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Maria Urkedal York

Maria Urkedal York

Maria Urkedal York

Maria Urkedal York

1 month ago

When at work, don't give up; instead, think like a designer.

How to reframe irritation and go forward

Picture by Daniel Xavier

… before you can figure out where you are going, you need to know where you are, and once you know and accept where you are, you can design your way to where you want to be.” — Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

“You’ve been here before. But there are some new ingredients this time. What can tell yourself that will make you understand that now isn’t just like last year? That there’s something new in this August.”

My coach paused. I sighed, inhaled deeply, and considered her question.

What could I say? I simply needed a plan from her so everything would fall into place and I could be the happy, successful person I want to be.

Time passed. My mind was exhausted from running all morning, all summer, or the last five years, searching for what to do next and how to get there.

Calmer, I remembered that my coach's inquiry had benefited me throughout the summer. The month before our call, I read Designing Your Work Life — How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work from Standford University’s Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

A passage in their book felt like a lifeline: “We have something important to say to you: Wherever you are in your work life, whatever job you are doing, it’s good enough. For now. Not forever. For now.”

As I remembered this book on the coaching call, I wondered if I could embrace where I am in August and say my job life is good enough for now. Only temporarily.

I've done that since. I'm getting unstuck.

Here's how you can take the first step in any area where you feel stuck.

How to acquire the perspective of "Good enough for now" for yourself

We’ve all heard the advice to just make the best of a bad situation. That´s not bad advice, but if you only make the best of a bad situation, you are still in a bad situation. It doesn’t get to the root of the problem or offer an opportunity to change the situation. You’re more cheerfully navigating lousiness, which is an improvement, but not much of one and rather hard to sustain over time.” — Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Reframing Burnett at Evans says good enough for now is the key to being happier at work. Because, as they write, a designer always has options.

Choosing to believe things are good enough for now is liberating. It helps us feel less victimized and less judged. Accepting our situation helps us become unstuck.

Let's break down the process, which designers call constructing your way ahead, into steps you can take today.

Writing helps get started. First, write down your challenge and why it's essential to you. If pen and paper help, try this strategy:

  • Make the decision to accept the circumstance as it is. Designers always begin by acknowledging the truth of the situation. You now refrain from passing judgment. Instead, you simply describe the situation as accurately as you can. This frees us from negative thought patterns that prevent us from seeing the big picture and instead keep us in a tunnel of negativity.

  • Look for a reframing right now. Begin with good enough for the moment. Take note of how your body feels as a result. Tell yourself repeatedly that whatever is occurring is sufficient for the time being. Not always, but just now. If you want to, you can even put it in writing and repeatedly breathe it in, almost like a mantra.

  • You can select a reframe that is more relevant to your situation once you've decided that you're good enough for now and have allowed yourself to believe it. Try to find another perspective that is possible, for instance, if you feel unappreciated at work and your perspective of I need to use and be recognized for all my new skills in my job is making you sad and making you want to resign. For instance, I can learn from others at work and occasionally put my new abilities to use.

  • After that, leave your mind and act in accordance with your new perspective. Utilize the designer's bias for action to test something out and create a prototype that you can learn from. Your beginning point for creating experiences that will support the new viewpoint derived from the aforementioned point is the new perspective itself. By doing this, you recognize a circumstance at work where you can provide value to yourself or your workplace and then take appropriate action. Send two or three coworkers from whom you wish to learn anything an email, for instance, asking them to get together for coffee or a talk.

Choose tiny, doable actions. You prioritize them at work.

Let's assume you're feeling disconnected at work, so you make a list of folks you may visit each morning or invite to lunch. If you're feeling unmotivated and tired, take a daily walk and treat yourself to a decent coffee.

This may be plenty for now. If you want to take this procedure further, use Burnett and Evans' internet tools and frameworks.

Developing the daily practice of reframing

“We’re not discontented kids in the backseat of the family minivan, but how many of us live our lives, especially our work lives, as if we are?” — Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

I choose the good enough for me perspective every day, often. No quick fix. Am a failing? Maybe a little bit, but I like to think of it more as building muscle.

This way, every time I tell myself it's ok, I hear you. For now, that muscle gets stronger.

Hopefully, reframing will become so natural for us that it will become a habit, and not a technique anymore.

If you feel like you’re stuck in your career or at work, the reframe of Good enough, for now, might be valuable, so just go ahead and try it out right now.

And while you’re playing with this, why not think of other areas of your life too, like your relationships, where you live — even your writing, and see if you can feel a shift?