By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q: I look at other people’s careers and they are just luckier. Especially the last two years I’ve had multiple setbacks on the job. I know life is not fair but how do I compete against people who have a charmed life? How do you counsel clients when lady luck never seems to visit them on the job?
A: Firstly, I advise clients that you’re never competing with anyone except yourself. Competition distracts you from focusing on your own success. Secondly, I counsel clients that lady luck favors those who can quickly adapt when faced with bad luck.
Also, be aware that the only people who you believe have a “charmed” life are often people you do not know well. Everyone gets their share of disappointments and challenges.
Bad luck is momentary, but bad attitudes can be permanent. If we believe we’re unlucky we’ll interpret all events through a lens of fairness. If we can acknowledge our disappointment and adapt, we’ll thrive. We’ll put our primary energy into finding solutions rather than languishing among our losses.
Adversity and disappointment are the bills we pay to live on Planet Earth. No matter how smart, hardworking, or experienced you are, you’ll fail at something. If we remain at the funeral of our unmet dreams, we fail to see the train leaving the station for new dreams.
No one on Planet Earth always enjoys lucky circumstances. We may have a run of luck that goes dramatically wrong in a minute. We then must decide if we marinate in our disappointment or use our distress to adjust our plan. There’s a joke on the internet for times when we face adversity. One option, it says, is to yell “plot twist” and change direction.
There’s an educational series on Hulu called “Alone.” In it, ten people are alone in the same wilderness location, but are separated by enough miles to ensure they don’t come into contact with other participants. They each carry ten survival items. They also film their journeys. Even if you watch a single season you’ll notice that the person who wins the $500,000 prize does not always have the best outdoor skills. Instead, he or she has resilient mental health.
Some people on the show immediately focus on their location or their luck, lamenting how bad they are. The people who persevere take disappointment in stride and adjust. Lastly, participants are astonished at how being alone challenges their relationship with themselves. They all comment on how hard it is to be alone with their thoughts.
Our most important work team is the village of selves inhabiting our heart. When we get to know even the most unsavory inner neighbors, then all of these selves can pull together in a beneficial direction. If we refuse to get to know uncomfortable aspects of ourselves, these inner selves will fragment us and entice us into selfdestructive decisions.
Careers are not just a team sport. Success at work is about competing against ourselves and doing our best. On some days just getting out of bed and showing up is our best. We don’t have to do something great constantly. Perfectionism is a common travel companion with depression.
Instead aim low and persist. Doing something ordinary consistently will get you richer and to more satisfying places than just waiting until you can do something amazing!
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006).