My New Mantra

There are many reasons why I quit my previous job.  Among them: teaching was eating at my soul.  Eventually, the job made me physically sick and I hated it, and it made me be a mean person.  Even now I am still purging toxicity from my soul and come off as angry when I talk about that place.  (gotta work on that!)

There was nothing wrong with GrumpyMe 1.0, but it’s time for patches and upgrades.  One reason that I put off leaving for so long was that there are things I love about academia and didn’t want to give up.  My wonderful partner, though, pointed out that I could actually improve on the job situation by finding a job with more of the things I like and less of the stuff I don’t like.  He pointed out that, instead of giving up my academic identity, I could actually become the thing that is now my new mantra:


Some of the ideas about how to be a better working Me come from when I thought about my ideal workday.  (Awesome side note: in that post I said that at last year’s conference I had met a new friend/collaborator and talked with her about what we could do together.  At this year’s conference, we presented that research!  Our paper is under review.  Hurrah.)

I don’t know yet what kind of bug patches and upgrades I will eventually find.  (I do know that it involves never ever teaching ever again.)  I do know the things that give me energy, those that make me lose track of time (learning something new!  reading books!).  I know that I can’t stand cubicles.  I have optimism about finding something decent.

In working towards a new, research-based career, I have been networking pretty hard.  Recently I had the pleasant surprise that, when asked to list up to 5 references in a web application, I found myself with 9 or 10 people I could list as references who would all say excitedly good things about me, and I could choose among them.  Go me.  Only … uh… 9 years post-PhD and I’m getting good at my career!

Do you have a work-related mantra?

18 Responses to “My New Mantra”

  1. Leah Says:

    Still in teaching, and my mantra is “80% of your students are good.” The past two years, I used this in regards to behavior. I’d remind myself that most don’t misbehave.

    This year, I haven’t had any behavior issues *knock on wood,* so I use the mantra in regards to effort. I have several well-behaved slackers, but 80% of my students are putting in decent effort.

  2. First Gen American Says:

    Every job has its icky bits. My mantra is to do the icky stuff as efficiently as possible so that I have more time for the soul nourishing things. When the soul sucking exceeds soul nourishing, you know its time for a change.

  3. Rented life Says:

    “Remember your other goals.” Current job pays significantly more than teaching ever did, allows us to skip daycare costs for now, and get away with only one car. We are paying off debt at an excellent rate and Montessori school maybe an option now. It’s stressful at times and sometimes I’d rather go back to teaching full time just because it was “eaiser”–I know what to expect (one of my current supervisors never knows what she want from me until the last second. I hate working with poor planners). That said, it took me 2 years after leaving full time academia to recover but I no longer wake up angry and resentful every day.

  4. Cloud Says:

    Hmm, here are my two favorites:
    “Everything always works out well in the end. If things aren’t going well, it is not the end yet.” (admittedly, there are some pretty glaring exceptions to this one, but it helps me keep the not-likely-to-be-fatal issues in perspective)

    And my new one: “the only thing I HAVE to do with my career is keep myself and my family fed, clothed, and housed.” (that’s one’s not as snappy, but remembering that helps me focus in on what I want and not what I think i should want.)

    Good luck with your transition!

  5. Debbie M Says:

    “Eventually, the job made me physically sick and I hated it, and it made me be a mean person. Even now I am still purging toxicity from my soul and come off as angry when I talk about that place.” – This happened to me, too. Fortunately, escaping helps, though not as quickly as one might hope.

    My current work mantra is “twelve more weeks.” It’s an evolving mantra as you might guess. Not that helpful, though. The helpful thing I’m reminding myself these days is that the more work I get done today, the less will be hanging over me. And now that registration is over, I do often have days where I have less work at the end of the day than I had at the beginning–and sometimes I also have less than I had at the end of the previous day. (I evaluate petitions–they and questions about them can come in at all hours.)

    I love your mantra and wish you the best in getting into a new a fabulous place.

  6. Practical Parsimony Says:

    “Will read for food.” Sorry, but you seem to like what I like–learning every day. Research energizes me. I would love to pick and choose students.

  7. SP Says:

    So exciting! Also, your partner sounds excellent – glad you have that support!

  8. Sal Says:

    “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” (GB Shaw, supposedly) This one reminds me that the choices are mine, and that one of the powerful choices is to have a good attitude and be open to opportunities. It has worked.
    “You are not indispensable” is another. When I was a teaching academic, it reminded me I really don’t have to be at that meeting or that Saturday student thing. Now it reminds me to let go of control and empower my research team members to make decisions. They learn, I am usually delighted with what they decide, and if I’m not it is my promise not to second-guess their decisions. This principle enables me to take real vacations because they’re in charge when I’m away.

  9. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    The thing that keeps me going is interacting with the amazingly creative, driven, and focused students and post-docs that work in my lab. Every day they teach me something new, and surprise me with exciting novel ideas. And now I even have former post-docs starting their own labs, and interacting with them and helping them to reach their own independent escape velocity is also hugely energizing.

  10. Revanche Says:

    I have a few, depending on my mood:

    1. (from a great shuttle driver): Have a good day and don’t let nobody steal your joy.
    Always a nice reminder.

    2. I owe you (job) exactly what I’m paid for: a good day’s work.
    I know an awful lot of people who think they owe their employer for doing this nice thing that one time or buying them a great gift or whatever, then they stay at that job even if they’ve always been miserable there.
    It’s one thing if the employer stretched to accommodate you during a bad time and generally treated you well. In those cases, it makes sense to spend a reasonable amount of time preparing them for your departure if you need to take a new job. But it doesn’t create an invisible chain padlocking you to that job forever.

    3. Everyone is replaceable.
    Anyone can be fired, made redundant or any number of things that mean losing your job. Don’t ever think you’re fireproof. And in a similar vein, if you want to grow out of your job, be proactive about that, don’t let your employer pigeonhole you into that one role forever because it’s convenient. This reminds me of #2 in that I’ve always considered the workplace work, not a second home and another family, the way some coworkers do and I don’t get emotionally invested, not in a terribly personal, I need you all to be my friends, kind of way.

  11. chacha1 Says:

    It’s been mostly unconscious, but when I think about my office practices they boil down to “happiness is an empty in-box,” and that seems like a decent mantra. :-)

  12. justinelevine Says:

    My work mantra: the people in your lifeboat matter. If the people in your lifeboat are sociopaths, chances are you’re not going to enjoy what you’re doing, no matter how much you love it.

    Congratulations on getting out of a toxic situation, and wishing you a short journey to find the one that is better for your soul!

  13. DH Says:

    For a long time my mantra was “Work hard and don’t be an asshole.” But lately I’ve been trying to scale back and be less anxious so my new mantra is “Don’t work so hard.” It’s wonderfully liberating.

  14. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I read a book recently called The Happiness Advantage and one of the things that it talked about was that even if you’re not thrilled with your job you can always make it better just by incorporating your signature strengths into your daily routine as much as possible even if it means viewing an unpleasant task in a new light that lines up with your signature strengths. So for instance when the author found himself procrastinating on and struggling with doing some research for a particular chapter, he tired to reframe it so it lined up with a signature strength of his. In this case, he used Love of Learning so he started telling people and himself that he was reading for fun or just doing some leisurely reading instead of “I have to read this for work”. Anyways, the trick stuck with me and I’ve tried it out a few times. It’s pretty neat how so much of what we do is susceptible to our perception and how a simple mental hack will suffice.

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