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.

Regretting The Words Left Unspoken


Remember that special person you never told how you really felt? Of course you do because after all this time you just can’t get them out of your head for very long. You wish now you could go back and tell them how much they had an impact on you, how much you loved them perhaps, and you wonder if/how things might have worked out differently if you had.

It’s wondering, ‘what if’ that tantalizes; because it ignites possibilities of what might have happened had shared your thoughts openly. Ah, but you were scared, nervous and afraid of blurting something out you’d come to later regret. Ironically, after all these years, here you are now regretting the words you left unspoken.

It’s very much like that in other situations too; although the people we neglect to say what’s on our mind to aren’t just potential sweethearts. No, sometimes we find we lose job opportunities to others and later wish we had said a few more things at the job interview. This is often especially the case if we sincerely wanted a job bad. It would have been perfect and you have wanted a job like that in a long time, so when the news came that they went with someone else, it hit like a truck. If only you had said what you were feeling, things might have worked out differently.

Or perhaps there was someone you really valued in your past; that person who made a big impact on you. Perhaps it was their influence that set you on the path you later took or are taking now. A teacher, a father or mother, a mentor or some person who inspired you to think differently, perceive things in a new light. You never said how much you appreciated them and now their gone. Whether they passed on, moved away, have dementia and don’t recognize you, or you moved away yourself, the opportunity to tell them how you feel is lost.

Now the only thing worse would be finding yourself in this situation here in the present. You know, feeling so strongly about someone you see in the here and now daily, but feeling timid, awkward, embarrassed or anxious about sharing how you feel. You’re so worried about ruining things or spoiling your chances that you go on being around them in silence. You wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just open my mouth, pour out how I feel? Tell them?” Of course in your mind you worry about creating a wide divide, making things weird, learning that your feelings aren’t reciprocated and as long as you don’t do anything…you’ll at least have what you have now – which is something.

Opportunities to step up and voice your true feelings pop up every day; but not forever. Take your work environment. You really value the support of a co-worker; they’ve passed on knowledge to you, covered for you when you weren’t at your best, listened to you share your frustrations, applauded your accomplishments and even motivated you when you needed it. There they are beside you every day, and having a real heart-to-heart with genuine sincerity, telling them how much they mean to you sounds both the right thing to do but maybe the weird thing to do.

Really though, what’s so weird? How long have you worked together? All those years and the hours you’ve spent in each other’s company? Why should it be weird to shut the door and say, “Hey listen, I want to tell you how much you mean to me, and I’m being serious.” You’ll likely catch them off guard, and they might use humour to deflect their real feelings, but they’ll likely also be grateful. What they feel in any event is up to them. You’ll feel better knowing you expressed your feelings and took that chance instead of regretting saying nothing. Then they retire, take another job, move or have an unexpected long-term medical leave etc. and you lose touch; opportunity lost.

I mentioned the job interview earlier. How many times have you walked out of an interview and suddenly said in your mind, “Oh, why didn’t I just say _____?Should I walk back in? Should I follow-up with an email or phone call? I really want that job! I’d LOVE working there so why did I find it so hard to tell them how bad I really want it!

Sometimes its convention and decorum that gets in the way. It seems somehow inappropriate to tell someone how we really feel. On the other hand we also hear that employers want people who are passionate about the work they do. So when you do find something you’re passionate about; a job or company you’re sincerely excited to work for and will invest yourself with fully, why not just open your mouth and express that.

Just like that mentor, potential love interest, teacher, co-worker etc., you’ve got a limited window to risk expressing how you feel. They won’t stick around forever, and the time will never be any better than it is now – today. If you’ve waited for a sign, this is it.

Look, hearing someone tell you how much they appreciate your support, your love, your encouragement, the opportunity to work with them etc.; it’s all good. We need to get better at telling others just how much they mean to us. Few things are better.

 

This Is Not About Mark And Julie


When Mark was first approached with the offer of help finding a job over a couple of weeks, he accepted the invite, but openly expressed his doubts that I could teach him anything he wasn’t already doing on his own. You know what? I relish that honesty in people; I wasn’t insulted in the least.

Now Julie on the other hand? While her feelings were similar, her choice of words and her decision to decline the help offered was received quite differently. Not only was she sure I couldn’t do anything to help her, she said two weeks with me would be a complete waste of her valuable time.

What made Julie’s reaction and decision all the more puzzling at the time was that a highly respected colleague of mine had referred us to each other and Julie was touted as a ‘Superstar’; someone I’d absolutely be impressed with. Well she made an impression. I can’t convey in words the tone of voice she used on the phone, the emphatic disdain she communicated for the help offered.

