In and out of control

controlI’ve been thinking a lot about the type of job I’m looking to move on to, and one of the aspects I’ve been thinking about is control.

I like to be in control, to be able to see the bigger picture and move things forward. I guess to have some degree of power and influence. I’m not one for maintaining any kind of status quo just for the sake of it.

I’ve never been one for following the rules. If it’s a useful rule with a clear and valid purpose then I see no reason to break it, but sometimes you’ve got to see the bigger picture and be flexible about things. I see rules as guidelines, if they’re not working, try something different.

So in a job context let me give you a couple of examples of levels of control:

Teaching assistant vs teacher

Teaching is something I’ve always had an interest in – learning, communicating, creating, planning, supporting, presenting, leading. Yet I dislike working as a teaching assistant. In the past I’ve helped out in classes and most of the time I’ve just felt like a spare part. I hate that. When, on the other hand, I’ve been allowed to take a lesson or work with a small group I find the work much more enjoyable. It’s all about the level of control and responsibility.

News editor vs news reporter 

Writing news stories is something I have experience of and really enjoy doing, and I’ve worked both as a reporter and as an editor. Both have their pros and cons. Being an editor is stressful yet rewarding, you have control of everything, you arrange and attend the meetings, you interview people, you allocate stories to writers – you do what you like to get the job done. Whereas being a reporter or writer is much more relaxed, yet can be frustrating. I’ve had stories changed so much I’d rather my name was no longer alongside them, and it’s much harder to see the bigger picture when you’re focusing on just one small article in a publication.

I’d choose high responsibility, a high level of control and flexibility over working for someone else on just a small part of the puzzle any day, but you have to start at the bottom.

You can’t edit others’ writing until you’ve written lots yourself and had your own work scrutinised. You can’t teach others until you’ve observed lessons and worked alongside rather than in front of classes. Sometimes you might not enjoy the stepping stones as much as you’d enjoy the final position, but they’re the only way to get to that great job.

I guess it’s about enjoying the journey as much as you can, knowing that you will get to where you want to be in the end, and that it will be worth it.

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Overcoming the greatest fear

I’ve just finished reading a book on appreciating life, written by a man facing death.

Death is scary. It means change, loss, finality, the unknown.

But the main point the author makes is that until you face and accept your own mortality, you can never fully live.

enjoyeverysandwichLife is an adventure; death is unknown

(Enjoy every sandwich, living each day as if it were your last – by Lee Lipsenthal)

Lee says that he got to a point in his life that any day would be a good day to die. He was happy, fulfilled and peaceful, despite having terminal cancer. He clearly embraced life and got past the fear of death.

Three things I take away from his story:

  • Gratitude is the ultimate expression of hope

When we start to recognise and appreciate things – even the little things in a life that doesn’t seem to be going to plan – we begin to look for more good things and think more positively, according to Lee. His advice? Every night write down 3 things that you are grateful for that happened that day – from a good meal to a great joke, or simply a smile from a stranger. After a few weeks you’ll find yourself actively looking for things during the day to write down later. I’m going to start doing this.

  • Not everyone values science over spirituality

Lee was both scientific – he studied medicine and worked as a doctor, and spiritual – he practiced meditation and was a great believer in things greater than those we understand. I feel that too often people refuse to believe that science and spiritually can exist in harmony. For me, science is the how, spiritually is the why. Science can never explain why, just as spiritually can’t explain how. It’s refreshing to hear from someone scientifically knowledgeable, yet open to so much more than the narrow scientific view of life.

  • The ‘one-self’ – the world is a bigger place

The chapter that refers to this immediately reminded me of a post by Raimy over at Creative Guru: If I’m not who I think I am then who the hell am I? Lee talks about how the body can’t define the self due to its constant changing, and due to the fact that we are more than our component parts. He describes an exercise where you repeat the following to yourself:

I have a body, but I am not my body

I have feelings, but I am not my feelings

I have desires, but I am not my desires

I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts

I am the self, the centre of consciousness

I really struggle with this concept, but it fascinates me.

inspiration2The desire to change has to be greater than the fear of change to move forward. It’s pretty inspiring to read about someone who overcame what could be described as the greatest fear: the fear of death, the unknown.

It can be really difficult to see the bigger picture, to remember that feelings, desires and thoughts are fleeting, and to focus on the ‘one-self’, the bigger picture, but getting past fear opens up so many possibilities.

Change and when it’s needed

change

It’s coming up to me having been in my current job for 4 months, and it’s flown by, but it’s also starting to feel a little dull and repetitive. So the thing that’s on my mind at the moment is how do I know when to move on? Do I need to make more effort in my current position to get more out of it, or is it simply and genuinely not right for me and it’s ok to try something else?

In a lot of aspects of my life I don’t cope well with change. Despite recognising that I’m emotional and my emotions will pass, in the moment I still panic and regret and question my choices. However when it comes to jobs (well, my so far fairly limited experience of jobs through studying, part-time work, unpaid internships and my current role), change is everything. I always want something new – new work environment, new colleagues, new tasks, new goals, new experiences.

So I either hate change or I love change and there’s not very much in the middle. Gradual change has to be best – small steps towards a bigger goal. I need to find a balance.

I received some good advice from a blogger called Ryan Balboa almost three months ago:

One of my mentor managers at where I used to work suggested that I keep a list of the top 10 things that were important to me in my life and career, with a ‘satisfaction scale’ ranging from 1-10 next to them.

Every 6 months (roughly when performance reviews and stuff were) she’d get me to fill out the list, and compare the list I filled out from last time. I find that it really put things into perspective for me, and framed my emotions in a more objective, logical way (btw, it also helped me convince myself logically that it was time to move on).

So that’s exactly what I did, and at this relatively early stage of my career I think a review every three months works pretty well, so I’ve just updated my numbers. It’s not good news. Most of the numbers have gone down, so now I’m trying to work out whether I should wait until I’ve had an unusually good day at work to fill it out again, or to trust that, at least relative to my last numbers, this is indicating some sort of change is needed (don’t worry, I’m not planning on quitting my job just yet, but currently my 6-months-from-now plan is to find something new to move on to).

changecomplainIt feels as though being in any job for less than 12 months shows nothing more than a lack of commitment, yet from the start I knew this job wasn’t quite for me. It’s a tough one, but I don’t do settling so it’s going to need some serious thought.

The question seems to be:

Do I want change for the sake of change, or because I feel there’s little room for growth in my current role and I want to keep experimenting and growing?