become possible in your life. What’s to say a few more can’t happen? Let’s get to it!” And with that, I head back to my computer. With a smile.