So you should know, what both Mark and Julie were offered was to be one of twelve participants in a two-week intensive job search group. All twelve have to have: 1) A résumé 2) Basic computer skills 3) A clear employment goal 4) strong motivation to find work 5) Give me permission to give them honest feedback and 6) come dressed daily in business casual clothing ready for interviews – because they will get them. Beyond making the self-investment of time to realize their financial independence, the cost to attend? Free. In fact, I’d see they got money for clothing and grooming needs, full transportation costs to get around, funds they could use for lunch if they chose to and when they did get a job anywhere up to $500 to buy whatever they needed to get off to a good start.

Now to me, this is a pretty easy choice to make. After all, Mark, Julie and the other people I extend this offer to are all unemployed or severely underemployed; sometimes working part-time outside their field of training or volunteering. Now I know that most people are already doing a job search on their own, and that some of what people are doing already is quite good. However, if the results are not forthcoming, doesn’t it seem sensible to take advantage of free help from someone recognized as a professional helping others find work?

My accumulated years of experience has told me that when most people don’t seize such opportunities, something – or some things are going on beyond what is known. Yes, they could be secretly working and don’t want to be found out, but that’s not typically what’s going on. One of the key things I do actually is work with people and after establishing mutual respect and trust, make it a point to get at what barriers they are facing which prevent them from moving forward and realizing their goals.

Now you might not think this approach is necessary; if you help somebody write a cover letter and resume, prepare them for the interview and wish them the best, they’ll get work soon enough. That may be true of course, but if this is all you do, you’ll be puzzled and disappointed when they lose their employment in short order. Some will contact you and ask for more help, while others will feel embarrassed and not contact you as they don’t want to let you down.

You might wonder then how far I can get with twelve people in only two weeks to set up the trust required to have each person open up and share what they would otherwise keep buried. I tell you this, the faster a person opens up and the more they share, the better the counsel I can offer, and the more effective the help will be they receive. In the end, what most end up with is a job best suited to not only their education and experience, but in an environment where they’ll not only survive, but thrive. Now as an unemployed person, doesn’t this sound enticing?

The most significant factor in achieving success is wanting what you’re after with enthusiasm. If you want it – I mean REALLY want it, that inner motivation and enthusiasm will be exactly what it takes to get you through when the roadblocks pop up. Instead of throwing up your hands in exasperation, you’ll roll up your sleeves and dig deep. Make no mistake, the job seeker has to want work more than the person helping them find it.  If it’s the other way around, lasting success won’t come.

Here’s the thing about Mark; recall if you will he’s the guy who expressed doubts but accepted the offer. When we wrapped up our time together, Mark told me that he was really suspicious but it was at noon on day 1 that he realized how thankful he was that he got the offer and accepted. His is a success story in that he did find work. He ended up moving from Ontario to British Columbia, accepting a full-time job at $120,000 per year. Quite a significant change from receiving social assistance and feeling frustrated, low self-worth and getting less than $15,000 per year.

When opportunity comes your way, make a change; say yes if you typically answer with a, ‘no thank you’. There’s a lot of great help out there to seize!

Helping Others Find Work: Step 1


Whenever helping someone find employment, I know two things; they want a job and they are only going to share what they think is needed for me to help them. There are many things which, having possession of that knowledge,  would help me help them meet their employment goal faster.

It’s not enough to simply say to someone you’ve just met, “Tell me everything – even if you think it’s not connected to your job search..” After all, it’s only natural for them to withhold past bad decisions, things they find shameful or embarrassing such as addictions, criminal records, firings, failures etc.

Now they might say, “I came to you for help getting a job. My personal business has nothing to do with that so can you help me get a job or not?” This should be totally understandable. Anyone taking this position isn’t necessarily belligerent or provocative, they may be simply unaware of how all these factors are connected to ultimately being successful or running into the same roadblocks in the future they’d experienced in both the past and present.

Step one is establishing trust. Never promise more than you can deliver; a job isn’t guaranteed . One approach that I typically use is to tell them that the quicker they trust me and share openly and honestly, the more I’ll be able to help them. Anything they tell me is confidential, and if they choose to open up and share their worries and concerns with me, I can help them with if or how to put this on a résumé and how to deal with this in a job interview. They are free to share as much or as little as they feel comfortable.

Now of course not everybody jumps at that offer and bares their soul. I don’t need all the details anyhow; just enough perhaps to help them find the right job in the right setting that will give them the best chance of long-term success. Let me illustrate what the right job in the right setting means. You see they’ve likely got enough skill to scan a list of jobs and pick out one that is a match for their previous experience. In fact, many well-meaning staff at employment agencies can do this with their own expertise. However, making a résumé to match that job isn’t enough. Even if they get an interview and get hired, it’s not likely they’ll keep that job unless the fit is a good one for both them and the employer.

