When you don't know what to do to make things better
“Things aren’t going to change.”
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“Nothing is going to work.”
Encouraging, isn’t it?
This is how it can feel when we are overwhelmed at work. And then this overwhelm can rob us of the energy that we need to achieve our goals (or even set them) outside of work.
There just doesn’t seem to be enough energy to go around.
The resulting frustration just further cements the idea in our head that we don’t know how to get out of this.
I think Vincent Van Gogh said it best,
“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
How does this relate to work when we don’t even know what to do?
Do something, anything, and the “I don’t know” voice will be silenced.
We are paralyzed by the thought that we don’t know the “right” thing to do.
What if there is no “right” thing? What if there is no “wrong” thing?
What if there were TONS of ways to go about this?
Let me give you an example.
How do you become a runner? What are the right steps?
You may think- you just go out and run. For anyone who isn’t a runner, you know just how impossible this sounds.
What if these were some possible options for the “right” steps
Read a book on how to run.
Research running shoes.
Go to physical therapy for that old back injury before you get started.
Download an app.
Make a playlist.
Journal about WHY you want to be a runner.
Think about what you like. Being on a track? A trail? Around a neighborhood?
Enlist a partner.
Decide to try it solo.
Sign up for a race or a club.
Look at what obstacles have come up in the past and plan for those ahead of time.
Visualize yourself as a runner.
Make a sticker chart or a cumulative mileage goal.
If you are a skeptic, you may think that none of these strategies are going to work.
After all, none of them actually involve running.
But this is exactly how I became a runner, for the first time in my life, at the age of 40. These little steps got me closer and closer to actually going out and trying to run. These little steps got me through the Philadelphia half-marathon.
I didn’t know if they were going to work. What I did know, for sure, was that NOT trying something would definitely NOT work.
And yes, I actually read a book on running.
What if you just picked ONE THING to try and make work better. Can you brainstorm a list of ideas?
Here are some that you can try on.
Hydrate. Can’t hydrate at work? Try hydrating before, or after, or extra on your days off.
Plan your food.
Plan a day off.
Start a 5-a-day gratitude list. Maybe repeat it after work.
Give yourself encouragement. You are doing meaningful work.
Take a deep breath before entering each patient room or before responding to a coworker.
Try box breathing if you feel anxious.
Read a self-help book from the library.
Don’t multitask if you can avoid it. This puts extra stress on the brain and is less efficient. Try to be present with one thing at a time.
Really focus on each patient you come in contact with.
After work take a 15-minute intermission and settle yourself before jumping into all the afterwork craziness.
Get enough sleep.
Avoid drinking the night before going to work, or browsing social, or binging Netflix.
Learn something new specific to your specialty.
These are just some examples. The truth is, it’s not even really the action that is going to help. (Wait, what? Then what are we even talking about?)
The magic lies in the idea that we have some control, that we CAN do something.
Setting an intention to try something, and that we can’t do it wrong, anchors in the belief that we can actually achieve something better.
This belief is what fuels the actions necessary to make this true.
So, if you find yourself not knowing what to do, I challenge you to pick any small step and try it for a week. Even if whatever you pick doesn’t have the desired outcome, it will initiate the movement needed for change and you will find yourself trying something else.
I’m going to go dig out my book on running. What are you going to do?
Want some help figuring out your specific situation? Reach out and I can help you :)