Whether you’re dealing with being laid off, long term unemployment, long term under-employment, failure in business, or any other stressful event, it helps to have someone you can talk to. We interviewed Matthew Borja, Marriage & Family Therapist Intern and Doctoral Candidate in Psychology to get his take on how one can practice mindfulness and change thinking from being a victim to a creator, and put together some tips on how to focus your mental state to set you up for your next big opportunity.
Finding your Hope and Anchoring yourself in it
What is Hope? Hope is one of those things that anchors you towards the pursuit of what you want. It’s the thought that you’re moving towards something.
If you have no hope, you have difficulty developing pathways for the future.
Loss of hope can be due to repeated unsuccessful goal pursuits. “When I’m sitting with a client and they’re talking about job loss, divorce, or any stressful life event, my first goal is to anchor them in hope for the future.”
If you’re looking for a job for a long time and you’re sending out resumes, conducting phone interview after phone interview and finding no offers, it can be demeaning. “The biggest complaint I hear from people these days is they send applications out and get no response….it goes off into ‘internet land’.” How do you get someone like that to believe that someday they’ll have a job again?
But hope can be broader than that. It might not be the next job. Maybe it’s that you’re going to start doing something else – starting your own business. Maybe you’ll downsize to another house, completely change your career and focus on something else.
Hope is the anchor that keeps us moving forward in life. It is what drives us to create plans.
Without anchoring your mind in your Hope, it can be really challenging.
“How I get people to find hope is to focus on it. Some people come into therapy and want to talk negative 100% of the time. If you do that you’re not moving anywhere.”
I find it helpful to train people to push the negative thought out of your head and replace it with a positive thought or action. Your mind controls your direction and the quicker you can recognize you’re moving down a negative path, the quicker you can switch paths to a more positive one. A lot of times it’s pointing out options they have or helping them realize they have options. You can do this yourself, by keeping a short list of what you have to offer and where you are going and reading it to yourself every time you start thinking negatively. You can ask your friends and family to hold you accountable and call you on being negative when you start talking a certain way. And you can certainly ask your therapist.
The bottom line – flipping a switch from a negative mindset to a positive one isn’t easy but it MUST be done for you to succeed. You MUST keep your anchor of hope.
What your inner voice says to you matters
Look at yourself in the mirror and listen to your mind. What is it saying? Is it saying “He’s too old to find a new career” or “She always has to work twice as hard to make sure everyone knows she is worthy of this position” or “He is balding”, “She is fat.”??? Your inner voice, your mind is your biggest asset and your biggest adversary, especially in stressful times.
Focusing on your past, repeating the same story of what happened to you keeps you on a hamster wheel of negativity that gets more difficult to extract yourself from with every rotation of that wheel.
Pay attention to what you tell yourself and change the dialog.
Think about it this way, if you walk around all day thinking “I’ll never find a job in this market,” Or “I’ll never make as much money as I did at that job,” then what is the likelihood that you’ll be able to overcome that? You mind has already made itself up for you. This type of thinking is called victimhood. Essentially you are taking the role of victim in your own mind and that role carries over to the roles you take on when you interact with other people – whether it’s networking for a new job, interviewing, negotiating to buy a business, etc. This type of mindset is counter to the one of hope.
When you anchor yourself in hope, you also need to replace your inner dialog with thoughts of creation. If you hear your mind telling yourself “I’ll never find a job in this market”, replace the thought with “This market may be tough, but I’m going to create my next opportunity for me and it’s going to be wonderful.”
If you hear your mind telling you “I’ll never make as much money as I did at that job”, you can add “…but I’ll be happier in my new role.” Or you can replace the thought entirely with “I made a good salary at my last job and my next job is going to be even better.”
If you hear your mind telling you “He’s too old to find a new career”, immediately replace that thought with “My experience is a great asset in this market and will guide me towards my next role.”
Say it out loud. Your mind needs to hear you say this new positive dialog.
Remind Yourself that You’re in Control:
As humans we don’t deal with change all that well, especially if change is forced on you in the form of a layoff. After all, we like to be in control of this and this control is tied to our ego. So how do you get your mind wrapped around this?
If you can take away the ego and think there is a larger force out there that made a decision but still hold on to the fact that it’s an adventure, you can learn from it, and you can always take care of yourself, then there is no difference between whether you made the decision to leave or someone made the decision for you.
If you’re open to change, to the next opportunity then anchor yourself in the hope for positive change and focus on getting there step by step. Life is all about change and taking charge of how you deal with it, solidified in your anchor of hope will move you forward.
Finding Joy on a Daily Basis can help push negativity out of your mind:
People get lost in the big things. A lot of people spend their lives pursuing this notion of happiness, which is ever elusive. They think “I’ll be happy when I’m a Vice President” or “I’ll be happy when I make over $200K / year.” Or “When I finally get the run things, I’ll be happy”. Then they get there and they find that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, so they set their sights on another goal with the idea that it will finally make them happy.
That’s yet another hamster wheel people get caught up in.
I’d like to offer up the concept to everyone of stopping this pursuit for eternal happiness and starting to look for joy. Joy can be found on a daily basis. Moments of joy are what can help flip our minds from a negative focus and put us back on the right track towards a positive mindset. I find joy in my daughter, my dog, talking with old friends, riding rollercoasters. Joy can be an anchor for the day – it can reinforce a positive mindset of hope. Life can be heavy at times. Even just 10 minutes of joy can wipe out two hours of negativity and hopelessness. Try it.