To truly help someone find and land a job they’ll thrive in and maintain over the long haul, you have to invest in the person enough to find out where things have broken down in the past. Someone who has experience in the Hospitality sector but had to quit because of an overly demanding boss  who made inappropriate advances shouldn’t be applying to a job perhaps where they’ll be working late hours alone with a boss in a similar environment. While they may have the qualifications, they are unintentionally being set up to repeat a negative experience. Once is bad enough; two times might seriously undermine their confidence and have them question what they are doing to bring this on themselves when they aren’t to blame whatsoever.

Without asking questions to get at outside circumstances, you might also misinterpret behaviours you see as a lack of commitment too. Finding the perfect job 35 kilometres away from where someone lives might be reasonable to you, especially if they drive. However without learning they have a child with behaviour or physical challenges whom they need to be near to if needed, you might think they don’t really want to work when they aren’t enthusiastic about applying for it.

So we need to learn what’s going on beyond the job search. This holistic approach considers all kinds of factors beyond skills, education and past work history. It’s only when trust is established that the person you’re helping will share beyond surface issues. What else impacts a job search? How much time do you have? There’s their faith, family and social supports, income, housing, addictions, education, areas they’ve succeeded in the past, bad experiences, mode of transportation, childcare or caring for parents issues, mental and physical health, and the BIG one … etc. the etc., being all the other stuff that in their own situation is more prominent than all the other things you’d guess.

Finding out what motivates someone is critically important to finding out which job is right. So even when you know a person is definitely looking for a job as an Accountant, not just any Accountant job will do. Big firm, small firm, supportive environment or working largely in isolation? On a public transit route or do they drive? If you discovered their licence was suspended, maybe getting income from a shorter-term job outside of Accounting would be better to get the licence back  faster and THEN apply for the Accounting jobs? Who knew!

It may initially move slower as you help this person with their job search. In the end though, you make greater progress, they feel valued, they come to understand trust you’ve got their best interests in mind throughout. They may tell you they didn’t like the lack of progress at first, but in the end, you’ll find more people keep the jobs they land.

The Expectation of Hope


Think about the services and or goods you offer your customers or clients. Every one of the people who choose to receive what you offer do so in the expectation that what they get fulfills a need or want. In short, they hope that you can deliver on a promise and their expectation will either be fulfilled or left wanting. Never forget this.

The greater the hopes of the person with whom you interact, the greater the responsibility to deliver on your service to meet and/or exceed their expectations. So think for a moment about the demographics of the people you serve. How needy or desperate are they? Have they cause to feel skeptical or perhaps even cynical about what they might receive? For many people, their trust has been taken advantage of numerous times leading up to their encounter with you. All those past negative experiences, most of which you know little or nothing about whatsoever, go a long way to explaining their obvious lack of trust in what you can deliver.

If we lose sight of this when we first encounter someone – and it’s not inconceivable that the very best of us do so from time-to-time, we might misinterpret their lack of enthusiasm for our help as being indifferent, unmotivated, disconnected or only mildly motivated at best. The actual truth may be that they are indeed seeking out help with great earnest, but when it comes to having faith and getting their hopes raised only to be dashed yet again, their cautious. No one but the person knows how many times that hope was given and abused or neglected with the care it deserved.

This is a position of trust we’ve got you and me. As a Service Provider, our client or customer is the very reason we’re in business. Treat our customers well and deliver on what we promise and we get a following. Mistreat our customers, play on their blind trust and abuse them in the process and our reputations suffer as a result. Not only our reputations by the way, but the reputation of our employer by association and this extends further out into the public domain. Hence people generalize and say things like, “All retailers are so and so, all government workers are this and that,” and eventually, “you can’t trust anyone.”

So it’s not hard to imagine that look of exasperation on their face, that smirk of disbelief, and you know you’re only getting lip service in reply to your offer of genuine help. It’s easy to misinterpret such behaviour and body language as communicating a lack of commitment or even laziness. You might wonder, “What have I done to deserve this? I’m trying my best and getting nowhere.”

Move away from your own perspective, from one you need to get out of the meeting. What’s important here is to focus on the person before you and empathize with their situation, questioning and listening with compassion to understand their perspective; all of which comes out of the sum of their past experiences. The most vulnerable of people are often the ones who trust blindly and without reservation. They innocently believe people will always work in their best interests, deliver on what they promise and do what they say they will. When that trust is betrayed and the person left wanting again and again, eventually that innocence and trust is replaced with mistrust and self-preservation.

Our responsibility then when we first meet people is to ensure that whatever we promise we can indeed deliver on. We don’t want to be yet another person that let them down, that promised something and didn’t come through on. For who knows, we may not just be “yet another person who let me down”; we just might be, “the last person who’s going to let me down – the final straw.”

People come to us with hope. They hope that we can be helpful, that we can move them forward toward whatever the goal they wish to reach is. Whether it’s a purchase made online, help determining career direction, employment advice, or help repairing a fragile relationship, they come with hope.

