That Next Step Could Be A Duesie!
I used to work in a cafe. It got stressful. I expected just to show up, drink coffee, help other people drink coffee, clean up and go home. It turns out there's a bit more to it than that.
Working in a cafe involves a lot of demands, sometimes conflicting ones, often simultaneously. There were plenty of times when I was not as graceful as I could have been. After long days responding, making decisions, fulfilling demands, smiling, serving and otherwise giving all of myself, there were a few times (too many times) when I reacted… poorly.
And I felt like a complete dirt bag after each one of these. I hated that feeling. I hated not living up to the awesome standards I'd set for myself, as I had really come to pride myself on my ability and desire to give customers a stellar experience. I also wanted my staff to have a great experience of me, but often they were the ones who'd see my frustration and exasperation. I knew that wasn't fair, nor was it deserved.
Yet it would keep happening, despite my best intentions and efforts to thwart a snappy reaction. Inevitably, all of my resources would be depleted and I'd make a poor choice.
Roy F Baumeister describes the phenomena in his book "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength". He calls it "ego depletion". The effect results in things like giving up earlier when faced with challenges, the inability to resist temptations, and even the reduced ability to control our reactions.
Just bring to mind the example of busy, hard-working spouses who return home after a long day of difficult work, effort, self-control and decision-making (all ego-depleting tasks). Two such individuals now find themselves together, each looking to the other for a bit of respite. What inevitably happens? They get short and snappy with each other. They inevitably feel bad about it (why should the person I love most have to see the worst side of me) and the effect continues. Until we consciously and decidedly make a new choice.
Overcoming our nature, and even seeing such cycles as natural, is a whole different ball game. At the time, I hadn't read Baumeister's book but I knew I needed to change. I knew I wasn't being a good Christian, and I knew I wasn't being a good person. I wanted to change.
And so I decided that people are my priority. It always amazes me the people who naturally live like this, and there are so many of you wonderful folk! No matter what is happening with work, no matter what the potential negative effect on you, you take the time and self-sacrifice for the good of other people (yes, it could be argued that some of you do this to a fault, but that would be a different topic altogether.)
My mother is a great example of this. She's dedicated unquantifiable hours and energy helping other people, all to the effect of having less time, energy and money for herself. But she has earned the respect, love, and admiration of all of these people. And while I've never asked her outright, I do know that she gets something in return. People don't do things they don't find worthwhile, so she has to be experiencing some benefit in it.
Somehow I didn't naturally pick up on this trait. It took me a long time, and a lot of frustration with myself, in order to want to change. It took realizing that the next thing I do, when I am feeling most depleted, discouraged, or depressed, the next thing I choose to do will define my entire experience going forward.
Do I want to stay in this bitter cycle of self-hatred? Great - keep reacting like a jerk.
Do I want to stay discouraged, spiralling in to a pity-party pit of despair? Great - keep dwelling on how 'hard done-by' I am.
Do I want to make depression and sadness my permanent demeanor? Great - stay home, be by myself, think my sad thoughts, don't ask for help.
But if I want a different result, I have to make a different choice. I have to walk away from my triggers, or learn to kill them with kindness. I have to think about all of the things I'm most thankful for. I have to reach out for help, talk to my friends, get outside in the sunshine, exercise, do something differently.
The truth is, the next thing you do when faced with the most adversity is going to be the most important thing you do. It will set your course. After you've chosen one constructive step, then it's easier to choose another and another. The same is true of the reverse.
So do watch that next step; it could be a Duesie!
other articlesWhen Things Don’t Work Out
The Ultimate Conspiracy Theory
Pink Shirts in the Laundry
How to accept gifts
Rise to the occasion
Sick n’Tired of Being Sick n’ Tired
How to be exited about your life
A Better Experience of Life
You have no clue how much people care for you
The Discipline of Weight Loss
Impending Diplomatic Incident
I Received Some Bad News Recently
A & Q
5 Easy Steps To Motivation