Is it me, or is it my job?

We may blame our jobs for making us miserable, but it can be our mindset that's affecting us. If you are not sure whether to stay and change your approach — or to look for something new —follow these guidelines from Durban counseling and industrial psychologist Erna Nel.

Description: Is it me, or is it my job?

Is it me, or is it my job?

1.    Pinpoint the underlying issue. For example:

·         I'm frustrated at not progressing.

·         I'm not being recognized and rewarded for what I do.

·         I've outgrown the position.

·         Financially, the job isn't viable.

·         I experience personality clashes with one or more colleagues.

·         I have a difficult boss/superior.

·         I'm subjected to sexual harassment and/or victimization.

·         I'm tired and/or burnt out.

·         My life is out of balance — and I feel hopeless.

2.    Consider the context

Look at the problems in your life and how these may be hindering your enjoyment of work. For example: Am I my own worst enemy? Do I limit myself in what I think I can achieve? What actions am I currently taking? It may help to communicate your doubts to a friend, colleague or a professional who can offer objective input.

3.    Remember who you are

Your interests, values, aptitudes and skills have an impact on our potential success and satisfaction with different career options and our work environments. Ask your-self: What are my targets? What is my purpose in life?

4.    Revisit your options

What opportunities are open to you within the organization—and outside of it? Is there someone you can talk to about these options? Be mentally agile in dealing with all the factors that might come into play.

5.    Confront fear of change

All the above involves decision making, which means taking risks. How you view yourself—as a capable individual or a helpless victim — will determine thoughts, motivations, attitude, successes, failures and your emotions.

Stress-related disorders

Description: Stress-related disorders

Capitulating to your internal (or an external) slave-driver is exhausting and likely to catch up with you at some stage. "Health risks generally come at the point where a person is obsessive or too devoted," says Dr Nye.

"When your work identity becomes all-encompassing, you may be at risk of stress-related disorders, like IBS, spastic colon, palpitations, inability to cope and heart attacks."

"Those who do their work with a sense of anxiety, who do one thing and then have got to do another, are also more prone to burnout, higher anxiety levels, and depression," adds Michelson.

While "energizing stress" is associated with improved personal productivity, "destructive stress" has the opposite effect, writes management expert and author Robert Kreitner in the journal Business Horizons.

How to (re)discover yourself

"More and more of us... have been cut off from sources of vitality and meaning that come from the non-professional side of life," says Robinson, who believes satisfaction in after-hours is the best predictor of personal satisfaction.

6.    Ignite your passions

Your passion may be a common activity, like jogging, or it might be highly specific, such as creating art on canvas using a variety of materials. Of course, the further you are from your authentic self, the harder it can be to pinpoint what it is that engages you. Passions don't always "spring fully born", Robinson reassures us in his book. Sometimes it takes exploration and experimentation to remind yourself of what makes you tick. Answering these questions may help you too:

       When was I so riveted by a new experience that I forgot I had a single problem?

       What do I live for?

       What am I missing?

       What are the interests that will lead to the highlights of my life?

       When was the last time I got goose bumps from something beautiful, thrilling or transcendent?

Alternatively, take your quest one step further with the interactive passion-finder tool at dontmissyourlife.net

Description: Find Your Life Here

Find Your Life Here

7.    Make time for recreation

"There are 24 hours in a day. It's reason-able to expect to spend a decent portion of them enjoying recreation or play, and with family and friends," says Kolobe. "Though it's tempting to put off rest or recreation due to "being too busy", "going to gym", or "playing with your kids", just 20 minutes of meditation will help make you more productive and balanced," says Dr Nye. “Perhaps you'll even earn more...”

8.    Own your free time

Don't burn up discretionary hours on just "being busy", says Robinson. "You're working for a reason: to live, and your free time is when you do that."

9.    Live big

Opportunities to "activate life" are all around us, writes Robinson, who believes true leisure doesn't involve "vegging" but in being "engaged". "Participatory leisure experiences are the missing piece of life satisfaction."

10.  Or start small

Finding your authentic self can involve a very subtle shift, says Michelson. It isn't about adding more pressure to your life. "It's not about 'doing frenetically' in your leisure hours, or squeezing in activities when you're really pressed for time. For example, five minutes reading with your kids or taking them for a walk can make the difference. It's about being present."

11.  Give yourself permission to play

This is perhaps the greatest antidote to productivity paranoia. The trick is to see play as a rewarding activity in itself, writes Robinson, and not as "slacking". Authentic play involves participating because you want to; playing for the sake of playing; jumping in and trying, even if you've never done it before; playing to learn; playing to be in the activity... not to get it done.

4 Signs You're Becoming Your Job

·         "You've gone too far when you compromise other aspects of your life that are important to you," says clinical therapist Catherine Michelson.

·         You stand back for a moment and feel empty, says Michelson. "You can't close off work and enjoy leisure because work fills a void."

·         "If you no longer experience joy in what you're doing, it's a sign you're already out of balance," says GP and integrative health practitioner Dr David Nye.

·         You don't know what to do in your off-time, says work-life balance trainer Joe Robinson. So you tend to "default to boredom or entertainment chosen by others".

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