Now because I work either from home or just across town, it is rare that I have cause to jump in the car and filter into the line of traffic heading for the next town along, a journey of 17 miles.
What surprised me on that morning, was not only the increase in the amount of traffic and it's speed, but also the conduct of individual drivers, and the risks they are taking on the road.
I took the time to study the faces of drivers as they waited at junctions to turn onto the main road, and I would say that on many occasions, they were faces that were contorted in stress.
People were rushing, performing dangerous overtaking manouvres and driving too close to other cars. What was even more evident was the complete lack of courtesy shown to other drivers. Many of my waves of acknowledgement were either totally ignored, or merited a reluctant half lifting of a few fingers from the steering wheel, as if embarrased to return the gesture.
People feel they are insulated from the outside world in their vehicles, particularly in the four wheel drive 'urban tractors' that are becoming so common. They feel none of the outside air, they are insulated from many sounds, and they feel little of the road underneath them. This in turn removes them from the consequences of bad driving and a develops a reluctance to engage with other drivers and the perceived protection gives them the chance to be as rude as they like (who can touch me!)
From experience as a Firefighter I know that all that apparent protection is a complete fallacy, and if they could only know the hideous danger they face on any journey, many would be reluctant to even enter a motor vehicle.
My aim with this post though is not to berate the average commuter, but to analyse the cause of their anger and poor behaviour, perhaps find a solution and ask the question, if your job stresses you that much, should you still be there?
Many of the people I saw will be under pressure to be at work on time, as any issue such as timekeeping could be a deciding factor in future cuts in their organisation. They may have stressors such as performance at work, deadlines, peer pressure, job satisfaction, marital issues, sleep deprivation, and illness to deal with too. Many of these symptoms are avoidable and a product of the hectic world in which we live.
We are constantly contactable via phone and email, and even at home people are reluctant to switch off these devices for fear of 'not keeping their finger on the pulse' or unwittingly passing advantage onto a colleague over a promotion or some other issue.
Progress was supposed to have freed us from menial tasks and hard work and allowed us more time at home with family. Computers were to have heralded the 'paperless society', domestic appliances should have diminished the time we spend on housework. By now we should all be sitting at home after a four hour day, healthy, happy, tanned, fit, and well rested. So what happened?
Instead we have people dropping dead through work related stress. Cancer and heart disease are on the increase, suicide rates are going up, and we have less and less time to spend with our loved ones.
We are in the middle of a financial crisis and many of us have little or no chance of retirement. We rely on pills for this, tablets for that, and everyone from the office cleaner to the CEO, are ready to pop with stress, stress, and more stress. Oh yes, and on top of that, some stress.
This may explain the many angry faces I noticed on my short trip to town.
So what is the answer? I'll tell you! it's easy.
Give up work.
I can pretty much guarantee that some of you will switch off now. Some of you will think I'm an idiot, or irresponsible and some of you will think this is complete rubbish. But if work is stressing you, then an option is to give it up. But I have bills to pay! I have children to look after! I have a house and two cars to run!! I need my pension, my retirement! How can you tell me to give up work, you mustn't be living in the real world!
Well I assure you I am. I just have a radically different view on the working world than I used to.
I've been stressed on the way to work, I've been angry, I've even indulged in a little road rage in the past. I worked in horrible jobs, made very little money, and I have a pension that isn't worth the glossy paper it was advertised with. I've been that red face in the traffic jam, I've tried to make that bonus, I've listened to the company lies. I've pulled the 'sickies' and made the excuses, I've even not been paid as my company's thieving accountant wrote cheques to herself countersigned by an impressionable colleague, and slowly bankrupted the company. I've been there and seen it all, believe me.
So one day, I just left and never went back.
Best decision I ever made.
I had an amazing time, did things I never would have done, met amazing people, lived life, and found some real happiness. Do I have a decent pension now? No. Do I have much in the way of savings? No. Would the lack of money bother me If I died tomorrow? No.
But I would certainly be glad of my experiences.
I now do work that I enjoy doing, it challenges me, and it expects high standards of me. (And it doesn't feel like work) I don't make as much money as I would like, but the reason for that begins and ends with me. In the past I've missed the signs, passed over the opportunities, said no when I should have said yes, and stayed within the dreaded comfort zone. I now see that I just need to use more imagination and creativity, be aware and ready, and the the opportunities will certainly present themselves. I'm grateful for my job, and chance I have to make a real difference in peoples lives, bit there is more I can do, will do, and I will do it all with passion. The past is gone, I've learned my lessons, and I'm ready to grasp today and tomorrow.
I'm not what I did is for everybody, and In many cases it won't be, but I am saying that options exist. Chances are you're not going to starve, it won't kill you, and there is every chance that you will benefit from the experience. Will it look good on your CV? probably not, but are we still living in that kind of world? do people still have a track record of steady progress through a company or several companies over an entire career? if so then good luck to you, you're in an exclusive club.
As your life draws to a close one day, you will maybe have chance to reflect on your career, and it won't matter that you pleased your boss, or that you gained that promotion, or you made bonus 5 years in a row. All that will matter is that you are surrounded by friends, that your family love you, and that you savoured every moment.
So next time you rush out of the door, slow down, stop even. Smell the coffee, no go on! smell it, really! If you're into coffee it can be pretty good! Enjoy the drive to work, that expensive car you're paying the earth for is pretty slick compared to what you drove when you were eighteen I bet! put a good CD on and crank it up! smile!
When you get to work and someone asks how you are, answer 'Fantastic!' 'Radiant' even!! That always shocks them! Who knows, it may even catch on! Here's some more advice from the Positive Paradise World-O'-Wisdom:
- Once you get to your desk, or wherever your workplace is, do whatever it is you do, differently. Has what you've done before made you happy? or less stressed? no? well?
- Gesture with a different hand...
- Stop trying to sound so important, you arse! To most of the world you'll still always sound like Donald Duck. Plus, your seven year old self is watching you and shaking his or her head. Slowly....
- Relax your shoulders before you answer the phone, and when you do, enjoy the person on the other end, talk more slowly and not though gritted teeth this time. They're human, and they are your brother on this tiny blue-green planet in a pitch black sucking void.
- You're not Superman, you underpants are still on the inside (I hope) so don't take on the world. It's not going to happen.
- Don't engage in negative self-talk. You know, that voice you use inside your head that talks to you like you would never in a million years let a colleague or even your boss do. Sack it and have security escort it out of the door.
- There are many tools and techniques to deal with what happens at work. If you're stressed then whatever you've done before isn't working, so now is the time to try the new and the innovative. Don't rubbish it.
- You spend more time at work than you do with your own family. It's in your interests to get as much from it as you can. it's a job, not a sentence! Even prisoners get development opportunities and make progress.
- Monday is an opportunity, not the worst day of the week, seize it! You have another week ahead of you and amazing things can happen, remember, negative thoughts attract negative realities! If you're negative, other negative people love you, they will surround you, drain you, and you will go home tired and bitter. Do have energy left for your family? No? Time to change then!
- Finally, be present. Even the most mundane tasks if done with care and presence can be calming, enjoyable, and soothing.