The Disruption of “Normal” and Choosing a Positive Mindset in Your Career and Life

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Low angle view of female nurses pushing patients on wheelchairs with doctor walking at corridor in hospital

By Renee Jensen

There are many things that the COVID pandemic has taught us. For me, the experiences of the past year have reinforced something many of us already knew: your state of mind can be a very powerful influence on the outcome of your work, your day, and even your life.  

It’s easy to think of COVID as the thing that ruined 2020. But even in the midst of the serious challenges and truly difficult circumstances, many valuable, positive learnings were the result of COVID.  One that comes to my mind is how many people had the opportunity to work from home and spend more time with their families, rather than battling traffic jams.  Some of my colleagues have mentioned that they used to have three or four late-night meetings each week, and now they have only one or none.  Hours of travel to in-person meetings have been replaced with Zoom conferences, allowing people to find time in their “new work-life” for exercise.  

Everyone was forced to step back and evaluate life from a different perspective.  Things we took for granted are now all privileges.  We have had a chance to consider what is really important in our lives and careers.  COVID has allowed many people the space they needed for reflection and the opportunity for reprioritization.  I truly think that as a society we will come out the other side of COVID with our work priorities more aligned with our personal life priorities. But these benefits won’t come without a conscious decision to change your mindset about living and working in a pandemic.

In all situations, you can see only the bad, or you can choose to see the positive outcomes and improvements of the disruption of your “normal.”  It takes practice and discipline to choose to see the good in things, even if imperfectly, in the face of stress, discomfort, or exhaustion.  This leads me to wonder: Is it truly possible to make a conscious decision about your attitude towards any one situation at any one time, and, rather than just try to keep smiling as you slog through to the inevitable outcome, actually change the outcome because of it?

The power of choosing a positive perspective

One of the places I believe that a positive perspective has the most power to change an outcome is one’s job performance.  I believe your job is much like a marriage.  When I look back at the times I felt the most peaceful, my husband comes to mind.  I can honestly say I love him more today than I did the day we got married.  Over our more than 10 years together, I realize that he brings out the best in me.  When I am not my best self, he will often remind me that I need to have a different perspective, be more patient, not stress so much, or potentially just tell me to go for a run and figure my stuff out.  I am a better person because of my husband.  He supports me when I need it; he is usually nonjudgmental, and loves me for who I am even when I am not perfect.  I think these same feelings of contentment, sense of security and peace are the same tranquil place you need to be when you think about your work.  

You spend a majority of your time, focus, and emotional capacity connecting with people at work.  If you love your job, this will bring out the best in you. It may not even feel like work at all!  You will perform at your very best when you are happy about your contribution, when you enjoy the people you work with, and when you believe in the organization’s vision and future. Even hard work is energizing when you enjoy what you do every day.  To experience this, you need to be connected, dedicated, and calm—much like that person you are when you are in love and your partner brings out all of your best qualities.

The impact of your mindset on others

Recently a colleague shared with me about his dissatisfaction with his job and the transitions that were taking place in his company.  His attitude was sharp and aggressive.  His perspective was negative with a no-win outcome expressed at every option facing him.  He seemed spent and burnt out.  His desire to keep working and maintain his senior leadership position was definitely in his heart. Still, he had spent so much time under stressful conditions, seemingly impossible requests, constant pressure, limited time off, and little sleep that he couldn’t see a clear path forward or even evaluate the positive aspects of his situation. It’s easy to get to this negative space without fully realizing how you got there.

Finding yourself in this place isn’t good for you or those around you.  If your job is not a good fit for you or if you are simply just burned out, you will resent the time you spend at work, be frustrated with people around you, and won’t have the emotional capacity in your personal life to be fully present with the people you love.  Instead of solutions, you will see barriers.  Instead of being patient, you will jump to conclusions.  Instead of a sense of calm in your soul, you will feel stress, anxiety, and frustration.

This has a deep impact on the teams we lead. As leaders, one of the most important jobs we have is to inspire others.  We should offer hope, a strong vision, and positive energy that will create excitement in those around us and bring out the best in our teams.  If you desire to work in an environment with colleagues who are happy, positive, and inspiring, you must bring that to the table every day. And I don’t mean showing up to a meeting and putting on your “happy face.”  I mean seriously being happy on the inside—no faking it.

Pause and reflect

Life is so short, and the past year has taught so many of us that the life we know today can change forever in an instant.  As you reflect on your career situation, can you honestly say you enjoy your job and the people you work with? If not, why are you still doing it? You have a choice.  

One of my all-time favorite quotes that I try to live my life by is this: “If you can’t change it, change your attitude about it.”  If you can’t change the situations at work that keep you from being your very best every day, you have two choices.  One, you can change your attitude about it and find a way to look at the situation that serves you better (the power of positive perspective), or two, you can change your job.  Why go through this short life unhappy in your work and not being the very best leader you can be, every day?

Here’s what I’d encourage you to do:  Make a commitment next weekend to find quiet time just for you.  Create space where your mind is open. Think about your current job, and ask yourself:

  • Does thinking about my job make me happy?  
  • Am I at my very best right now?  
  • Do I enjoy the work I’m doing?  
  • Do I see the positive side of most situations?  
  • Does going to work make me a better person at home?  

If you can’t honestly answer yes to these questions, the bigger question is why, and what are you going to do about it?

If you are honest with yourself and know your job is not bringing out the best in you, I encourage you to take a risk and develop a short-term and long-term exit plan to better align your work with your life priorities.  Sometimes just knowing you have a plan will be enough to raise your spirits and help you be in a better frame of mind as you execute your plan. Be sure you take full advantage of the opportunity the past year has provided us to truly reflect on what is most important to you, and ensure you are aligning all aspects of your life, including your work, with what brings out the very best in you.

About Renee Jensen

Renee Jensen is a healthcare executive leader with over 19 years of experience in public hospital district operations and integrated healthcare systems. She writes about leadership and building high-performing teams at jensen2solutions.com.

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