Don’t always expect that hope and trust are given. In some ways, the bond you forge with someone who initially presents as suspicious of your motives and holds back from fully investing their hopes in you and what you might do can be richer and far more rewarding when their trust is gained. Those initial first seeds of hope that you sow in someone’s mind can be cultivated over time to produce a lasting change; possibly even renewing their confidence and faith in believing in others.

Hope is why people even show up to meet with you and I. Oh sure they might have to come to meet some legislative requirement or ‘play the system’ to get a desired outcome. I get that. But to think they have zero hope at the same time is a mistake. Hope is a wonderful thing to possess and an even better thing to know you’ve reciprocated and delivered on. To act in such a way that supports what you’ve promised and have someone express gratitude for what you’ve done for them is a wonderful thing.

Today, think about the hope YOU represent for the people you meet with. See if this awareness in the moment changes the dialogue.

 

Are You Trustworthy?


You know yourself better than anyone else of course. So I ask you my reader, are you trustworthy? Would your co-workers and supervisor back up your belief that you are? So how would you prove it?

Being trustworthy is a very good quality to have. An employer can show their trust in you by giving you the keys to the store and asking you to open it up in the morning and/or close it up at night. Or perhaps you’re trusted to make the night deposits of cash and balance the till without dipping your hand in and helping yourself.

In a broader context, no matter your role in an organization, you’re undoubtedly trusted to represent the employer well when you’re on your personal time. With so much competition in the marketplace for customers money and ongoing loyalty, employer’s have to be more careful than ever that their reputations stay positive. The last thing they can tolerate is poor behaviour on the part of their employees in public that would soil that reputation and have their customers take their business elsewhere.

The job interview I suppose is really a conversation where the employer sizes up how well they can trust you to perform on the job the way you say you will. They do their very best to ask questions and check on past behaviour to assure themselves that if they place their trust in you by offering you a job, you’ll reward that same trust by performing as expected.

So is saying you can be trusted enough? Absolutely not. Both those who are indeed trustworthy and those who aren’t will make the same claims. “Don’t worry, you can trust me.” You can read that sentence with cynicism or complete faith in the claim. The thing is, trust is something you are given or something to be earned, where over time, you’re given increased responsibilities based on the employer’s trust in your ability to perform. Reward their trust with small things and you’ll find greater trust is placed in you.

Trust can be shown in many ways; you’re trusted to be genuinely sick if you phone in claiming to be ill. When the employer expects you to work independently, you’re trusted to actually put in the work you’re being paid to do. And should you join an existing team, you’ll most likely be trusted to pull your weight, contribute to the team’s performance, and not sabotage projects and put deadlines at risk.

Now the thing about losing the trust of others is that it can take a long time to regain the initial trust they placed in you. If you are often calling in sick you might lose the confidence of your co-workers who come to view you as untrustworthy. If you’ve got a police record, you may find it extremely difficult to convince an employer to place their trust in you – even when that offence is 10, 15 or more years in the past. They worry that hiring you with that record could hurt them tremendously should you abuse their trust and re-offend. Just ask an out-of-work person with a criminal record how it feels not to be trusted in the present for something they’ve done decades ago.

Now on a daily basis, you can demonstrate trust in the small things you undertake. Make a promise to call someone back by the end of the day and they will hold you to your word. If you phone, they appreciate it greatly. Fail to phone however, and their trust in your word drops and the next time you make such a promise they have less faith that you actually will. If you agree to relieve someone for their break coverage, they’ll trust you to appear at the appointed time, and telling them why you were held up may or may not suffice to support their trust in you.

Now on your résumé, you might want to start a bullet or two with the words, “Trusted to …”, or “Entrusted with …”. The implication here is that in earlier jobs you were trusted to do things by employer’s so the employer you’re hoping to work for now can trust you too. While this is good, you’d better be ready in the job interview itself to have examples ready to share of HOW they trusted you that prove your trustworthiness. Claims alone won’t cut it. Nobody is going to say they can’t be trusted, so the opposite is true; even those that can’t be trusted will claim to be. Your examples will if done properly, convince interviewers of trust previously placed in you and your performance in rewarding that trust.

Now suppose you’ve lost the trust of others you work with. What can be done to regain it? You might consider the honest but gutsy approach. Admit you’ve been less that trustworthy and you want to work hard to re-earn their faith in you. While words are good – and they are – you’ll be best served by then behaving in the way they’d expect. If you’re covering their phones when they are away training, let them return to find the calls answered and actioned. If you’re attendance has been sketchy and your teamwork less than stellar, pull your weight.

Be reliable, doing what you say you will, being counted on and coming through; in short, being trustworthy. It’s pretty cool. I trust you agree with me?