Keep that title in mind as we go through this article together – it’s the main theme of my article today. But before we focus on that, let me share with you a conversation I had with a lady not so long ago. She is having a really terrible time at work. She’d been fed up at work for quite some time and she spoke to me at length for about ten minutes, hardly taking a breath during that time. She told me all about her boss and the situation she was dealing with; her colleagues and the clients that are getting on her nerves. She told me about the distance she has to travel to and from work each day, and about all the things that were going wrong, and how she wanted more money. She was really passionate about all the things that were wrong with her work life.
And then she said, “You know, really, that’s enough about me, Dion. What are you up to?” I said, “Well actually, let’s just backtrack a bit. Tell me, what are you doing about your work situation?”
You’ll notice I’m asking you this same question today too! But before we focus in a little more on that, let me share with you what this lady had to say in answer to that same question.
“Dion,” she said. “I’ve tried everything. I’ve written to the boss, I’ve made my point of view really clear. I’ve pushed and pulled, I’ve done everything I can, and that’s just the way it is.”
And you know, she said it with such conviction: she said she’s resigned herself to the fact that this is how her working life is going to be for now. She said she just puts her head down, gets through her working day and gets out of there as quickly as she can.
Does this sound familiar?
When people come to me I hear different versions of this same story over and over again. People tell me how they’ve done everything they can to make their situation different – and that’s just the way it is. They’ve tried everything – talking to their boss, trying to make changes of all kinds, and nothing has made a difference.
And it got me thinking about a film I watched a little while ago – you may have seen it – called “127 Hours”. It’s a really good film and it’s based on a true story about an adventurer called Aron Ralston. He basically went out into the Utah desert and ended up in a really sticky situation that reminds me of the conversation I had with that lady.
Aron Ralston found himself trapped in a situation he thought he couldn’t do anything about. Only he didn’t find himself trapped at work. He fell down a canyon and ended up with a boulder trapping his arm against the rock wall.
Now just imagine this situation for a moment. You can probably see why I’ve likened it to being stuck at work. Even though it seems very different on the surface there are some stunning similarities.
Aron did everything he could think of to get out from under this boulder that was pinning his arm and his hand to the wall. He tried pushing the boulder, pulling the boulder, pulling his arm towards him – everything. Nothing works. He’s done everything.
So you get the picture, right? You get the parallel between how your working life might be, and this guy’s situation. He was trapped there with nothing. I hear the stories of all kinds of different people as they tell me about being trapped in their jobs. They describe their efforts to change things in much the same fashion – albeit in a different situation – to how Aron Ralston tried to change his situation. They try to manipulate their boss, their workload, the distance from their home to their workplace, or whatever they try and do.
And make no mistake – these are all fantastic actions to take in trying to make your working life better than it is now.
What if nothing works?
It’s a great question, isn’t it? And as you may already know there are situations where you can try everything and you still can’t make your working life any better than it is right now. Think about Aron Ralston – stuck in that canyon, having tried everything he could to get out of his situation, and he’s still stuck.
When you’ve tried all that and nothing is working, it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything else that’s going to work. What I’m suggesting today is that the action you might have to take is a higher level action. It’s a level that’s going to cost you more; it’s going to bend you out of shape a little bit. When people tell me there’s nothing else they can do because they’ve tried everything, what they’re really saying to me is, “I haven’t really thought about what the next level of action might me.”
To find the answer, let’s turn our attentions back to Aron Ralston again.
Looking in a different direction
When Aron was pinned to the rock wall by that boulder, he did everything he could to get free. Nothing worked. So he looked to the only other thing he hadn’t yet focused on – himself.
Beforehand he was focusing on the boulder as the enemy. Now, he focused on his stuck arm as the enemy. And so he came up with a plan to free himself from his situation. As soon as he had that switch in perspective about what the problem was, he began to get free.
You may already have guessed (or you might already know) how he did it. To cut a long and somewhat gruesome story short, he basically chopped his arm off. Yes it was an extreme action, but it was the only action he could take to free himself from his situation and continue forward. If he hadn’t done it, he almost certainly would have died where he was – and possibly never been found.
It was his decision to look at his dilemma from a personal viewpoint that he began to see there were other actions he could take. These actions would change his life forever. They would change the way he functioned, the way he looked – they were going to change everything about him. And he went ahead and chopped his arm off.
So you know, my friend, if you’re telling me you’ve tried everything then I want to make the suggestion that perhaps you haven’t. Perhaps you haven’t looked inwards to see if there is another change you could make. Perhaps there is another level of trying, another level of action you’re now going to have to consider. And that level of action isn’t going to have anything to do with the workplace, your boss, or your workload – it’s going to be to do with you.
Time for a truth transplant!
If you’re now starting to look at your work situation differently as a result of what I’ve said here, well done. That’s the first step. But it’s going to be difficult. Some of you are going to have to have a ‘truth transplant’. Some of you are going to need a ‘lie-ectomy’. There could well be lies that are keeping you stuck at work, stuck in a job or situation you hate, and you’re going to need to excise those from your life.
And here’s the thing – they’re usually generated from within you, folks. The chances are really good that something somewhere inside of you is causing you to hold onto this situation that’s not working for you anymore. It’s not just ‘like this’. It’s not just ‘the way it is’. You haven’t tried everything. There is always a choice – always something else you can do. It’s just a higher level action that is going to cost you in some way.
Are you willing to do what it takes to move on?
I’ve spoken a lot here about taking an action that will cost you. But remember, this action is going to reward you in the end as well. You’ll be able to move on to a better and much more rewarding working life.
So why not think today about making a decision to say to yourself, “You know what? I’m willing to do what it takes, even if it’s painful, to get to where I want to be. I’m willing to pay a price to make things better.”
Can you say that with honesty today? Write a little declaration to that effect in your journal.
So – are you prepared to do everything? Ask yourself that question today and see a better working life opening up in front of you.