When you go shopping to select new clothing for a special occasion, do you willingly choose an outfit that is less attractive than one that’s a knockout? When it’s time to buy a new car, would you consciously choose one in a color you hate?

While there are constraining factors in most decisions such as cost, most of us instinctively know the difference between settling for something and selecting the best fit for ourselves.  Why then do so many people settle for ill-fitting jobs?

The American workplace is home to many zombies, workers who stumble through the day in jobs they “settled” for, disengaged from their companies’ missions and their fellow coworkers.

Contrast these zombies with “zealots” – people who are in good-fit jobs or people who have found a way to engage with their work and coworkers regardless of work circumstances.  These zealots are living the “zoetic” life – committed to a common effort, making others want to climb aboard to succeed at a bigger game in life and work – literally, full of life (they are also typically and often maddeningly happy people. I have been accused of being that).

I wonder if you have ever been accused of being maddeningly happy? If not, why is that?

Consider this in relationship to our last blog: are you zombie or zealot?

You might be a zealot if you:

  1. Wake up without an alarm clock and begin the day with exercise, meditative breathing or quiet reflection to mentally and physically prepare for the work you will do.
  2. Give gratitude for both the day and the people you serve with your efforts.
  3. Are present to the needs of your family and affirm your significant others, lifting them up before going off to experience your day.
  4. Drive to work with the sounds of silence or with a song playing that makes you sing aloud!
  5. Enjoy the people you work with and allow them to energize you as you energize them.
  6. Have a boss from whom you learn regularly and can seek his or her guidance and support.
  7. Communicate fully, whether you tell others about your highest and best regard for them, so they don’t second guess how you feel about them, inspire others to be their best, or, simply take ownership for behaviors and what you personally need to communicate to make sure you are free of harboring ill will.
  8. Love people around you.
  9. Make other’s lives easier through your words, your actions and a demonstration of your commitments.

If you answered “yes” to most of these statements, you are more zealot than zombie.  Each of us has the power to change our personal story, the power to select our reaction to circumstances regardless of the circumstances. Is it time to rewrite your story?

Humans are conditioned to a negativity bias. It’s part of our fight or flight programming to see danger in situations rather than the potential for positive. Sometimes it takes positive conditioning and focused attention to overcome this negative bias. In the short-term, you can “fake it till you make it” and put a happy face over your boredom or pain just as you would a band aid over a superficial injury. Seeking out other people and looking for ways to contribute can also raise your mood.  For some people, reframing the situation provides a logical path to allowing them to accept the negative aspects of their work in order to achieve a greater goal.

“I may dislike the work I have and the extra hours I’m putting in, but, I know that the bonus I will receive will pay a year of college tuition, and I don’t need to do this forever.”

These techniques may help get you through rough spots, but don’t let a lifetime go by living a story that you settled for instead of selecting. You deserve to live a zoetic life, but only you can write your story.

This is the second in a series of “Zombies to Zealots”, and part of my book. Also, a special thanks to my writing partner Lynn Hays, for contributing to this blog.