For years, I hated my teaching job.
I bemoaned my maltreatment and could spin myself into a horrible funk about how poorly I was treated and how the system sucked. My colleagues and I indulged in orgies of complaint.
I fantasized about quitting.
Yet when I thought about looking for another job, starting over somewhere else, perhaps going from the frying pan into the fire—I felt worse.
I had quit jobs before. And things had worked out fine. But in this case, because the idea of leaving felt bad, I could tell quitting wasn’t the answer. Being miserable was getting old. If I wasn’t going to quit the job, I knew I had to quit my resistance first.
How to soften my attitude?
I decided to stop complaining so much. I got into the habit of appreciating what I liked rather than pushing against what I didn’t. Even if it meant focusing on small things:
I like the free Post-its.
I like the trees outside my office.
I like my office mate’s wit.
I like that I can grade papers at home in my pajamas.
And then I could see some of the bigger issues to appreciate: Many of my students lived in rough neighborhoods, struggled with poverty and even had escaped oppressive countries. They were thankful to be there. Couldn’t I be too?
(And years later, when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the gratitude habit served me well: I’m grateful I didn’t fall when I had that first seizure. I love that my surgeon is a specialist in my type of tumor. I’m thankful my body can heal.)
It was amazing: there was so much more to appreciate than I’d imagined. And gratitude snowballed. It became easier, even second nature, to be grateful.
Strange, but my job seemed to meet up with my new outlook. I got offered the classes and schedule I wanted. Suddenly, administrators started helping me out instead of getting in my way. My lessons came alive; I was more relaxed and creative in the classroom because I was happier. It even seemed easier to grade the incessant stream of papers. My evaluations were off the charts.
Through appreciation, I fell in love with the job I thought I hated.
I used to think I’d be happy when good things happened. Now I see that happiness makes things good.
Author: Kate evans
Editor: Renee Jahnke
Image: Audio Luci-Flickr