This post originally appeared on PickTheBrain.com.
‘I feel the most fulfilled and perform best when I am helping others in a direct capacity, and am learning in a collaborative work environment.’
I recently told a friend this. Being able to put such thoughts into concise expression hasn’t always been easy for me. In fact, in my past, I’ve actually had different ideals, which I’ve gravitated toward. These ideals had little to do with my aforementioned paraphrase.
I’ve done considerable research on my interests and passions as well as possible career options, which take advantage of the intersection of these areas. I’ve read numerous books on these subjects, seen documentaries and lectures on the topics, and sought out a variety of mentors and a number of individuals in my own career search and selection. I’ve even done career assessment through surveys. I recently took one of these types of career assessments.
The Strong Interest Inventory is based on Holland Codes, and is a common career assessment tool. I’ve utilized this testing in the past but for some reason my latest assessment provided a new perspective for me, and what I learned was quite revealing. Not only was the view interesting and relevant to me, but I believe my insights were not unique. This explains my reasons for writing about this subject. I believe my thoughts are relevant to many of you as well.
[**] While on a trip to my hometown of Santa Cruz, California, I took time to meet up with David Thiermann to chat about my current career direction. (I am refocusing from entertainment marketing to mental health.) In the past, I have worked in a few environments where I perceived people caring more about the work getting done than the conditions under which it was completed. However, in addition to noticing this, I began to feel a deep disconnect between my own interests and my work. In bringing this up to David, we began to do some refinement when it came to my own personal ethos.
To give a bit more of a background on the Strong Interest Inventory, I believe it would be helpful to better explain the Holland Codes. According to Wikipedia, the Holland Codes are as follows:
[**] Of course these self-rating and selecting types of surveys can vary by moment. At the exact moment I took this test with David, he found me to be feeling most capable and motivated toward the Social, Enterprising and Artistic categories. The most interesting part about this experience was David’s comment about our society and how it tends to treat Social categories. David mentioned that in his experience, he’s noticed that society tends to encourage people within the Social category to move toward Enterprising paths.
BAM! His statement hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only did I feel this exact stigmatization toward my Social skills and Social career options growing up, but I perpetuated them by believing that I could excise them by working in “Social” settings, parameters and frameworks within the field of marketing. Upon further reflection, leadership and management were, and are, of incredible interest to me. As I see it now, my main issue within my experience in entertainment marketing was that in order to achieve leadership roles, I needed two specific things which I did not have at the time: patience and active mentors.
I believe my issues surrounding “patience” are based on the fact that I didn’t enjoy my work. It gave me little in return for a lot of hours of hard work, commuting and stress. It paid the bills and developed my skill set, but the work was incredibly dull for me. What I wasn’t thinking about at the time was that I valued helping others not the work itself; and, in order to make my way up the corporate ladder, I would need to prove myself in an career path which provided little return back to me. What a revelation! I only wish I could have made this distinction a bit sooner in my life.
This is not to suggest that by working in more Social environments I will not run into political situations, frustrations, people who are burned out and miserable, and need to exercise patience on a regular basis. However, when I was able to put my career into a Social framework, for me, the pieces began to better fit together and my current direction made much more sense. My purpose is helping others, not about persuading, selling and dominating. I enjoy collaborative environments. Though I appreciate competitive environments, when it comes at the expense of other individuals it becomes intolerable for me. Now that I have had this realization, what is left for me to do? Simple. Now I need to take the next step. I need to figure out a way to tap into more S.E.A. tasks and farm out as many of the C.I.R. tasks as possible. This may seem like a simple concept but in better understanding it, it is truly making a monumental difference.
[**] This post is meant to serve as a reminder to you that no matter much effort and energy you put into your life, you are only going to be able to achieve a level in life that you permit yourself to through such vessels as reflection, dedication, motivation, honesty, openness and risk. Even when you believe your current path to be absolute in its representation of your own life, life can still surprise you. I know it recently did for me. I encourage you to reflect on your own paths and see how you can better tune in to your life whether it is through a career coach, therapist, and friend or loved one. As in the wise words of my dear friend David: “When people stop going through transitions, they stop growing.”
Read more at http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/being-stuck/#ywUkWAHmdOyXdb5z.99
Lessons of Suicide
I've been volunteering at a Suicide Hotline in Los Angeles for a few months. You would think that this opportunity would be incredibly depressing and eventually make me, by association, suicidal. However, not only have I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most compassionate and insightful individuals while volunteering, I have had the pleasure of being reminded by callers, on a weekly basis, how to take steps to live a better life.
