I recently met with a colleague by phone about a business engagement. By the end of the call, I made a commitment to support her project by lending my skills for a portion of it. Following the call, I proceeded to various other work commitments I had planned for the day, and I noticed I felt off. I realized the feeling was anxiety. My mind raced. I wondered: "Does that commitment really fit into my schedule? How long will it take me to fulfill on my end of the deal? Does this fit with the career goals I set in January?" I felt discomfort in my body, mostly in my belly. The peace I had felt earlier in the day, and that I try to live with all the time, was disrupted.
As I reflected on this project. I realized that my commitment, as we agreed to it, did not fit into my career goals which I had spent a lot of time on clarifying. I also realized that the amount of time and energy I would put into this project did not match my usual professional fees. There were certain passion projects in my career goals that I knew I would do at a reduced rate, but this did not fit that criteria.
I made a promise and didn't like the idea of backing out but I gave myself compassion that I acted excitedly without enough reflection. Also, I don't believe in taking professional projects that don't feel 100% aligned to me. That doesn't work out well for anybody. So, I began to write an email to the person I had committed to. I took the time to explain exactly what did not work and also to outline how I thought I could help the project that would fit my true career goals for the year, and I offered to have another conversation. She was very receptive and when we did finally talk, we explored an even better opportunity for me to support her project that we hadn't discussed before because it wasn't yet something she was looking for. Listening to my anxiety paid off!
The lesson here is that anxiety can be helpful. Somehow anxiety got a bad rap - like whenever it shows up we want to shut it down. It's like we've forgotten the benefits of our emotions. Emotions are actually part of our very important internal map and GPS system. We feel positive feelings when something is aligned for us, and we feel negative feelings as an alert that something is out of alignment. Anxiety at work alerts us to important issues like: we’re moving too quickly and need to slow down, we’re going in the wrong direction and need to check in with our intuition, or we’re trying to force a specific result and not open to better possible options.
Our emotions help us get through our work (and all of life), IF we listen to their wisdom. Here, I was off course and following my anxiety guided me back to my true career goals. Are you getting the gist here? Anxiety is our ally. So notice when she comes around. Don't resist or try to shut her down. Instead let her speak and, like the GPS in our cars that guide us home, know that she will always guide us back to our true career goals.
Spiritual Practice: Meditation for Listening to Yourself
Anxiety at work, like that discussed here, is often our inner wisdom trying to get a message through to us. When we suppress our anxiety we are not listening to ourselves. Meditation is a practice to proactively make time to listen to our inner wisdom, and stay centered in the true goals we have set for ourselves. Here is a guided meditation free from the Insight Timer app to help with inner listening:
Guided meditation by Sarah Blondin (12 minutes)