Updated: May 30
Work is not your whole life, but you kinda feel like it is some days. Or most days. Well, any day you’re at work and then sometimes on your days off, too. It’s basically “eat, work, sleep, repeat.”
YOU'RE IN SURVIVAL MODE
The reason you dread going in to work, tears of frustration and hopelessness clouding your sight, is because you’re in survival mode. This is the state you find yourself in when there is a perfect blend of lack of purpose, lack of recognition, and lack of challenge in what you do. You punch in do your work all the while knowing you could be making bigger and better contributions, but are stuck in a single lane, never growing or expanding.
This is the dark, muddy hole I found myself in a handful of years ago. I started dreading going into a once loved job, dragging my feet and wishing for a change. Truthfully, there were still aspects of it that I enjoyed.
But overall, I started feeling unheard and just like a number. I didn’t feel valued for my unique strengths. Each and every time I voiced my desire to take on new projects, I was shut down. I was told that they were outside of my scope and to just focus on my job description. Either my boss didn’t understand how to leverage my talents or they didn’t want to put in the time with me.
In any case, the pressure to “stay in my lane” mounted, and the command to stop reaching grew louder. Delivering only the metrics of my role was all they cared about and I became burned out and lost my enthusiasm. It wasn’t long after this discovery that I realized how unhealthy the situation was, so I left.
During this period where I felt stuck and hopeless, I realized I was just on SURVIVAL MODE. Head down, do the work, don't make waves, clock-in, clock-out. I lost my spark and was focused on making my goals, pleasing my boss, and doing everything I could to earn their respect and trust so maybe, just maybe, they’d let me branch out.
Sadly, no matter how hard I worked, it wasn’t enough for them and I wasn’t being stretched or fulfilled. I had to start digging myself out of the pit.
WHAT I WISH I COULD TELL MY FORMER SELF
One of the biggest lessons I learned from this dead-end job was that I should have allowed myself more time to explore outside of work. I think if I’d pursued some outside projects and hobbies, it would have been the creative outlet I was seeking. I wish I could tell my former self to say yes to scary opportunities that would have stretched her.
Another huge lesson was realizing this job wasn’t my only option. It really, really felt like it. I needed the income and insurance in our single-income home. Back when I had this particular job, the economy was slowly recovering from the Great Recession so well-paying jobs were hard to come by.
I HAD MORE RESOURCES THAN I THOUGHT
But if I’m being honest with you, I could have been more resourceful to find something else to fit my personality better. I’ve learned a method recently how to ask reflective and productive questions to problem solve just about anything. You can find it in Marie Forleo’s NY Times Best Selling book Everything Is Figureoutable, if you’re interested. So, I wish I could tell my former self to dig deeper to figure this one out.
When you’re in survival mode, you don’t have a growth mindset. When all your efforts are focused on just on scratching out an existence, keeping your head above water, there is precious few resources left over to build yourself up, reach out for help, or even realize you have options. Being in a state of survival mode keeps your brain in constant stress, which harms your ability to learn. It is so important that you can derail your destructive survival mode tendencies so you can start to improve your situation.
YOU DESERVE MORE THAN *DOING LIFE*
You deserve more than just doing life. You desire to be energetic, magnetic, and uplifting. You want to remain unaffected by trivial everyday problems. You desire joy and impact. You’ve got passions and ambitions that go beyond your current life; they’re so big that you feel strange sharing them with others. But I’m here to tell you that you deserve all of it. You were gifted with certain talents and strengths for a reason. Be resourceful, be bold, and always keep going.