Career Series: Shifting perceptions to create a career you love
My career before training as a therapist and founding LSW London, was in the incredibly fast-paced, high-stress world that is the film industry.
I worked painfully long hours, rarely allowing myself time to exercise or eat properly. I worked as an assistant in the pre me-too era, a job that promoted low self-esteem and low self-value, the main theme of: ‘your needs don’t matter, you exist to assist people more important than you’. I’ll be the first to admit it: I burned out. I didn’t have the knowledge or skills I have now, to deal with the stresses the job brought me and I became resentful.
We are often encouraged to work longer hours and be on email at all times, even when we are on holiday. Women are now struggling with the idea of having the career they’ve always dreamed of whilst matching society's expectations of being 'a good mum'. Modern pressures are extreme and the NHS is bowing beneath the demand and need for mental health treatment.
One of the main principles of LSW London is perception. Working on how we can learn to change our learned perceptions to live a healthier and more fulfilled life.
When it comes to enjoying our work, perception is everything. The way we perceive our boss’s reaction to our work, the way we perceive our colleagues’ reaction to our behaviour. Merely the tone of voice we hear in a sentence can change that sentence’s meaning completely.
We, as humans, can either take full internal control of our outcomes or give away control to external factors. For the most part, the human default is the latter.
Ever blamed a colleague for you not getting the promotion you wanted?
Ever thought it unfair that a colleague received a pay rise he’d asked for when you were stuck on the same salary?
Ever blamed an ‘evil’ boss for your career path becoming stagnant?
There is always that one person that seems to be progressing so much faster and earning so much more, yet they still leaves the office on time.
The likelihood is, they've taken internal locus of control.
Internal locus of control (ILOC) is a belief that we can influence events and outcomes in our lives based on our attitude, effort and preparation, whether good or bad. External locus of control (ELOC) is the belief that outside forces are responsible.
Believing that you don’t have control over what happens in your life can create anxiety and a negative view of the world. To make the jump from ELOC to ILOC can be the catalyst that changes everything and it all begins with perception as this handy diagram below shows...
Look back over your career to a time when you felt you had been unjustly side-lined for a promotion, or you couldn’t seem to move up the ladder within a company. Now make a list of everything you did to influence that decision.
Did you give 100% to every project?
Did you speak about the company positively and seeing a future there?
Were you bright and amenable every morning when entering the office?
Now bear in mind, this is not a blame game. However, we often don’t give enough reflection time to our past behaviours and tend to blur out any of our actions which might have been perceived as negative to others. This shifts the blame and control from within and projects it on to the reactions of others. It is ELOC.
People who do well tend to promote themselves positively. Perhaps offering to make tea for the team despite their more senior position, keeping a positive attitude in the face of problems, using their hard work to present to their manager as a reason for promotion or pay rise, taking responsibility for any mistakes they make.
Once you discover that internal locus of control, you will notice the possibilities that open up to you. Taking full responsibility for what happens to you takes the power away from others and puts control back into your hands. If you work hard, you can congratulate yourself. If you have a lazy day, evaluate why you underperformed and what you need to change about your attitude to have a better day tomorrow.
There is no one better-placed to create happiness in your life than yourself. Listen to your head and listen to your body. If your body is telling you to slow down, slow down. If your body is telling you to leave work on time to allow you to walk home and get some steps in, do it. Allow yourself the time it takes to cook nutritious meals from scratch in the evenings, or plan ahead if necessary.
Take ownership, value your self-worth. Be kind to yourself and give your body and brain the nourishment it needs. Make your job work for you and you will thrive.
Most importantly, if you do all of the above and you are still miserable, evaluate the pros and cons of what this job is bringing to you. You don’t have to be excited about going to work every morning but if it fills you with dread, recognise that and ask yourself: ‘Is it worth it?’ Take charge of your happiness and make changes where needed.
You will be more use to yourself and your colleagues if you slow down than if you burn out.
Lili Sinclair-Williams is the Founder of LSW London.