There's Nothing I Can Do. Or Is There?

The twenties are a time when everything feels out of control:  you can visualize a lifestyle you'd like to have, but can't see the steps to get there; your job is entry-level and low paying, if you've even managed to get someone to hire you; and your sense of self vaguely resembles waterlogged putty. English: Art of Hopeless identification Españo...

It's no wonder we have the urge to throw up our hands and say, "Forget it. There's nothing I can do. This sucks."

Believe me, I've done the hand tossing myself. Many times over. As recently as last week.

But as we discussed in the last class, feeling in control - even when things look like a right ol' mess - is vitally important to forging a fulfilling career and, given the number of hours we spend at our jobs, a satisfying life.

So here are some tips about how to feel like there is something you can do, even when life is persuading you otherwise.

Avoid Absolutes

You know this tip from SAT prep:  words like "never" and "always" are red flags of an incorrect answer choice. So too in life (who knew that the SATs were actually worth something?). If you hear yourself speak - or listen to the incessant chatter in your head - and notice tons of absolutes, you're doing yourself a disservice. Instead make friends with the phrases "sometimes," "in this case," and "once in a while." It pays to be wishy-washy. Sometimes.

Know That You Always Have Options

They may not be great ones, but they're still options. For instance, if there aren't any job nibbles where you're currently living, you could consider moving somewhere (e.g., to a city) where there may be more opportunities. When you're feeling like life's shoving you around, take five minutes to do the dorky thing and write all conceivable possibilities down. Better yet, get a friend involved in your brainstorming dorkfest; two minds are better than one. Even if she then has this tidbit to blackmail you with. (BTW, did you catch the "always" in this header? A-ha, I am testing you!)

Recognize Your Role in Good Events


Typically when we get into the "life's out of my control" mindset, we extend it to the good things that happen to us, too. Instead of realizing that we actually did something to make a happy event happen - like a job offer or a romantic milestone - we tend to chalk it up to "chance" or "luck" or something someone did for us. Since it's easier to convince ourselves of our role in positive outcomes than negative ones, you can start your mindset change right here.

Know That If All Else Fails, You Can Still Work on Improving You

There's a ready-and-waiting option available no matter what:  no one and nothing can stop you from working to improve yourself. Look at people in prison - even they attempt self-improvement, regardless of their obvious barriers to freedom of choice. If you can't secure a job or you're stuck living in your parents' basement or your idea of a roaring good time is following Kim Kardashian's mind-numbing exploits, you can still work toward identifying the career - and life - you'd ideally want. That's a matter of identity development, something we've talked about in the past and have a lot left to cover, which is why we'll be diving into the topic next week.

But first up, regrets. You'll regret it if you miss that class (sorry, I couldn't resist) - see you Friday!

Tell me:  How do you fight the urge to say "There's nothing I can do"? I'm open to suggestions - and could use the pointers myself!

Gardner, D. C., & Beatty, G. J. (2001). Locus of control change techniques: Important variables in work training. Education, 100, 237-242.

We're naturally good at hopeless. Finding the opposite is the challenge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life going right for a change? What did you do to make it happen? (Photo credit: Verpletterend)