By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I am feeling demoralized and depressed about the way my career has gone for the last five years. It seems like every time I get a break, it turns out to be disappointing in the end. Why does work (and life) need to be so hard? Other people seem to have it easy. What am I doing wrong?
A. What you are doing wrong is not realizing that nobody has it easy. You just don't know them well enough to be aware of the struggles they are facing so you feel uniquely tortured by your circumstances.
I can't tell you how often I have heard a client tell me that they must have done something bad in a past life because every time they turn around they get mowed over by new problems. The truth is that everyone walks into their workplace and faces some new problem - not just the people with "bad karma."
Most of workplace success seems to pivot on what we do next, after the bad event befalls us. We cannot wrap ourselves in pink cotton and protect ourselves from challenges. We do have complete control over what we do and say when things at work don't go our way.
Take a bad review from your boss. Do you defend yourself, do you listen and paraphrase, do you counterattack? How you react will determine whether you get a raise, get promoted or get fired. We often think we have bad luck because we don't see that the ways we react are setting up more problems for ourselves.
Try making a list of every instance and aspect of your work in which you believe you are beset by "bad luck." Now think long and hard, and brainstorm a list of anything you have done that may be making this problem worse. Lastly, write a list of anything you can do that could make the problem better.
As you review your brainstorming, you'll run up against an inner reaction about how it isn't fair that you should have to change to fix these problems. You will probably rail against how other people shouldn't make it so hard and how it is their fault that these situations are happening. I can't require you to drop this reaction. I will point out that picketing against the unfair nature of the world has never changed it.
Once you have your lists, you have the chance to improve your "luck" at work. If you are no longer waiting for other people to shape up, you are free to take the actions that will improve your work life.
At work we usually have a choice between, on the one hand, victimhood and the comfort of not taking responsibility, and on the other the anxiety of changing how we act on the job. Blaming other people and boycotting reality because we don't like it allows us to avoid looking at our contributions. We can wrap ourselves up in a blanket of powerlessness as we lick our wounds.
Objectively evaluating everything we do gives us the power to create "good luck" but we have to step into the breezy corridors of the unknown. Monday morning, when you walk into your workplace, be aware you'll find two paths. The first is the choice of familiar misery. The second is the choice of power and risk taking. Your "luck" will depend on which path you chose.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. Contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This was printed in the August 14, 2011 - August 27, 2011 Edition