As I write this, I can’t help thinking about that scene in The Devil Wears Prada when Andy’s boyfriend tells her he wouldn’t care if she pole danced if she did it with a little integrity. That’s a bit extreme, but I actually decided to revisit this topic because of another movie (also a book to film adaptation) Revolutionary Road. For anyone unfamiliar with the story, the Reader’s Digest version is: a young couple in the 1950s gets married, falls into average young professional life and has a joint crisis in their 30s when they realize they aren’t doing anything “extraordinary” with their lives. In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t end well. Now, that’s fiction, but I know a lot of people come to see me because they don’t feel like they are doing what they set out to do, or they’ve been doing what felt right at the time, but it doesn’t feel alright anymore. If you fall into one of those categories (or are concerned that you might someday), take a deep breath and read on.
- It’s all a matter of perspective. To dip even further into Hollywood wisdom, for those of you familiar with The Breakfast Club, we all know that each of us fills multiple roles, it just depends on the social circle. As we mature, the spheres of our lives multiply like rings on a tree. For example, at home, you may be a son, daughter, husband, or wife. Maybe you are also a devoted pet parent, or someone’s favorite aunt or uncle. Within your neighborhood, you might be the person everyone can depend on when they need someone to water the plants, bring in the paper when they’re on vacation, etc. At work, you might be seen as ambitious, friendly, knowledgable, or any other number of things, and this is probably going to vary depending on who you talk to. My point here is, you are already extraordinary in at least one person’s life, and that is very important. You have no way of knowing how something kind you say or do will influence what they go on to do.
- Don’t be a hostage to unreasonable deadlines. So what if you aren’t where you “wanted to be” at this point in your life? Who’s hassling about it anyway? A big part of growing up is learning how to let things like that go. Why? There is always going to be somebody in your life who will happily remind you that somehow, you’re missing the mark or falling short of where you should be. Maybe the person who does that to you has issues. I usually like to think so because it’s one more mean thing to say about someone else who is saying mean things, but in the end, who cares about their issues and who cares about what they think? Often, when we really sit down and think things through, we aren’t where we originally thought we wanted to be at this point for lack of ability or effort, but because something else mattered more. Maybe you met someone amazing and couldn’t relocate at will anymore. Maybe you found a fabulous rent-controlled apartment in a city you love, but that means not pursuing “more important” opportunities elsewhere. Every decision we make, even the ones that seem small or insignificant, has pros and cons. Knowing what you are willing to do in the name of success and what you aren’t willing to do is having a soul or integrity. It’s not the opposite.
- Past is not prologue. It’s human error to believe the past predicts our future. We all do it, and it works for some things. If a problem solving strategy worked for a similar situation in the past, it’s reasonable to believe it’s worth a try for a similar problem in the future. However, believing, “I haven’t gotten a job offer that gives me at least 80% of what I want over the course of my career, and that is never going to change” isn’t helpful. Here’s why: that statement just puts you in a rut, and doesn’t present you with a problem that can be solved. What you could say instead is, “I feel that I deserve more (whatever you’re missing now), and I haven’t been successful at getting it yet. What are some things I can change that would get me more of what I want?”
- Explore options. While it may be hard to see them, you always have options. Odds are, some aren’t realistic for you, but if you really take the time to brainstorm and look them over in a calmer state of mind, you may be surprised at how many things you can do to make a day at work more bearable, to do more of what you want to do in your personal life, or whatever your goals may be.
While this may sound new-agey or simplistic, it’s good to remember that every day gives you the opportunity to do the best you can at being a friend, an employee, a citizen, etc. Do the best that you can and take pride in what you do. This is where you are today, but who knows what adventures are in store?