The summer after I graduated from high school, I worked as a telemarketer selling water softeners. Actually, my job was to convince the people I called that if they didn’t get their water tested soon, they would regret it for the rest of their lives. Lovely. They would often agree to a free consultation, during which the “expert” would show them their terrifying test results…and then try to sell them a new water softener. I hated every second of that job, but it taught me lots about what I didn’t want out of life.
That experience came rushing back to me when Jonathan Fields posted this on his Facebook page yesterday:
“We spend so much time working out what we want. But there’s also so much power in knowing what we don’t.”
Jonathan’s right: that awareness is a powerful thing. Why? Because knowing what we don’t want helps us clarify what we do want.
During the three months I worked at that telemarketing firm, I was one of five women – all decades older than me – who sat in a tiny, windowless room, hunched over our little desks with phones and phone books (yes, children, we used phone books to find people’s numbers). The boss would collect our appointment sheets and count them out loud, so everyone knew who had booked the most appointments each day. I wasn’t sure why but I usually booked more than anyone. This routinely resulted in so many dirty looks and loud sighs from the other women that I intentionally started to work slower and sound less excited on the phone, hoping someone else would book more appointments and spare me their resentment. At break time, we’d go outside – gasping for fresh air, craving sunlight – and the four other women would huddle together six feet from the building to smoke. I, meanwhile, would walk the tree-lined neighborhood streets, thinking about how much my job sucked.
Though it wasn’t my intention, the list of grievances I was making in my head actually helped me see what I wanted out of life. As I walked those sidewalks day after day, I started to change those don’ts into desires. I imagined the opposite of those things I hated, envisioning a workplace where I felt valued, supported, and excited to be there.
Can you see how this might work in your own less-than-awesome situations? Here are some examples of how I was transforming what I didn’t want into seeing what I did want…
If you’re in a situation with a lot of “don’t wants” attached to it, flip your view and imagine the opposite. Envisioning something better and believing it’s possible is your entry ramp to positive change.