If you’ve been reading the previous entries in this blog (here and here), you’ll notice that a common thread is emerging: the path to career happiness is never smooth or straightforward. In any journey, be it personal or professional, there are bound to be setbacks. After a lot of practice, I’ve learned that if you approach these setbacks with emotional intelligence, you can turn those twists and turns into positives.
When dealing with setbacks, the most important thing to remember is that we are all human. You are bound to be disappointed if you miss out on your dream job or promotion. I think it’s important to take that time to lick your wounds and feel a little bit sorry for yourself. The key, however, is not to dwell on it because then you start drifting into the territory of depression and self-loathing; believe me, I’ve been there! If you feel yourself going to that place – and you will – try to remember that your career and status do not define your self-worth. Everybody human being has intrinsic value, it has nothing to do with your job or wealth.
“I am unique; there is only one of me”
However, I know from experience that this is easier said than done when you’re in that headspace. I use two techniques to help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. The first is to have a mantra. In those times after a disappointment when I feel myself going to that low place, I tell myself over and over that “I am unique; there is only one of me”. The fact that we even exist is a miracle, and everything else is a bonus. The infinite number of coincidences and events that had to align for you to be here right now means that you are unique in the universe. This makes you valuable by default before you’ve ever done a thing. That’s where your value as a human being lies, not in any job or possession. Congrats, you’re a bona fide miracle – how does it feel? You may be reading this right now chuckling at the absurdity of that last paragraph but it works, so give it a try and thank me later!
Make a list – check it twice
Another thing that can help is to approach these negative emotions after a setback in a purely rational, scientific fashion. So the next time your subconscious is dealing you a beating worse than Rocky at the hands of Ivan Drago in Rocky 4, fight back with a simple list, the pen is mightier than the sword after all! List down your negative thoughts and compare them against the objective reality, and you’ll soon see that they’re not true. The key is to be honest and take the emotion out of the situation; it’s a very powerful tool when used correctly.
I have recently become acutely aware that as a society we have placed an unhealthy value on ‘things’. We spend more time focusing on what we don’t have, or rather what someone else has, than being happy with what we do have. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a purely Millennial problem, it’s a side effect of a capitalism driven post-war global economy. But I truly believe that it has been amplified for my generation with the proliferation of social media. On a daily basis, we are bombarded with images of celebrities and other complete strangers who flaunt their wealth and status via Instagram and Snapchat.
We consume these images passively, but subconsciously it can slowly chip away at our self-esteem so that when we do suffer these career setbacks, the negative feelings are dramatically worse because we irrationally feel like we’ve missed an opportunity to get the things we think we’ve always wanted. This time of year more than any other is an opportunity to take stock of what you have and what you’ve accomplished and be happy and grateful for it. It’s crucial to focus on your own journey and not compare it to anyone else’s: as you may have gathered it only leads to misery. As long as you’re doing the best you can, you can always take pride in it.
“Try to be happy for the other person”
The overwhelming tendency is to begrudge those who are in the position that we want to be in – it’s a normal human reaction. I’ve learned that it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and take ownership of them. I try to catch myself in the moment when I have this gut reaction, and reflect inwards rather than project outwards. Very often, I find that these feelings have nothing to do with the other person, it’s just a method of deflecting so we don’t have to deal with our own feeling that we are stuck and not where we want to be.
The next time you have those feelings, stop and take some time to reflect on them and try to be happy for the other person – you’ll find the route is personal. I am not a betting man, but I’d stake my house on it! Resolving those feelings will not only make you happier but it will allow you to move forward and grow so you don’t become a prisoner of the setback.
It’s taken some time, but through practice and mindfulness, I’ve built the resilience to overcome setbacks with the power of positivity and personal reflection. As Millennials, we can’t be blamed for our lack of resilience. Many of us had it easier than previous generations, that’s just the way it is; but the good news is that with practice resilience can be learned. I know now that emotional intelligence is far more valuable than any promotion, it’s crucial for the happiness and well-being of our generation. Once you master it, everything else will come and that is a promise.
Ken Kidney is a Team Manager in Voxpro.
If you’re interested in reading more from our talented Voxpronians, here are two articles that have been very popular indeed: