Next level thinking

When you desire to go to the next level in life (work, relationship, growth), you don’t play around. You do what you need to do to make yourself better. That’s where I’m at now.  I put my pride in a timeout. I put my shortcomings in a timeout.  I’m doing things I’ve never done before or thought were options for me.   

I was in a sticky situation at work this week. Navigating relationships with professionals on different levels within an agency can be tricky sometimes.  I recognized that I needed ideas beyond my own to help me through the situation. I quickly enlisted the help of my mentor.  In the past, I’ve rationalized that I have a master’s degree, so if I have a problem with an agency, I can find another job. In graduate school, one of my professors actually told me when a job stops being fun, then it’s time to move on. At the time, her advise saved me because I was absolutely miserable at my current job. After about 7 years of employment, it hadn’t occurred to me to search for a new job. That evening, I applied for a couple of jobs, and by the next month, I was employed at a different agency.

I went through a honeymoon phase of about a year with the new agency until I noticed some problems unfolding.  After a few years, I sought employment elsewhere.  I was out of that new agency in 6 months.  My professor was right, when it’s no longer fun, look for another job. However, it may not be solving the problem.  There may be evidence that supports the days of employees working at jobs for 20-40 years are gone. In American society today, depending on the occupation and geographic location, it’s normal to switch jobs every few years, especially in the social work field. I believed this to be my destiny.

What I’ve learned is that every agency has its own unique culture, politics, and you’re thinking it…PROBLEMS.  However, another common denominator, if I’m moving through these different agencies every few years, is me. It just so happens the same theme does emerge.  I get frustrated with people who have strong personalities and/or exhibit unchecked, bad behavior.  I eventually give up.  I believe I’ve lost some opportunities because of quitting too soon. Some people won’t blame me for quitting.  I listened to an audio book this spring by John Acuff called Quitter. (When I figure out how to do it from my phone, I’ll paste the hyperlink to the book.)  I was attracted to this book because I was convinced my destiny was to become self-employed because I was no longer feeling the fire at work. At some point, I may become self-employed, but the point I want to make here is the author gave me a different perspective on how I view my job.  I gained a whole new appreciation for the opportunities that I could create for myself.  I was promoted a few months later. 

Imagine this: Today, I’m confronted with the same situation as I’ve had several times in years past. God is and has been telling me to deal with this issue. This is David and Goliath. This is a matter of me standing up for myself as the dynamic professional that I am.  This is a matter of me not walking away from what God has in store for me. This is a matter of me making a change, so that I can be the change.  And I will do it in a smart and strategic way, but not alone.

When you see a problem, enlist the help of people you trust to help you through it. Especially seek out people who know more than you and who have been there. Common themes in my posts are that it takes vulnerability and courage, but how badly do you want a different result? This is next level thinking.


The power of voice

I stood in the hallway of an unfamiliar building, not sure where to go and noticing the time. No one was around.  “Darn it! I don’t want to be late. Managers get to meetings early.” As I shuffled through my notebook to find the printed Microsoft Outlook invitation hoping to find the room number, I saw a sentence instructing attendees to plan to provide a one minute introduction about themselves.  “Great (sarcasm)! How did I miss that? I didn’t prepare anything. I’m going to have to wing it AGAIN. It’ll be ok. One minute isn’t long. I’ll think of something on the elevator ride up.”

I got off the elevator to find 3 familiar faces and each appeared lost. No one knew how to get to the conference room. I felt relieved I wasn’t alone.  After a few minutes of confusion, another familiar, smiling face appeared and guided us to our destination.  At the entry to the room, I laid eyes on who will become my new tribe of professionals: managers, directors, and officials. “Do I belong here? Absolutely.”

There were about 30 of us crammed in a small conference room. This was the first meeting of its kind. The introductions commenced, and to my dread, they were starting at my table plus we each had to stand up.  As an introvert, I’m usually uncomfortable talking about myself. I decided, “I can do this” as I have many times. However, the stakes were higher this time because of who was in the room. I recalled my boss telling me in the past, “It’s time to shine.” I always resented her telling me that because I shine on my own accord, not by command or pressure. My boss was in the room, at my table. Even though I had my elevator speech ready, thankfully, the facilitator decided to go to the other tables, so I would almost be the last person to speak. I claimed my stake and told myself that I would be relaxed and make an impression. As I listened to the years of experience, wit, and honesty, I began to feel inspired and privileged to be in the room. 

With each person that spoke, I’d think of something else I wanted to say about myself and add it to my imaginary list. By the time they came to me, I was poised and relaxed. For a moment, I questioned my attire, particularly my top, because when I stood up eyes seemed to have laid on the tie at the base of my denim blouse.  I was imagining curious looks. I knew I needed to call attention to my words not my attire so I amped it up.  I blocked out the thought about my blouse because let’s face it, I couldn’t do anything about it at that point. It was a cute. It just didn’t look as conservative as shirts other people were wearing. I said a couple of things that made people laugh, even my boss. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I felt exhilarated after the meeting.

This true story is a snapshot of my Friday this week. The meeting lasted four hours.  I’m sharing because I want to emphasize how important a positive inner “voice” or “self-talk” is. What are you telling yourself? Sure, I have moments of insecurity and doubt, but they are fleeting moments.  Sure, I put pressure on myself, but I stay focused on the big picture. Overwhelmingly, I talk myself through until I get the positive outcome I, not only desire, but have already imagined in my mind.  If it doesn’t happen that moment, I work hard not to don’t beat myself up by saying “It’ll be ok.”  I try again the next day.

I believe that most people wouldn’t tell their best friends the negative things that many say to themselves. I view my internal voice as my best friend who is looking out for me and loves me. Now, I have to work on listening to ensure she (my voice/self-talk) is feeding me positive thoughts and telling me the truth.  For some, it can be oddly comfortable to wallow in negative emotions and self-talk.  We might not even notice the negative mumbles, which is why it takes self-awareness to do this work. It also takes courage. 

Be courageous and claim your stake in your life. Do the work of being the best version of yourself. Get to know yourself. Challenge yourself. You’re worth it.