Confession. I felt and regularly expressed anger about my job over a period of several weeks recently. Since beginning my wellness challenge eight months ago, this emotion had been absent in my life. Circumstances, however, sometimes test even the best intentions. As if to see how truly committed I was, the universe appeared to have conspired against my attempt to free myself from negativity. For starters, my job introduced new demands—the loss of nearly half of the time I enjoyed over the past five years to prepare lessons and grade assignments, time that allowed me to have a life outside of my career as an educator.
On top of that, my son became a busy high school senior applying for scholarships and scheduling campus visits. Although I knew this was coming, I didn't fully comprehend how much time it would require. To add, the produce at our farm was at its zenith this fall, some of the help we had counted on for years became unavailable, and my wellness challenge continued. As a result, my wife and farm suffered. Things seemed to be falling apart, and I found myself extremely upset with some very angry emotions and thoughts directed at the individuals I perceived to be the cause for turning my job and life upside down. In spite of meditation, exercise, excellent nutrition, and sleep, I hadn't been able to fully let go of unwanted negativity. The result was a relapse into some aspects of a life I'd been attempting to escape through my wellness challenge.
My saving grace, YET AGAIN, was an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast. "Instead of being angry or upset about the unfulfilling circumstances of your job, focus on serving others," Rich advised and audience member in his "Ask Rich Anything" podcast. With nothing to lose, I tried to follow this advice and be more service oriented while at work. I'm pleased to say my attitude, speech, and actions all changed for the better. Service healed most of my anger and negative feelings towards others and my work. This experience got me thinking about three simple things we can all do to regain a proper attitude when we become annoyed, upset, and downright irritated with people or life.
Provide Service. Having already introduced this particular thought about cultivating job satisfaction, let's get down to the specifics. My line of work, teaching youth, is all about service. It's built in and required, so I don't have to find specific things to do. Over the past weeks, I've implemented a simple practice: First, I quietly think to myself "I am here to serve" before each interaction with my students. Next, I observe and verbally recognize their needs. Finally, I offer my help. The rest is magic. My students have sensed my good intentions and opened up, learning has improved, and we all seem to feel a little better. Set a positive intention, observe and recognize a need, offer assistance, and serve. A formula for success? Maybe. As I reflect on my relapse into negativity, it's no big surprise that my intense anger with my work is less than it was before.
Engage in Routine Acts of Kindness. I'm not talking about monumental acts here, just small, simple deeds. Picking up books, pens, and papers for students. Opening jammed lockers in between classes. Greeting all my students at my door as they enter my class. Staying into my lunch hour to help a student with a low grade. Picking up trash in the hall. I haven't received any feedback about my actions, but I know what I do. My impression is that I feel two or three percent better.
Express Gratitude. This is tough for me right now. I'm not grateful for this new set of circumstances at work. My job seemed much better last year; in fact, just months before I could see myself teaching beyond the date for my retirement. Contrasted with my latest thoughts on the subject (I plan to resign as soon as possible) I can see a dramatic change. Don't get me wrong, I'm committed to doing a great job and being fully available and present while at work, but it's obvious to me that I have to work on becoming more grateful. Instead of being false, I start each day with gratitude for my health, my family, and the income I earn for us to have the experiences and opportunities we enjoy. My attitude of gratitude is not where I would like it to be, so I'll work on these three practices to see if it improves even more.