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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Kent


Most clients come to me when they are seriously unhappy with their jobs. I always ask them to start by telling me 3 good things about their current situation.

Almost every person tells me they can’t think of a single thing!

I always remind them that they are being paid for their job. Isn’t that a good thing?

Most respond with a giggle, acknowledge that they are indeed getting money, but don’t really appreciate that the money they earn enables them to pay rent, buy food, and sustain themselves in whatever lifestyle they are living.

Here is where I try to question their perspective by telling them this little story that I heard from Hitendra Wadhwa (a professor at Columbia Business School and Founder of the Mentora Institute).

I recently came across a story of a man who used a wheelchair. Someone once walked up to him and asked, “Is it difficult being confined to a wheelchair?” The man responded: “I’m not confined to my wheelchair — I am liberated by it. If it weren’t for my wheelchair, I would be bed-bound and would never be able to leave my room or house.”

Amazing how a small shift in perspective can change how this man will experience his life. Note that he isn’t pretending that he isn’t confined to a wheelchair, or that he wouldn’t rather be able to walk.

But both things can be true - he is confined to a wheelchair and liberated by it.

He can choose to think about it either way, and clearly, thinking that it is liberating is far more beneficial than thinking about how confining it is.

And, of course, if he were in a position to do something to walk again, he would!

You ARE in that position my friend, you CAN “walk again”, but you don’t have to hate being in the wheelchair while you are trying to walk again.

So now, when I ask my clients, again, tell me 3 good things about your job, other than the money, I get a ton of great answers like:

  • I mastered new skills that I enjoy.

  • I made some great friends and met some people I wouldn’t be friends with but who I learned from.

  • I figured out that I don’t thrive in this type of environment.

  • Being unhappy in this job made me realize that I have to really think about what I want for my future and take charge of my career trajectory.

  • It was an opportunity to make and learn from mistakes that I can now leave behind me.

  • Not enjoying this job motivated me to take the initiative to move forward to a better situation. If this job was “just okay” I might have stayed for a long time and not explored what is possible for me.

You can appreciate and continue to benefit from these good attributes while you also acknowledge that it is time to move on.

Like our friend in the wheelchair, you can focus on the good things about your current “bad job” and maximize your enjoyment of the time you have left. Or you can remain focussed on all the reasons you are miserable.

If you plan to look for a new job, either way, why torture yourself while you are still there?

And who knows, focussing on the good things might just become a habit that will help you find the benefit of any situation - amplifying the good and minimizing the bad.

Liberation or confinement? It’s totally up to you!

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