Today, I would like to share with you a past moment in my life when I cried. I don’t know why I’m sharing this except that I just want to let you in on this private moment in my past and connect with you guys on a deeper level.
Six years ago (2007), I had yet to start Personal Excellence. I was still working in the corporate world and I was in my second assignment in my then company, Procter & Gamble (role rotation is a norm in the company as it accelerates learning and seeds best-in-class lessons across the organization).
One night, I was back home from work. It was yet another long day, a staple occurrence in my role.
It was a jaded period in my life then, because I had been dealing with very painful work issues. For I had been assigned to a role with redundant responsibilities, a result of very bad organizational restructuring. I had also been under the leadership of a disengaged manager. While my manager was a great friend and a nice person at heart, she was not a good leader on many counts. She had been highly disengaged in my personal and career development, as a result, inhibiting my growth as an individual and my career development in the company.
I walked into the bathroom and hit the shower. As water fell from the shower head, all the issues I had been mired in in the past nine months flashed through my mind.
I thought about how unfair it was that I had to face these issues while my peers in the company didn’t have to. We would compare notes ever so often as part of the competitive culture, and everyone would be flabbergasted at the bizarre issues I was facing in my role, my team, and my manager. Issues like being caught in the political cross fire between power-hungry, passive-aggressive senior management folks, being tasked with low-level administrative work because my manager didn’t see the need for me to do more or learn more, etc.
I thought about how unfair it was that I had to fight so hard to get what I should be getting in the first place (a regular role with a regular manager), when everything could be avoided at the onset with better planning and foresight at the top-level management.
I thought about how unfair it was that I had to deal with zero value-added issues day in and day out as a result of the role’s redundancy, when my peers were given gratuitous business responsibilities and leaping ahead of me by the day.
I thought about how no one could understand how terrible and ridiculous my problem was without being in my shoes, and how alone I was in my problem.
As I thought about the unfairness of the situation and the great pain I had been facing all these months with no end in sight, as the water from the shower head soaked through my hair and flowed down my face and body, suddenly, I scrunched my face and burst into tears.
What’s happening? I thought in surprise as I covered my face with my palms in a knee-jerk reaction. For I did not see the tears coming. While I had felt deeply anguished by the situation, I had not cried, thought of crying, nor felt like crying up till then.
It was as if I had accumulated so much pain in the past months of being in such a high-pressure situation that it could no longer be contained anymore. The pain had been screaming for so long inside me, yet I did not notice it because I had been so busy fighting a war on the outside. It had to find its way out of my body, by forcefully ejecting itself through tears in my eyes.
As I “watched” myself cry in solitude, I felt sorry for myself.
I felt sorry that I had to be reduced to this state, this sorry and pathetic state, squatting on the bathroom floor and crying to myself in the middle of the night while being dowsed with water. I felt sorry that I was so unlucky as to get a double whammy like this whereas my counterparts received regular assignments with regular managers (which was what I should rightfully have gotten as well). I felt sorry that my simple request to grow, to be a good person, and to be a good employee could not even be realized, even though I had been trying so hard to make it happen in the past nine months.
Why? Why me? was the only thing I could ask. I felt like a victim, trapped, neglected, and deprecated. I felt like all my abilities and potential were being wasted away and no one cared to harness the capabilities I had to offer to the organization, to the society, to the world.
In amidst the sadness and pain, suddenly a little voice popped into my mind with a seemingly innocuous question.
Hi Celes. What’s the worst thing that can happen? the little voice asked.
What? I paused as my tears continued to flow.
What’s the worst thing that can happen? the little voice asked again.
What do you mean? I responded, in between tears.
You feel like the situation has become insufferable, don’t you? You feel like this is the last of it that you are willing to handle, right? If the situation is already so bad, then what’s the worst thing that can happen from here on out?
I paused for a second. The situation was pretty terrible, within its context. I could not think of a worse role an ABM (assistant brand manager; that was the title of my role) could be assigned to other than mine. I also could not think of a worse manager I could get other than mine. Honestly speaking, swap me out into any role and under any manager, and it would still be an improvement over my situation.
What would be worse than this situation then?
I don’t know. I guess the worst thing that can happen is if I just… quit? Get asked to leave? Not have my job anymore? I thought.
