What I wish I’d known at age 22

What I wish I had known at 22 …. learning to thrive in a new world of work

Having spent countless emotionally laden hours with many brave clients wanting to make sense of an overwhelming world of work, some patterns have started to emerge. Patterns not only in their angst, but more importantly, in effective ways of overcoming the angst and learning to thrive. These habits could have saved my 22 year old self many tears and sleepless nights, had I understood then what I see more clearly in my thriving clients now:
1. Acceptance. Not everyone holds the same beliefs and values as me. As obvious as it sounds, this really is one of the most common causes of personal pain and conflict in the workplace. Many of us start our careers full of ideals and aspirations. We expect our seniors to share the same views as we do, and feel really disappointed, frustrated and sometimes even angry when they don’t. “My manager should be more understanding…” Accepting our differences, doesn’t mean compromising on our own values, but rather that we don’t use up emotional energy trying to change another person’s reality.
2. It’s not personal. I’ve spent years of my life beating myself up over colleagues’/bosses’ reactions to me, angst-ing over what I didn’t do/did wrong to deserve treatment I didn’t like. In reality, most of other people’s behaviour is more about themselves than it is a reflection of their views of us. Learning to see other people’s reactions as “their business” is very powerful.
3. Know thyself. Also not as simple as it sounds, or else coaches would be out of work! Developing self-awareness helps us to understand why we have very strong emotional reactions to situations; it also means being honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses, which we can then integrate more effectively into our work.
4. Respect. It is important to respect my unique strengths. Too often, especially in a performance-driven environment, we focus on our weaknesses, at the cost of our strengths. Really knowing what we are good at and what we love, helps us to own this and find ways of integrating it effectively into our work environment. Respecting my strengths means that I am more open to finding unique ways of expressing them at work.
5. Success is absolutely subjective. While goals and targets do punctuate the world of work, if we are able to shift our definition of success to one which upholds learning, growth and courage, we might be less harsh on ourselves.
6. I can only change myself. All the change that I want to experience, starts within me – the central tenet of coaching.
Had I understood some of these principles early on in my career, I think I would have been a happier employee and definitely a more pleasant person to be around…… but then again, maybe I wouldn’t have become a coach and had the delight of seeing my clients experience that they too can thrive at work.

“We can’t change what’s going on around us until we change what’s going on within us” Anon

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