Are You Struggling at Work?

Emotional Distress in the Workplace

Have you ever found yourself stuck in your job feeling like you have come to the end of a dead-end street, or stuck on a long winding road? Have you wondered if there really is something greater around the bend that is worth striving for?  One of the most common reasons that we find ourselves feeling this way is due to emotional distress.

On an upcoming Wise Work Radio program Tom Noteboom and I will be exploring the question What Keeps People from Advancing in the Workplace?

Can you relate to any of the following symptoms of emotional distress?  If so, there is hope for you.

Symptoms of Emotional Distress

  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Depression, feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Anger, bitterness, irritability or frustration
  • Guilt, or feelings of worthlessness or failure
  • Feeling overwhelmed or lost
  • Loss of interest or energy
  • Loneliness and isolation.

When we experience physical pain in the body we naturally tend to think that something is happening to us that is un-necessary and wrong.  We don’t always see value in the experience or see what may be coming next. It is easy to become distressed about our pain, but not so easy to learn from it or appreciate its value.

Guardrails

Emotional pain is much like physical pain. It points out that something is not as it should be.  Emotional pain is like a guardrail that says, if you keep going this direction you are going to experience even greater pain.

Andy Stanley says “Guardrails protect us from what lurks on the other side. The danger zone… Personal guardrails are boundaries you establish on the safe side of damaging decisions that protect you from the danger ahead. They’re meant to set off warning bells over seemingly little things…little things that can lead to big, messy consequences.”

Bumping up against a guardrail is painful, but not as destructive as pushing beyond them.  It should be a sign that your current path needs to change to avoid greater harm. We need to establish emotional guardrails to keep our distress from leading us into more difficult situations down the road.

Distress Affects Others

If you are struggling with emotional distress in your place of work, others around you likely notice your struggles.  It can be very difficult to meet the challenges required to grow and advance in your career when you have internal obstacles that are working against you, and sometimes unknowingly against others.  It’s even harder if you don’t want to believe your struggles are indeed internal (your own doing) and not due to your circumstances, or other people holding you back.

Emotional distress increases when responsibility is avoided.   It’s your responsibility to find the solution to your distress, not your right to embrace it, or for others to be responsible for it.  Face it, Embrace it, Replace it!

So, Where is the Hope?

Mat 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Come To Me…

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, anger or guilt you know what it means to be weary and burdened.  You may feel like there is no rest for your soul, like something is missing, buy you cannot quite put your finger on it.

Jesus challenges us to a call to action by telling us to “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…”.  He is not as interested in removing all your discomfort, as he is addressing the heart issue.  He wants to give you what is missing so you can find a lighter burden in your work.

Take My Yoke

The second challenge that Jesus calls us to in to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…”.  Jesus isn’t saying that if you acknowledge him he will simply take away all your burdens.  He is saying if you join him on his journey, you will take on a different burden with him that will lead to restfulness.

Everyone Loves a Three-step Process…

So, what does it look like to come to Jesus and take his yoke?

Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

Jesus address’s the solution to our emotional distress.

  1. Deny yourself – Let go of any unrealistic, self-focused plans you have for yourself.
  2. Take up your cross daily – Stop fighting the wrong battle, and join Him in the good fight.
  3. Follow Jesus – Learn from the greatest person who ever walked this earth. The one who died for you!

Emotional distress is the natural consequence when someone walks through life with intention to “save their life”.  What are you willing to lose to find it?

Principles vs. Values

111 Three PigsThe 3 Little Pigs

Remember the story of the Three Little Pigs? One built his house out of straw, one with sticks and the last with bricks.  They all three had good intentions for the most part, although to varying degrees.  The difference was not necessarily in their intentions, but in the foundational quality of the material.  This is true not only in the material world, but also in the cognitive world.  Our thoughts and what we believe to be true, will determine if our house will fall or remain standing in the face of the Big Bad Wolf.  Ideas have consequences.

Principles vs. Values

  • What are Principles? Principles are guiding truths that apply to all people in all places over all of time. It doesn’t matter if you believe in them or not, you will trip over them if you don’t realize their existence. Principles are often very inconvenient to those who want to live life on our own terms and very convenient for those who wish to navigate per reality.
  • What are Values? Values are preferred beliefs that support principles.  Values are subjective and do not apply to all people in all places over all time and vary from person to person or amongst cultures. Values are the methods that help you achieve a higher cause.

Example:  The Principle of Generosity is true and plays out consistently over time (see list below); however different people value different methods in expressing their generosity.  Some give of their money, some give of their time and effort, others encourage and support and yet others defend or protect.  These are all Values that people hold that are important to them and are for supporting the Principle of Generosity.

When principles are absent, values can operate on their own (not necessarily well) without the foundational support of principles. In the absence of principles, we value whatever meets our own needs.  Discovering these important principles is important to developing a foundation for future strength and significance for everyone who wishes to lead a fruitful life.

Why We Tell the Truth?

Integrity and honesty are both principles that are generally the foundation to why most honest people tell the truth.  People who value integrity and honesty tend to tell the truth not only when it is convenient to them, but even when it is not convenient to them.  The Principle is more important than their individual needs.  They realize the long-term benefit of integrity and honesty for the benefit to others, also for their own best interests.

Telling the truth is not actually a principle, rather a value.  Telling a lie, embellishing and other forms of deception are also values. If they help your cause (right or wrong) they have value (to you). They both support what is most important to you, so if you are NOT a person of Integrity and are more interested in your own wellbeing, telling the truth sometimes suits your self-interest. If this is the case, telling a carefully crafted lie may seem to suit your self-interest as well. If you do not hold the principle of respecting other people’s boundaries (property) you may hold theft as a value that you use from time to time to get what you need.  Noble principles are the anchor for all noble values. Self-centerness is also the anchor for all self-serving values.

The House on the Rock

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”   Mat 7:24-27 ESV

Stand For Something!:

Many people in our country fail to stand for anything significant. As generations pass fewer Americans engage in principle based thinking.  We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, or project our standard onto others in fear that we will appear intolerant or politically incorrect. Tolerance and acceptance are very noble qualities, but when taken to extremes they can cloud our perspective leading us to compromise what we all know to be true.  We need to be strong and stand for proven principles even when it means causing others to stumble or discomfort for ourselves.

Many managers, leaders and parents fail to stand their ground and promote proven reality based principles. We often struggle with the confidence to stand up and express our allegiance to any higher principles, because we view principles and value the same. We see them as personal (subjective) rather than foundational (objective).  In other words, we give our personal values the prestigeous title of a principle, when it is no such thing.  It is just a supporting cast member at best, useful only to a bigger purpose.  And without purpose, your values are useless.

The result is a culture of floating standards (values) and a crop of managers, potential leaders and parents with little feeling of authority. We often feel powerless because we have not taken ownership of foundational truths or a commitment to defend them. Even when given full authority, we fail to feel empowered due to our self-imposed limitations and fears.

Application:

  • Most Americans believe in principles to some degree, but too often fail to take ownership and stand up for them because they don’t believe in a true Creator.
  • If you have an opinion (Value) ask yourself what universal principle it is attached to.  If you cannot come up with one, you may need to do some self-discovery.
  • When finding, ourselves fighting against life principles, we end up shipwrecked, running against the wind or trying to paddle upstream.
  • When we stand upon these very principles and hold onto them and live in harmony with them, we find footing and begin to stand firm on a solid foundation.

Build your house out of BRICKS!