“Relationships seldom die of natural causes. They are brought down by ego, neglect or incompatibility.”
— Author unknown
“Stay engaged,” I repeated silently to myself. “Stay engaged, damn it!”
Years back, I worked at a job I dreaded. I lived for the weekends and felt my anxiety increase as I counted down the last fleeting hours of freedom each Sunday night. Each weekday my eyes would pop open around 4 a.m. and I’d lie in bed mulling over all the things I needed to accomplish — things I had little interest in accomplishing.
Invariably, I would find myself in weekly meetings trying to appear interested in the current topic of discussion.
It didn’t work. Ultimately, I was taken aside asked that most dreaded of questions, “Do you enjoy working here?”
I recall having coffee with a friend and sharing my burdens or, more precisely, whining and venting about my sad state of affairs. Being a good friend, my buddy listened for a while then finally interrupted my pity party by suggesting that we look at the issue objectively.
“Did you like the job when you started it?” he asked.
I told him I did but the bloom had come off the rose, so to speak. A lot of the original staff had moved on and the management philosophy was no longer the same since the business had been sold to a large conglomerate. I no longer found meaning or purpose in my work.
“It sounds as though you’re incompatible with the job.”
I had heard the term incompatible or incompatibility used to describe everything from blood types to relationships but I hadn’t heard it used in this sense. As it turns out, incompatibility can also be used to describe the resistance and resulting stress created between the life we want and the life we’re living. Incompatibility is the inability to exist in harmony.
I used to believe that I could create the life I wanted while continuing to tolerate negative aspects of my current existence. I was mistaken. Tolerance is resistance and resistance keeps you stuck. When you resist what is, whether it’s a person, place or thing, you cannot create what you truly desire. The resistance you feel sabotages all of your best efforts.
American bestselling author, motivator and entrepreneur Steve Pavlina says the first step toward resolving incompatibilities is to stop saying yes to them. As Pavlina explains, “If you’re filled with a sense of obligation or guilt as opposed to joyful willingness, take a step back.” According to Pavlina, if someone asks you to do something that just doesn’t feel right to you, say no. “That may feel uncomfortable at first, but chances are you’ll also experience a twinge of relief each time you do it. When you get that twinge, it means you’re on the right path.” The author says that if you decline something you really should have accepted (and you’re honest with yourself) you’ll feel more guilt and disappointment than relief. That’s the litmus test.
If, for example, we’re feeling called to be in a different line of work, then we need to stop saying yes to the current occupation. Now let’s be clear. Pavlina is not suggesting that we dis-engage and refuse to fulfill our obligations at work. Instead he suggests we bring awareness to the fact that we’re pouring our energy into something we know we don’t want. He suggests we stop — be still — and step beyond what we think is necessary, appropriate or expected.
I used Pavlina’s approach when I decided it was time to leave the job in question. Though I respected most of the people I worked with, I no longer felt compatible with the work and was merely tolerating it.
Did I stand up one day and announce, “I quit?” No, but my first step was to stop saying yes to it. Though I stayed engaged (and it actually became easier), I began making plans for the future. Obviously, this caused me some tension, but it also allowed me to start accepting the need for change. Instead of being resigned to my job, I ultimately resigned from it.
Says Pavlina, “After you’ve stopped saying yes, your energy and enthusiasm will rise to the point where you’re ready to commit to a new beginning. You may not be ready to say, ‘I quit,’ right that minute, but you’ll know it’s unavoidable. You can see a fork in the road approaching.”
I found that the better my self-esteem, the more willing I was to embrace change. And you’ll find that once you stop saying yes, the death of the old becomes inevitable. Once you stop putting energy into an incompatible career, relationship or activity, the curtain will fall. Be patient and remember: all things to history in their own time. Allow yourself time to transition.
If you’re tolerating aspects of your life rather than accepting, releasing or trying to change them, then you’re likely to find yourself waking up at 4 a.m. filled with dread and regret.
Accountability is the key, says Pavlina. “If your life isn’t filled with who or what you love, who chose that? Who’s choosing it right now? Who’s free to say no at any time? Who’s responsible for fixing it? If you can’t say no to what you don’t want, then how can you possibly experience what you do want?” Want to travel the right path? Stop taking steps along the wrong one first.
When you drive the incompatibilities from your life, you raise your energy and your awareness because you’re no longer mired by an attitude of resistance. You feel relief and freedom. I know I did. This opens the door to creating and experiencing what you truly want.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His recent book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.