In my previous blog on How You Define the Problem is Part of the Solution, we used the example of weight loss to examine why some people are successful and others aren’t at solving a problem. Now let’s look at another example: those who blame their job or career for their unhappiness.
To put that concept in another context, let’s say that what you define as your problem is your career. Is it bringing you a sense of fulfillment? Does it make you feel good about yourself? Do you like getting up to go to work every day or do you dread the sound of the alarm?
The first thing you need to do if you’re not happy in your job is to determine what’s causing your unhappiness. If the reality is that your job is really the problem (it’s boring, it’s unfulfilling, it’s repetitious, whatever…), and you’re only staying in it because you need the paycheck and because knowing that a certain amount of money will be coming in each week allows you to maintain some sense of control over your life, I have to ask what it is that you’re really controlling. You must realize that, in reality, you could lose your job at any time—and not because of anything you did or didn’t do. So whatever sense of “security” it gives you is really no more than an illusion. If you let it go, you might find yourself unemployed. But you also might find yourself in a brand-new, exciting, soul-satisfying, even financially more lucrative position.
But consider for a moment that maybe it’s really you and not your job that’s the problem. Perhaps you have a problem accepting authority, and your ego is preventing you from forming productive relationships with your supervisor and your coworkers. Or perhaps you go to the opposite extreme, lacking the assertiveness to promote your ideas and allow others to recognize your true value. I’ve certainly seen people in both of those situations, who blamed their jobs for their lack of success and then went into business for themselves. The ego-driven person found himself no more able to work productively with clients than he’d been able to work with his boss—because his ego was still getting in the way. And the unassertive underachiever found it just as difficult to promote his ideas to potential customers as he had to his coworkers.
In both those cases, the job hadn’t been the problem at all. It was the person’s attitude that had been making him unhappy and thwarting his success. And when he left his job, he took that attitude with him.
Once again, the bottom line is the realization that all we can control is ourselves. And so, if we’re not as happy or successful or effective as we think we can or should be, we need first to assess the reality of our present situation. Is our job really the problem? If so, we need to let it go. But if we are the problem, we need to understand what it is about us that’s causing the problem—a bad attitude, a mistaken idea, a less-than-positive driving myth—accept that as reality, and then let it go. That’s what it means to understand, accept, and manage yourself. That’s what it means to know your gig in your secondary world and find the power of losing control.
We are always responsible for our own success and happiness, and our best chance for real growth lies in our ability to first accept what is and then figure out how to change it for the better. That’s the secret of learning to let go. It isn’t always easy because, as M. Scott Peck said in The Road Less Traveled,
“Life is difficult.”
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see it as truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
© Joe Caruso and Caruso Leadership. Reprints available with permission.