Making Bad Choices, Then Feeling Bad


Out of control; moving from one chaotic event to the next, over thinking things and then having everything you do questioned, analyzed, evaluated, summarized and judged; these the things you do to yourself.

Sometimes the one who judges us the hardest isn’t a stranger, family or friend, but rather the one who greets us each morning when we look in the mirror; ourselves. After all, we know ourselves more intimately than anyone else. Only we know each thought we have, why we do the things we do. Check that last one… there are times we haven’t got any explanation for the things we’ve done. Could be we often ask ourselves, “Why on earth did I do that? What was I thinking?”

Living daily in chaos and under constant pressure and strain stretches our resources to the point where our thinking becomes skewed so the decisions we make are flawed. We end up making bad choices we then regret; lowering our opinion of ourselves and feeling worse than before. Rather than learning from our mistakes, they get repeated, and later repeated yet again, and how we perceive ourselves sinks each time. The pattern of feeling bad about ourselves a lot of the time can lead us to make even poorer choices.

The funny thing is (only it’s not funny at all), when we make all these bad decisions, they seem so right at the time. That’s the hardest part for us to understand later. Trying to explain this or justify this to someone else who questions us is just impossible. We can’t help feeling so small; like a child being scolded by an adult who catches us doing something dumb. But as a child, at least we could be forgiven for not knowing better. By now, we should have grown up, matured, learned to make better decisions and have our stuff together. Instead, we can’t even make simple decisions without a struggle; like what to pack the kids for lunch.

You’d think that asking for help would be easy; a logical step to make sense of all the chaos, but think about that – if it was easy, you’d think you’d do that – so is not asking for help just another thing you’re doing wrong? Figures!

If everything above sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. If you struggle to do things that others find simple, like find something on the internet, open a bank account, file your taxes or get your child tax credit, don’t feel you’re the only one so there has to be something wrong with you.

The thing about making decisions is that when you make a good one you feel better. Make a second and a third good decision and you develop a pattern. Repeat the pattern and you start to gain confidence and view yourself as having good decision-making skills. The same however is true when the decisions you make don’t turn out the way you’d hoped. One bad decision on its own is exactly that; just one bad decision. A second followed by a third etc. establishes a pattern and you can easily feel that based on results, you make poor choices.

Decisions we make are always based on the information we have at the time. So when trying to figure out what to pack the kids for a school lunch, we look in the fridge or the cupboards and what we pack is based on what’s available. We can’t send what we don’t have. While it’s clear to someone else we sent something inappropriate, it was at the time the best choice we had, avoiding sending something worse or nothing at all. Unfortunately, other people only see what we sent and judge our decision-making solely based on what they see, not what possible items we rejected. In other words, you may have actually made the best choice anyone could have made based on what you found as options.

The same is true for the big decisions that go wrong in the end. You might choose a job that doesn’t work out and then another; then start to question why you make such bad choices. It could be that you just lack the right information in the first place about how to go about finding a good fit. The thing is, at the time, the choices you made – and continue to make – seem right. You’re not dumb or stupid; you lack the knowledge to make a better informed choice. Without that necessary information, its like a game of hit and miss; with a lot more misses.

Getting help with making decisions from people you trust is not a sign of weakness, but rather wisdom. But I get it; people you’ve trusted in the past, abused your trust and things didn’t go well. That’s led you to only trust yourself, and as things aren’t working out any better, this has you feeling worse, with no one to turn to.

Decide for yourself of course … but you may want to find one person you can share small stuff with and see if they can help you. If they do help you make good decisions, they might help you with the bigger things later.

Good decisions are hard to make in times of chaos – for anybody. Learning how to make better decisions, like any other skill, can be learned and could be exactly what you need.

Advertisements

Problem? Show Your Skills. Solve It


One of the most common skills you’ll find on many job postings is the requirement to solve problems. As an Employment Counsellor, I notice the relative ease with which many people happily add the ability to solve problems to their resumes. Ah, but when faced with problems that I observe, they are sorely lacking in this area.

It would seem that many people don’t think about their problem solving skills outside of the workplaces they are trying to get employed with. It’s as if they are saying, “I have to get a job before I can show you my problem solving skills.” Really? Uh, no that’s not true.

We all have problems; some are small, some large and some are truly huge which we have to work on over a long period of time. All problems however have certain characteristics in common and the process for eliminating them is similar.

Problems by their nature threaten our goals. When we identify what we want to achieve, we then determine if things stand in our way be they small, medium or large and then we have to evaluate whether those things, (let’s call them barriers or challenges) are worth the effort to overcome or not. If we determine our end goals are important enough, we set out to tackle the barriers. If the barriers themselves are too massive to overcome and we aren’t willing to put in the effort to move past them, the goals we want aren’t important enough to us and we might as well stop ‘wanting’ the end goal. We’re setting ourselves up for failure; well at least until achieving the end goal takes on greater importance to us than the work it will take to eliminate the barriers standing in our way.

Simply put, make sure your goals are bigger than your biggest problems.

Suppose you’ve looked at what you want to do career-wise, and you’ve determined that a return to school is absolutely critical in order to get the academic qualifications necessary to compete for that dream job. You’re looking at 2-3 years of College or University. This means you’re also going to have to take on 2-3 years of debt and you’ll be 3-4 years older when you graduate and ready to compete with others for your end goal. Depending on a number of factors such as your age, how much you really want that career and your perception of debt vs. an investment in yourself, you either have to pass up the end goal because going to school is standing in your way or you enrol and invest money and time in yourself.

