Back when I used to work out regularly, there was an older gentleman who was usually changing in the locker room at the same time as me. We would make small talk as people do to be polite. He might have told me his name; I don’t remember very much about him now.
The one thing that makes this man stand out in my memory is that whenever we parted ways, he would say “make it a good day”. I usually said “you, too”, or something similarly uninspired.
What he was saying finally struck me one day. He was not telling me to have a good day. He was telling me to make it a good day.
As nice as the sentiment sounded, I didn’t really see how it applied to me. My job sucked, and it was causing me all kinds of stress — even to the point of visiting the emergency room. I experienced a lot of anxiety and had a few panic attacks.
I got to the point where I reacted badly to everything that happened at work. I can remember telling my manager more than once that decisions made by upper management were going to cause me to have to take another trip to the hospital. He finally got tired of my complaining and told me that work was not causing me stress; it was my reaction to work that was causing stress. That was not the answer I was looking for, so I added him to my mental list of stressors.
Fast forward a couple of years to a new job. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m now leading a pilot project using an agile process (Scrum). For the first several iterations everything annoyed me. My developers couldn’t follow simple instructions. They couldn’t write good code. They had to be constantly prodded to keep them going. Every day had its share of “what now?” moments.
For some reason I started thinking about the man at the gym again. This time, it paired perfectly with my old manager’s advice. Despite my annoyances, work continued to get done and things were working. It wasn’t the work that was bothering me. It was my reaction to work.
I’ve been trying to be very mindful of how I’m reacting to things at work. I still get pulled in a lot of different directions, and I’m still having trouble getting my team involved in the process. What I’m not doing is worrying about it. I’m learning to be more aggressive about my time management. Instead of wondering why my team can’t grasp simple process concepts, I’m asking them how I can explain or demonstrate it better.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a million things I’d like to change about my environment and my team every day, but instead of waiting for a good day to just “happen” to me, I’m becoming an active participant and “making it a good day”.
In the last several weeks, I’ve noticed that my anxiety level has plummeted, my stomach is not upset every day, and I’m sleeping better. That’s good enough for me.