A recent survey reckons that 33% of us in the UK are looking for new jobs this year. Salary levels, boredom, lack of promotion opportunities, poor worklife balance, and dissatisfaction with bosses are all cited as reasons.
I must admit that, when I first read about this – and indeed these reasons – it all seemed par for the course.
In a previous life, I was the HR person who would read these kind of surveys and see them as warnings. I’d share them with my line management colleagues, and talk about what we needed to do to make sure we didn’t have of an exodus looming.
And indeed you yourself might be one of these disgruntled people, feeling pretty clear and justified about the things pushing you out of the door.
And I’m not saying that there’s not something here for businesses to get their heads around.
But then I found myself stopping in my tracks.
I suddenly saw this whole thing through the lens of a new understanding that I’m having about the whole nature of life. And things began to look a little different.
Turning Things Inside-Out
Before I go on, I think we need to take a couple of steps back and revisit some of our fundamental beliefs about psychology and the workings of the human mind.
Until now, pretty much everyone, including me, has worked on the assumption that the world works outside-in:
What’s outside of us is the cause of our inner wellbeing.
Nice jobs, great pay and fab bosses make us happy.
Crap work, negligible pay rises and control freak bosses stress us out.
When everything is fine on the outside, we feel good.
When things are difficult, we feel bad.
The tons of life- and work-hack books, blogs and their associated gurus are testimony to the belief that’s how it is.
But it turns out that it doesn’t actually work this way.
Instead our ability to experience anything starts inside-out. And remember I’m not talking just work here, I’m talking anything at all.
From this perspective, everything that happens outside of us is neutral. It’s in our minds, and thanks to our powerful functions of cognition, that we make meaning of what we see, hear, feel and experience.
The amazing gift of thought
“Thought” is the term that Sydney Banks used to name this ability we have to create perceptual realities. The word means so much more than its current everyday use suggests.
Banks view of things was that thinking and experience are inseparable.
Thinking, he saw, is a divine gift. A powerful, creative force.
But more than that, it’s a fundamental principle of life. Like gravity, it’s constant. We don’t have to be conscious of it for it to exist. Thought creates the constant stream of chatter and ideas that flows through our head. One of the consequences of thought is that we are always feeling our thinking, and that we have feelings that we don’t credit as being thought.
Our feelings come from our thinking.
If we’re stressed or anxious, it’s because we’re having stressed or anxious thoughts. I know that it looks like we’re feeling crappy because of what’s going on outside. But that’s not how it is.
We’re feeling crappy because of what we’re making of what’s going on outside.
The hidden hamster wheel
In his book, Clarity, Jamie Smart talks about what he calls the “hidden hamster wheel” and how it comes from the mistaken idea that our core states such as security, confidence, peace, love, happiness and success can be provided or threatened by our circumstances, by something visible. Like pay rises, better job titles…
“We have it because we’ve been conditioned to believe that there’s somewhere to get to, and that “there” is better than “here”. And “there” comes in a variety of tantalizing flavours…”
In the world of work, we can get caught up in thinking things like:
- I’ll be happy when I have a boss that treats me with more respect.
- I’ll feel more secure when I’m in a job that pays just more than this place.
- I’ll feel better when I can get my teeth into meatier work.
- I’ll feel more successful when I get that next promotion and my friends can see how well I’m doing.
And on and on it goes.
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wishing to be treated with more respect, or to be paid in a way that’s more in line with your value, or whatever.
But what I am saying is that, if you think your wellbeing is contingent on these things, you’re missing the point. And the chances are that, if you act out your desires from that place, you may find yourself being ecstatic for a month or two while you get the next big name employer on your CV, but it won’t last, because sooner or later it’s going to occur to you that something is missing there too.
What to do instead
So, before you resign, give this some thought: your happiness starts from the inside. It’s your birthright. It’s not under any kind of threat, if you don’t want it to be. The belief that it is, is an illusion. A red-herring. Break your own spell and see things for what they are. You’re already okay.
And, sure, from that place, if your soul says “go”, then that’s a different matter. One, by the way, that I’ll be picking up and talking about in more detail next time.
Meantime, I’d love to know what insights you have as you read this.
How it strikes you.
What is opens up for you.
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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