Understanding Ourselves

Is Work an Endless Stuggle?

Is the Endless Struggle of Work or Life causing Stress? – Here’s some information that will help – It’s OK to ‘Just Do It’. 

Perhaps you have values around patience, persistence and determination? Your ability to identify problems and your enthusiasm that they should be solved, your appreciation of all the ramifications and your readiness to volunteer have given you a reputation for getting new and exciting projects off the ground.

These values are positive. They may have got you this great career and, if you have enough energy to keep them up, that’s fine.

As a therapist though I know that each of these worthy values comes with some ‘internal messages’ like  ‘Don’t be satisfied’, ‘Don’t relax’, ‘Keep Trying’ or ‘Don’t succeed’.

These internal messages are quite demanding and can result in internal pain or internal stress (You may have external stresses too like a new team, a new manager, a new home or a recent loss).

In our early family taking these values very seriously (e.g. Patience, Struggling On) was likely to have been a way to stay ‘OK’ around a parent-figure. This parent-figure may have even modelled the values themselves.

Do you have an idea of who this parent figure might have been? Who was it who –

  • Never seemed to be fully relaxed
  • Couldn’t decide
  • Took on new projects or new responsibilities but seemed to run out of time
  • Seemed to get involved in struggles with family, friends, neighbours or the ‘other team’
  • Set standards for themselves based on their view of others

Being ‘OK’ around this parent figure may well have been a useful strategy for receiving ‘positive strokes’, avoiding criticism, or even staying safe. But those days are gone. If the endless struggle of ‘trying harder’ is causing you internal pain then things need to change.

As human beings our resources are limited and this limitation needs to be accounted for.

It’s really hard on yourself to expect to ‘Try Harder and Harder’ all the time, and endless persistence may not bring the most effective outcome.

In most cases effectiveness is maximised by deciding what to do based on a realistic assessment of your resources, then just doing it (i.e. so it’s finished & done).

Some Challenges

How would it be to check that you want to do something (enjoying the process) rather than just wanting the outcome?

How would it be to check that you want to do something (enjoying the process) rather than that you ‘ought to’ be doing it?

Before you take on some extra work or responsibility how would it be to check that you can complete your whole workload package? Is completion still realistic? Or will something now be left unfinished?

Can you develop an awareness of the things you can change and the things that you can’t? Don’t persist in ‘trying hard’ to change the unchangeable.

Can you be accepting of The World as it is rather than as it ‘should be’? Some useful information – This World, as it is now, is the only one you are able to operate in.

If you’re a social worker, a teacher or a mental health professional, thank you for bringing your values to work. But do you need to bring them to reading a book, decorating the kitchen or sorting your finances? It’s quite possible to complete all these things so, if you want to do them and have the resources, just do them (i.e. start, persist, clarify with others if necessary, then complete).

Making Changes

For a more complete picture of what your ‘driver behaviours’ might be, take a look at my page entitled ‘Experiencing Stress at Work?‘ and complete the ‘Driver Questionnaire’ which is available there.

If you start experiencing something uncomfortable when you allow yourself to ‘decide what to do that’s doable, then just complete it’ revert back to your values for a while.

Everyone is different and any self-help process can only offer ideas in general terms.  It may be that going against these old ‘internal messages’ means some deeper work.

Why not book an initial assessment session with a counsellor/therapist who is registered with a nationally recognised professional body (such as BACP or UKCP in the UK)?