Have you ever noticed that some jobs are easier to learn than others?
When I was a teenager I worked one summer at a hardware store. For whatever reason, I was great at merchandising and customer service. But I was lousy at the register. To this day in my own retail store I fumble, stumble, and pace like a turtle when it comes to ringing people up.
I literally try to avoid it. I can setup the system. But I’m lousy as using it.
Do You Like Your Job?
The statistics suggest more people dislike their job than like it. And let’s face it, some jobs are just easier to like than others.
Being a gourmet chocolate tester? Like.
A paid Disneyworld mystery shopper? Like.
Portable toilet recycler? Not like.
The guy who cleans up after the elephants at the zoo. No thanks.
Some jobs we love, others we disdain. We’ve likely all had those “you-can-take-this-job-and-shove-it” moments where we literally wanted to do just that.
I’ll just call them our “shove-it” moments for sanitary reasons.
When our shove-it moments start being too numerous to count, we usually have a job we do not like.
Three Redemptive Responses
At least once a year I pause to reflect upon three redemptive responses to those kinds of moments. Ones that can even teach us how to love those jobs that we really don’t like.
Together they can reset our thinking and restrain our reactions to the proverbial bad day at the office.
Focus on What You Can Control
Whether it feels like it or not, you have options and control over more things in an unlikeable job than you might imagine. These include:
- What you say
- How you respond
- How you handle strong emotion (in you and in others)
- What you think about
- How you grow your skills
- How you deal with disappointment, stress and setback
- How you look at your life and your future
Feeling out of control is a miserable thing, and a key factor in many unlikeable jobs – regardless of the pay grade.
We are never going to have control over all the circumstances surrounding our jobs. Too many people, systems, quirks, and jerks. I get it. When we confuse what we cannot control with the total reality of our work, we rob ourselves of the one thing that can make the biggest difference.
The Conversation In Your Mind
Several years ago I attend a seminar on helping people and communities who are bound up in chronic poverty. Probably my biggest takeaway from the whole morning was this one thing.
A key contributor to poverty comes from the inability to keep a job, than it does the ability to find a job.
In play was what happened in those shove-it moments.
A correlation was found between poverty and those who tended to lose their temper or react to an unlikeable circumstance in ways that cost them their job.
It was a recurring and impoverished mindset before it ever became an economic reality. It brings to light an ominous truth about the power of what goes on between the ears.
Every pernicious thing in this world got its start as a conversation in someone’s mind.
The good news, however, is that every redemptive remedy begins there as well. That’s why taking control of our thoughts is such an imperative.
It may not turn your job into a likable one, but it can transform how you live and work in light of it. Which brings us to the second solution to the problem.
Practice Your Serve
Alongside the shove-it moments is another dastardly companion that is actually the job mindset itself. A job mindset is expressed through very acceptable notions like ‘getting a job’, ‘having a job’, or ‘my job’. I even used it just a few paragraphs earlier.
Yet I think it sets us all up for failure. Let me explain.
Believe it or not, your employer did not hire you because you needed a job. They hired you because they needed your help. They needed your mind, your back, your time, your focus, your skills, etc. Whatever it is that you do, it was the need for that to be done that led to your hiring in the first place.
The work that you do is actually an opportunity for serving and loving. In this case, love is an action and not a sentiment.
The difference in mindset then is stark. When we look at our work as a job to be possessed, as opposed to a need to be served, the way we approach our work can be more vulnerable to shove-it moments.
If you went to a favorite restaurant and the server approached you with an attitude that said “I’m here only because I need a job, not because I want to serve you” you would not think kindly about a large tip.
So why would you do that at work?
It may not change your circumstances…but embracing a serving, and even loving, mindset could rehabilitate the kind of impoverished thinking that sabotages your best efforts to do well.
You have an opportunity to turn an unlikeable job into an endearing one if you choose to treat it as an opportunity to serve instead of an object to be possessed.
Look for The Purposeful Bigger Picture
This one is a bit nuanced, but it could be the most important one of all. Here is the premise.
All work is purposeful, but not all purposes are workable.
Because we are not sovereign in our wisdom and understanding of this world, there will be purposes that we carry into our work that will never be workable.
I came straight out of engineering school into the IBM world. My very first day I looked at my manager across from the desk and told him, “Someday I want to be President of IBM.” True story. Embarrassing, but true.
I still recall the amused look in his expression. He was a long-time IBM manager who fortunately knew how to handle such youthful exuberance.
It would take ten years – packed with an enormous number of shove-it moments – before I would submit to the idea that this probably was not going to happen. My purposes at IBM simply were not workable.
Purposeful Work Amid Unworkable Purposes
So were those ten years then purposeless? Were they wasted years? Did I miss my calling because of chasing that unworkable dream?
Not. At. All.
Those years were enormously purposeful. From the skills I learned to the people I met, I see now those IBM years as a part of something much larger than my youthful career ambitions.
What I did for those ten years was purposeful work. Even though my purposes for them would prove to not be workable.
I believe there is a way to have work that is life-giving, where we are in control, serving a corner of this world, and doing purposeful work even amidst unworkable purposes.
By admitting these three subtle changes into our thought life, we can learn to love the work that we do. Even in those jobs that we may not like.
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