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The Zen of Job Searching - September 25th, 2014

Since time immemorial, or at least since the very beginning of career advice columns (which, it sometimes seems, go back just as far – archeologists are working on that, I think), you have read – over and over again– advice on strategies, tactics, methods, and approaches of job searching. Here too. After a while the words all start to sound the same. Believe me, I know.

Of course, that won’t change, but from time to time it’s a good thing to focus on things more spiritual, and less strategic or tactical in nature. When we get sucked into the vortex of our lives, it is understandably difficult to step back from the fray and to let go of the plans, the to-do lists, the events and all that – even for a short respite – and to take care of the softer side of things. But that’s exactly what we should do.

So today, here are some random thoughts which I’m sure will help sustain you. They have worked quite well for me – and many others, too – over the years in all kinds of situations, so there is no reason to expect otherwise for anyone else.

  • When you wake up each morning, complete the following statements: “My purpose today is...” and “What I will do today is...” These don’t have to be world changers every day; that’s (a) impossible and (b) too much pressure. And further, it doesn’t always have to be about getting a job; it can be (and regularly should be) about things like volunteering, helping a neighbor, or taking a badly needed decompressing day. But unless you can tell yourself why you’re getting out of bed each morning, you will not have a good day. Conversely, even if you don’t achjieve everything you plan, if you wake up with a purpose, you will have a good day.
  • For ten minutes each day, do nothing. Sit in silence. Engage in thought. And if you can do this more than once each day, that’s all the better. This one single ten-minute oasis does not include your regularly scheduled lunch breaks (that’s actually doing something). Really, for ten minutes, do nothing.
  • Keep reminding yourself that although life may not be fair right now, it is still good. It’s your responsibility to make something out of it. Problems are really opportunities poorly dressed.
  • Don’t compare yourself or your life to others or their lives. There’s only one way that turns out: badly. Even if you compare yourself with those less fortunate, you’re still not paying attention to #1: you. Focus on your own improvements and accomplishments, no matter how small.
  • However good or bad any situation is, it will change. Accept that. Sometimes all that’s needed is a night’s sleep, but in a more proactive light, positive change almost always is the result of positive attitude. As such, most change is up to you.
  • Consider what Thomas Edison said: “Most people don’t recognize opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
  • Don’t freeze when it comes time to make decisions. All you can be is wrong, and that can be corrected. Worse than a bad decision is no decision at all.
  • Find a reason to laugh and smile each day. Then laugh and smile each day. There is more evidence than you need that proves the benefits of doing this on all fronts: psychological, mental, and physical.
  • Read a poem. Poetry, I’ve always said, is what the soul looks like when it gets dressed up. Start with Longfellow; you can’t go wrong.
  • Listen to music. Not background stuff: music to which you must sit and actively listen. (My most oft-used bookmarked site is YouTube.) Grieg’s Morning Mood is a terrific start; you can’t go wrong.
  • Read that poem while you listen to that music. Now you’ve really got something!
  • Turn off the damn TV. In 1961, when commercial TV was still a rather new thing, Newton Minow coined the immortal phrase “a vast wasteland.” He was right then, and it has only become a vaster wasteland. Do other things. And while you’re at it, get away from your smart phone. The world of social media can live without you for a while – and you can certainly benefit from the separation.
  • The most important thing you can ever do with your life is something that will outlast you. No matter what your personal situation may be, there is something bigger, and it involves others. No matter what your momentary tribulations may be, generations to come depend on what you do and how you act today. “Footprints on the Sands of Time” is how Longfellow chose to depict it (A Psalm of Life).
  • And finally, before you go to sleep each night, complete the following statement: “Today, what I accomplished was..., and “What I am grateful for is...” If you wake up each morning affirming your purpose for the day and your intentions for the day, you’ll be able to go to sleep at night saying these things. Guaranteed.

Historian and writer Thomas Cahill said, “Out of mortal imagination comes a dream of something new, something better, something yet to happen in the future.”

So spend time dreaming – while you’re awake.