Lessons of Suicide: To return the favor to these callers, I thought I would document a few of the lessons they continually remind me of:
We all have (or will have) pain. Whether you are struggling with being depressed, anxious, are insecure, don't have many friends or family, have doubts, have made mistakes, are experiencing loss or any number of other emotions or feelings; you are not alone. What is different is your level of pain, and how you respond to these feelings of pain.
Our personal relationships, work situations, developmental history, friends, family, and past traumatic experiences vary widely from individual to individual. However, it is my personal belief (and friends of mine) that life means suffering and suicide is seen as an option for dealing with such pain. In a situation where I'm feeling like my life is spinning out of control, it is understandable how someone would just "want the pain to end" and take control to end what they believe to be never-ending pain.
The problem with this way of thinking is two-fold: one, as Daniel Gilbert makes clear in his clarifying the limits of our imaginations, a concept called "Presentism", in Stumbling on Happiness: "Your mistake was not in imagining things you could not know—that is, after all, what imagination is for. Rather, your mistake was in unthinkingly treating what you imagined as though it were an accurate representation of the facts." When someone is depressed, they see a future through their feelings of sorrow. Not truly acknowledging the fact that these thoughts are inherently biased. Secondly, given the duress and bias that the individual is suffering from, life varies and is thus uncertain, suicide is not.
Desire self-improvement and personal growth. Given "life means pain", a satisfying life is one which requires a considerable amount of work and effort. This type of effort is not just a one-time investment, but continual reinvestment and re-dedication. Though this effort and energy is considerable, it is truly diminished when one of your options is suicide. A simple commitment to wanting to change your daily life, in its own right, can be tremendously powerful.
Begin to develop skills in being more positive. It is very easy to be negative. Negativity also has a number of profound effects on us and those around us. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that when we dwell in negativity we can feel like we've tried everything under the sun, we find few reasons to live, and everything sucks.
Like it should! It should come as little surprise that if our focus is, for the majority of the time, negative and we expend little effort in changing our circumstances -- how could we possibly be happy? Negativity is a habit, and habits can become part of who we are and how we feel. If you are to develop habits, I would cultivate the habits of understanding what you truly desire, what makes you happy, taking risk and making strides to achieve these desires. If nothing else, you are at least improving your likelihood of being happy. Know your passions, interests, values -- What are the five things which give you as much energy back as you give to them?
Create connections. If you have a loving family, friends, partner, cat and dog, and neighbors, GREAT! Consider yourself lucky. Most of us have few of these and as we age, connecting becomes more challenging. Why is this? For starters, some of us are not in situations where we have a likelihood of meeting others of a similar age and interest e.g. not like the days of high school, college, sports, etc. Secondly, as we age our schedules get busier and busier. Work schedules take up 40-60 hours a week, chores engulfing another 10 a week, family and friends hopefully getting 10 hours a week, if you're lucky you are sleeping 50 hours a week, and what is realistically left? Many find themselves spending less and less time with others outside of work environments.
Unfortunately, not being connected can really take a toll on the psyche. In my own life, I have been working especially hard to go the extra mile and talk with people I don't know, strike up conversations with people at events and parties, people I pass on the street, reach out to acquaintances and friends to schedule events, and be sure to connect to my good friends on a regular basis. This not only benefits your personal well-being, but can also positively impact your career and personal interests. Not a bad side effect.
Related to this, trusting someone enough to talk to them about your deepest and darkest thoughts, feelings and desires, and not feel like they are going to judge you. This can be incredibly important. When asked about her friends and family, I remember a caller telling me that she "prefers and would rather be alone." Prefers to be alone but yet driven to the point of suicide? That insight changed the course of our conversation.
Be realistic in your progress and celebrate the mundane. It can be a horrendous experience when someone is working toward improving their life but then experiences a set back. This set back can be in the form of a significant or minor trauma, or even can come in the form of self-doubt. In these situations, it is really important not to be overly hard on yourself and to be patient.
Another important thing to remember is to celebrate your milestones, even if they seen incredibly trivial. Rewarding yourself for successes, growth and change is integral in building toward a better and more fulfilling life. These are a few of the lessons I've learned from people I've spoken with on the Hotline or through my own experiences.
Mental Health and Therapy Writer. As featured on Huffington Post, Vox Media and elsewhere.