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Postcards from over the edge

Postcards from over the edge

A few potentially useful thoughts about work and working life.

  1. When you’ve reached enlightenment, your boss will still be a jerk. The good news is that it won’t bother you any more. The secret of maintaining a calm mind is letting go of emotions and refusing to waste energy on fretting about whatever you can’t change. The world is an unsatisfactory place; your boss is an unsatisfactory person. Life is good.
  2. There are no acceptable excuses for your bad behavior. Not your dreadful childhood (most people were dreadful sometimes as children, even if their childhood was idyllic), your miserable relationships (miserable people give themselves more of them), the fact you have no money (maybe you did nothing to earn more, or wasted what you had), your frustrating job (you’re presumably too frustrated to do anything about changing it) or the pains in your neck (and the ones you give to others). Life sometimes sucks. Get over it. Don’t add to the mess.
  3. Reality keeps coming at you. There’s no “off” switch. All you can do is cope with it as best you can. Since you’re human, you’re fallible. There will be many times you mess up totally and many more you mess up a little. If you beat yourself up over each one of them, you’re going to be a continual hospital case. If you feel guilty whenever you screw up, you’ll end up a basket case too.
  4. No one can insult you without your permission. Whatever he or she says about you, it’s your emotions that make you feel bad. That, and going over and over the insult in your mind, imagining what you should have said (but didn’t think of until it was too late). Ignore them and insults will have no power over you.
  5. You can always be yourself. You don’t need to prove it. It’s impossible for you to be anyone else, however hard you try. Doing something just to prove your ability, courage, or anything else is merely showing off. Only doing something because it needs doing is the real thing.
  6. Whatever changes you have in mind, begin with yourself. Many people work diligently to change others, while leaving themselves untouched. If you succeed in making the other person better, it will only show up your own deficiencies in a harsher light.
  7. You won’t find meaning in your life by sitting and thinking about it. To create meaning, you have to take action with some purpose in mind. Locking a new car in the garage and thinking about driving it won’t put any miles on the clock. Thinking about what your life means is the same. You need to get a little mud on the wheels and a few dints in the bodywork. Later, when you look at them, you’ll recall what happened and what each one meant.
  8. If you aren’t satisfied with your life, change it. If you won’t change it, put up with it. There’s no middle way. Whatever you do, don’t keep telling us about it. We don’t want to know.
  9. Keep living until you die. Some people give up on life while they’re still alive. You can see they’ve done so, because they no longer do any of the things that show life is present. They don’t learn, they don’t change, they don’t develop, they don’t adapt. They may be alive physically, but they’re already dead in any sense that matters.
  10. There’s no such creature as a self-made person—unless she conceived and gave birth to herself, fed herself as a baby and a child, made her own clothes from cotton and wool she produced herself, taught herself, built her own house and car, and never needed to go to a doctor, a dentist, a pharmacy or a store. We’re all utterly dependent on one another. Gratitude seems more appropriate than egotistical fantasies.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life, and Working Potential, where you’ll learn about great ideas for self-development. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.
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    Last Updated on January 2, 2020

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

    Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

    But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

    Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

    Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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    Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

    It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

    They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

    To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

    2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

    Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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    Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

    3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

    Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

    Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

    4. Be Who You Are

    It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

    You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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    You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

    Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

    5. Slow Down and Let Go

    Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

    Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

    Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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    So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

    When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

    The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

    Final Thoughts

    What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

    To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

    If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

    More About Stepping Out of Comfort Zone

    Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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