Or perhaps you find the job you really want is in another neighbouring city and it’s going to take you 1.5 hours to get there and another 1.5 hours to return each day by transit. You know you COULD move closer, but you’ve got your child in school and at 8 years old they’d have to change schools and you’ve got family just down the street for emotional support. One person will choose to stay put choosing unemployment for the present and the status quo while another will choose to pick up and relocate, rationalizing that the child is only 8 and kids make new friends in no time; what’s the big deal?

The thing about problems or challenges is that they always come with choices. The good problem solvers know that the first step to solving problems is to see them for what they actually are not what they imagine them to be. They weigh the importance of their end goals against the problems standing in their way and then brainstorm the various options they have to eliminate the problems. One thing they also do is ask other people for input; after all, other people might present options they themselves haven’t considered.

Smaller scale problems that crop up are solved the same way. You wake up and there are salt stains on your favourite pair of pants; pants you were planning on wearing. One person might just toss them in the laundry and pull out a second pair while another person might let that small problem paralyze them entirely; throwing off their mood, upsetting their plans and they just don’t go to work or that big interview because they have, ‘nothing to wear’.  (It’s true actually; I’ve heard this one many times.)

When you tackle a small problem and succeed, two things happen. First of all the immediate problem is overcome and you’re closer to achieving your goal. Secondly you build some confidence in your ability to solve problems, and that confidence gives you the courage to tackle other problems. Start to solve a few problems and you feel you can apply the same thought process and actions to tackle even bigger issues, and soon you’ve got a track record of solving your issues. Now you can truly say you are good at solving problems AND you’ll have examples to cite when asked in an interview as proof rather than a baseless claim.

So when faced with a problem, stack it up against your end goal. See the problem for what it actually is. Brainstorm your options. Get ideas from others. Take action if the end goal is important enough to you and if it isn’t, ditch the goal you’ve got in mind. Remember, if your problems are bigger than your goals, nothing happens unless you change the value of the end goal.

 

Still Debating A Career? Beware!


It’s often been my experience that those people who have no idea what they are looking for in terms of employment are among the hardest people to help find work. You’d be forgiven if you think that a person who answers, “Anything” to the question, “What kind of work are you looking for?” would actually be among the easiest to help because they’ve said they’re looking for anything and therefore will do anything.

The problem of course is that once you suggest a job that they wouldn’t likely enjoy to test their assertion their typical reaction is, “No, I’m not doing that!” Another classic response to suggesting a job they are clearly not qualified for just to show them that they aren’t in fact looking for anything is, “Sure, as long as they train me.” Why oh why would they train you from scratch when there is a multitude of people in the marketplace who have the education, training and experience right now?

I’ve yet to meet a single person in all my years of employment counselling who is actually prepared to do, “anything.” When they look at potential jobs, their reasons for not applying are often any combination of the following: low pay, hard work, demeaning role, boring, too far away, don’t like the employer, someone they know didn’t work out at that company or the hours don’t agree with them.

So if people aren’t in fact prepared to do just any job, why is that so many actually say they are looking for anything in the first place?

I’ve come to believe that this willingness to do anything is really a person expressing their frustration at not having found work they’d be good at, have the skills to do and which they’d enjoy doing.

It’s possible that we’ve done too good at getting out the message that you should be passionate about your job; only do work you love, and that you should be paid well for doing it. While finding real meaning in the work we do each day and loving the job is certainly a great thing to strive for, not every successful person necessarily feels passionately about their job or career.

Pose the question, “Are you passionate about your work?” to a Letter Carrier, a Bank Teller, a dollar store Cashier or a recycling truck Driver and you might get an odd, bewildering look. Because we are so very different and perceive different values in work performed, you just might find a mixture of people who go about their day with passion and those that don’t in all professions. So while you and I might not work with passion if we were Telemarketers, there would certainly be some among the staff who do – and the same goes with any other job.

The problem for many however is trying to discover and ignite personal passion. How to find the single job that’s right for me personally; the one you I am destined to thrive in and find fulfillment in. As a matter of fact, this dilemma can paralyze a person into doing nothing for fear of choosing the wrong job or the wrong company fit and so they do nothing.

Sometimes the best advice is to throw yourself into a job and pay attention to what you like and dislike in the work you do, the people around you and give it a real chance by investing in yourself while working. There is no actual single job you were destined for in my belief; I think it quite possible that there are many jobs that would bring any one person fulfillment and happiness.

In my own case, I certainly never considered the job of an Employment Counsellor when I was in my late teens or early 20’s. I didn’t know they even existed as I’d had no exposure to them or the work they did back then. Over my lifetime I’ve worked in retail, recreation and social services; been self-employed, worked for a provincial government, non-profit and private for profit organizations. I’ve worked with children, teenagers, adults, seniors and those who deal with physical / mental health challenges and those that don’t. It took me a long time to discover the role I have now and all those past experiences of mine make me a more complete Employment Counsellor now. I’m where I needed to be but had I been waiting for the ‘passion’ light to be illuminated, I might still be unemployed myself.

No matter the jobs I’ve held, I did what I believed was my best in each one of them. I worked with the attitude that every job had something to teach me if I was open to the learning. No job was too demeaning but that didn’t mean I stayed content – but I did stay working.

My advice therefore if you’re searching to discover your own passion is to throw yourself into the workforce and gain experiences – plural intended. Reinvent yourself if you choose to put in the effort required to do so. Yes of course you want to ideally be in a job that pays well, you’re good at and one that makes use of your talents.

Find the line between taking the time to choose wisely and taking too long to make the perfect decision. You don’t need to commit to any one job or career forever; you owe it to yourself.