By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. I'm in my 50s and have been working since I was 17. I am noticing that every year there are more things in my career that cause me pain. I am so exhausted with going to work and swimming upstream against all the problems that upset me. I feel like early retirement is my only option, but I can't afford that. What can I do?
A. Suffering will grow you up, but stacking pain upon pain, because you keep doing the same thing, will just make you bitter and unproductive.
Let's discuss the difference between suffering and pain. Suffering is a finger from the universe pointing out areas we really need to grow and change. Buddha's first noble truth about enlightenment is that life contains inevitable suffering. We can't avoid all suffering but we can use this temporary discomfort to go into our inner world and learn about ourselves.
For instance, I might suffer when a client tells me I am "cold and critical." If I can tolerate my suffering, I might see that I prefer to be seen as compassionate. Notice I said the word "prefer" rather than believing I am entitled to be seen positively. I might then link my suffering to my family, where my narcissistic parents thought I was constantly out to get them. Then and only then I might ask my client what I did? The client might tell me I gave them advice rather than just listening. Voila! I've learned something rather than just being in pain!
When you suffer, you are experiencing a moment in your world when things are definitely not going your way. If you can lean into that moment, rather like relaxing when a massage therapist pushes into a sore muscle, you can breathe, learn something and see new options.
Pain is suffering that becomes permanent because you make a repetitive choice to never become introspective. When you collect more pain every year you live you are using pity and blame as strategies. Since blame focuses your attention on what is wrong with your outer world, you can never learn or grow.
In your workplace, if you look around, you will see people that suffer, chose to be self-accountable and insightful, and grow up. You will also see people who every day they come to work seem more burdened by a heavier load of pain from problems they never resolve. Your coworkers that experience pain and chose to blame will be constantly irritable, unproductive and miserable but not see any door to freedom.
Your coworkers who experience suffering instead will use that discomfort to become more than they were yesterday. They have the same problems as everyone else, but they take the responsibility to keep staring at those pesky problems until a new solution occurs to them.
The door to freedom and peace, in and outside of our workplaces, is hidden is a very obvious and convenience spot: inside of us. If we will make the journey to the core of who we are, we will transform our suffering into wisdom.
Lastly, remember, our workplaces will never run out of suffering to motivate us to grow. When you solve one situation that makes you suffer, I promise the universe will send you a new one. On Monday morning, step into the fire of your workplace suffering and use it to transform yourself.
The last word(s)
Q. I've got a thorny workplace issue, and I have been obsessing about it without finding any solutions. Is there a way to get a breakthrough when you're staring at a brick wall at work?
A. Yes, go do something really fun or rejuvenating and completely forget about the problem. Open up the windows to your brain by letting go of the problem for a while, and the solution will emerge in the fresh air.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
Printed in the March 5, 2017 - March 18, 2017 edition