"O.K. Let's say that I'm convinced that it's destructive. Then what?"
"So, you are going for a new job or promotion, and you have the right qualifications, and you are worthy, but you didn't get the job. First you think, Yes, I deserved that job, but if you didn't get it you have a choice of how you will respond. You can be resentful and angry, but then you can think about how destructive that kind of mental state can be. That conviction alone will serve to make you more cautious of these emotions, and may reduce them a bit. So, don't keep thinking about the work you don't have. There will always be better jobs that you don't have. Don't continue to feel competitive or jealous. That only brings more worry, more dissatisfaction.
"But you still need a way to bring some kind of peace of mind. Here's where we need to use our capacity for critical thinking, for analysis. You begin by realizing that no situation is one hundred percent good or one hundred percent bad. Sometimes, particularly in the West, I've noticed a tendency to think in black-or-white terms. But in reality everything in life is relative. So, based on this reality, you can cultivate a wider perspective of the situation and try to see different angles. You can further analyze, realizing that with the better work and more money, that doesn't mean that you would have no problems. Some other jobs may have higher pay, but they come at a price, maybe longer hours or more responsibility and maybe risk of injury or other kinds of problems. In fact, if you really look at others in the higher positions, you may discover that there may be more demands, there may be more competition or jealousy from others. You might discover, for instance, that while your current work pays less, it may be easier in some ways, or even less dangerous in some instances.
"So, you continue to think about the reality, thinking, Oh, yes that's my bad luck, I deserve that better job, but since that didn't happen, instead of looking only at the lack of the better job, you could cultivate a wider perspective and see it from the other direction where you can think, Well, yes, this may pay less and is not the best work, but since with this work I earn enough, a sufficient amount for my family and for my survival, I'm happy. It's O.K. So, thinking along these lines, we can build contentment with our job even when things don't go our way."
The Dalai Lama paused and sipped some tea. "So," he continued, "I think through our own efforts, through cultivating a wider perspective, I think it is possible to become more content with our work."
"Of course, there's still so much widespread dissatisfaction with one's work," I mused. "I'm wondering if you have anything else to add here, any other ways we can look at things to . . ."
"Oh, definitely," he quickly replied. "Another way to build contentment, for example, is simply to reflect on how fortunate one is to have the work, how there are many people unable to get any kind of work. You can think, There are other good things in my life, and I still have it better compared to many. This is always the reality.
"Sometimes we forget that. We get spoiled. So, for example, in America there are many opportunities for employment. And there is also a large degree of freedom, and one's personal initiative can make a difference. With personal initiative one can advance. But at the same time there is still a lot of discontent and dissatisfaction with one's job. In other parts of the world, for example in countries like India and China, there are fewer opportunities open for employment. So, under such circumstances many individuals can't get jobs. But I've noticed that there the sense of satisfaction they derive from their job is much stronger and also they are more committed. In the same way, one can reflect on how much more difficult previous generations had it, going through world wars and so on. Sometimes we tend to forget these things, but if we think about it, this can increase our feeling of gratitude and contentment."
From The Art of Happiness at Work. Copyright The Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Riverhead Books.
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