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  • Writer's pictureMegan Filoramo

What do you have to lose?

How many times have you asked,

“what do you have to lose?”

Maybe to encourage someone to take a chance, or try something new?

And sometimes it works… but often it doesn’t.

I propose that not only is this the wrong question to ask, but just asking it can be counterproductive to motivation.

Asking “what do I have to lose” puts focus exactly where we don’t want it, ON THE COST.

Sure, we flippantly answer that there’s nothing to lose, but the truth is, we usually feel like IS something valuable at stake, otherwise we would already be doing whatever it is that we are trying to do in the first place.

What’s at stake is our sense of security, the known comfort of our current situation, and the amount of energy we are willing to give.

I want to ask you,

What do you have to lose by trying to make work better?

What comes up for you?

My guess is you start thinking of all things that are wrong at work and how this is one more thing that you have to do. Your mind goes right to trying to find all the things that you actually could lose by trying to make things better.

The potential cost is mental energy (and maybe some weird looks from your coworkers).

This is why it’s the wrong question.

What we should ask ourselves is “what do I have to gain?”

Do you feel the shift?

What do you have to gain by actually trying to DO something to feel better in your current job? Shifting the focus to what you have to gain vs what you have to lose puts you into the world of possibility, of hope, of excitement.

I love hanging out in possibility.

Let’s explore this a little bit. What would happen if you tried something to feel better at work? Even if it was just looking for the things that were going right, or the people you like, or the patients who appreciate the care you give. Even if it was taking a deep breath and dropping your shoulders before you went into each patient room.

We know the problems, we don’t have to look for those.

We know systemic change is needed, but what can we do today, to help ourselves?

Now this may sound judgy, or harsh. It may sound like I am calling out my fellow nurses, many of whom are working to the max of their mental capacity. I assure you, it’s not judgment, it’s fear; fear that nothing will be tried and the suffering of nurses will continue to grow.

I cannot bear the thought.

I understand why we don’t try things. We can’t afford to lose anything, we feel like we have nothing extra to give and that the disappointment of work not getting better, despite our efforts, would put us over the edge.

But here’s the truth. There is very little downside to trying this. The worst that will happen if we try to change something is that we will have to deal with our own emotions as they come up.

That’s it.

We will have to deal with the continued pull of the negative while we try our best to refocus. We will have to deal with the discomfort of stepping outside the norm and having the social courage to be enthusiastic when people are complaining. We need to have compassion for the complainers while choosing a different path. After all, the complaints are justified, just not productive in our quest to feel better. We need to try to start a disciplined practice of looking for the good.

It may be uncomfortable- but we are already uncomfortable with the distress we are feeling at work. So let's pick a discomfort that serves us.

So how do we motivate ourselves to do this?

Here’s what I do.

I ask, “what do I have to gain?” If possible social discomfort and managing my emotions is the cost of trying to improve my life then I want to know if it’s going to be worth it.

What’s the return on investment?

It’s like I ask my chronic pain patients, is overdoing it on a good day worth the increased pain and potential decrease function the following day?

And you know what they often say? They tell me it IS worth it, it’s worth it for the satisfaction of getting something done that they feel is important.

Is it worth risking some negative emotion (with a healthy dose of discipline and self-compassion) to actually get back to feeling like you want to be a nurse, that you enjoy being a nurse?

Feeling better at work is important. It’s important for the survival of healthcare and it’s important for the survival of you.

Try something, anything. See how it works- adjust as needed. The return on investment is so worth the mental energy, especially when you look at all the future drama you have spared yourself.

And then imagine how feeling better at work will affect the rest of your life. We’re just getting started.`


P.S. Have you picked up my free guide 3 Steps to Love the Job You’re in: and come home with energy to spare? Click here to get it delivered to your inbox today. You can use this as the first thing you're doing to feel better at work :)

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