No sooner did that thought enter my mind did something click in me. It was as if someone wedged a huge cushion between me and the problem and removed the pain in my heart. It was as if I was allowed to see the problem for what it was for the first time, rather than as someone embedded in the thick of things. It was like the problem reframed itself and suddenly appeared as a luxury than a problem.
Suddenly, I realized how lucky I was to have my job. I thought how lucky I was to get this job when hundred thousands of people out there would gladly take my place, including peers from school who had applied for the position but were rejected. I thought how lucky I was to be have this job issue to worry about, when there were probably people out there with far worse job issues than mine, much less life issues like terminal diseases and what not.
I also realized how simple the problem had been all along. If the situation was supposedly so scr*wed up, I could just quit anytime. Walk away. Say adiós amigos. No one was pointing a gun to my head and telling me to stay on. The employment contract is only a contract and not eternally binding. Monthly finances is something that can be worked through with proper planning and a new job.
And if I didn’t want to leave, then it would be a choice, my choice, to remain in spite of the issues—because I felt that I had more to gain than lose by staying on. If so, it was then a matter of accepting the situation for everything it had to offer, including its ups and downs, and learning to deal with the downsides while relishing in the upsides—rather than b*tching like a little kid about the problems, as if I was the only person in the world to face them.
Suddenly, I felt like I had been relieved of this longstanding problem. I felt like the problem had been self-inflicted the whole time. I realized that I had been the person in charge of the situation the entire time. It was up to me to take ownership of the situation and the problem, rather than feel victimized by it.
I had emerged from that thought experiment a same person on the outside, but a different person on the inside.
With that, I turned off the shower tap, dried myself, and put on my clothes. That night, my reality was changed permanently.
What Happened Next
I didn’t leave the job. I decided to stay on because the company still had much to offer in terms of learning opportunities. The assignment and manager might be sucky, but nothing is permanent—it was a matter of time before I got an assignment shift and a change in manager.
True enough, I was shifted out after six months, where I had a meaty role with gratuitous responsibilities, an awesome manager, fantastic colleagues, and finally got exposed to the best-in-class practices the company had to offer, hence equipping myself with the critical business management and analytical skills which would come in handy later on.
It would be another six months before I quit to pursue my passion and start PE, but that’s another story for another day.
Lessons I Learned that Night
That night struck me because I received paradigm shifts to a problem which had tormented me for months and which I had thought was unresolvable, only to realize the torment was self-created. I finally broke out of the problem when I shifted my perspective.
These lessons stayed on with me long after that night/episode and changed me into a different person, a better person. They are the reasons why I’m able to remain positive and highly composed, even when faced with highly intense problems. They are the reasons why I hardly flinch when I’m faced with cr*ppy situations that typically throw people into fits.
I learned that many problems we think are unresolvable in life are actually solvable. It’s just a matter of looking at them in a different light.
I learned that when we are stuck in a problem, it’s not because the problem can’t be solved. It’s because we choose to be stuck in the problem. By letting the problem consume us, it will consume us. By outgrowing the problem, we will break out of it.
I also learned that every path has its up and downs. The ups are the benefits we get from being on the path; the downs are its liabilities. If we choose a path, we should suck it up and be prepared to deal with the downs just as we enjoy the upsides, because both are part and parcel of being on the path. Stop cribbing about the downsides because we can’t have our cake and eat it.
Finally, I learned that every situation can be viewed in two ways. We can either see the negative side or positive side. See the negative side and what do we have? Misery. See the positive side and we get to build a life of positivity. Which one do you prefer? I know I want the second one.
Whatever problem you are facing today, chances are it’s not going to be a big problem next week, next month, or even next year. If it’s not going to be a big problem, then why waste your energy worrying about it? Why not see it positively and make the best out of it?
And even if the problem is a dire one, what do you gain from stressing yourself out with it? What are you, a masochist? A sadist? No and no, right? Why not get a grip of the problem and think about how you can resolve it today, rather than spend needless time and energy worrying about it?
I’ve written articles before on how to address life’s problems, which you can check them out here:
If you enjoy being unhappy, here’s a piece just for you:
I hope my little sharing today has helped you to gain a different perspective on whatever problems you may be facing. I hope you can realize that you are never alone in your problems. I’ll always be here for you, together with the rest of the PE community.
Here’s to a happy life for all of us. ♥