How I got to work in a hot sauce-free workplace
I slumped my shoulders and stepped off the elevator, wishing I didn’t have to go back to my low-level writing role. I was humiliated, uninspired and embarrassed. Just a year ago, things weren’t this bad. But I took the last few steps to the office because going back would barely help me pay my bills for the month. As I rounded the corner to my desk, the unmistakable stench of hot sauce greeted my nose to let me know I was in the right place. I hated the smell of hot sauce, but my co-workers loved it and when they brought their lunches back to the office, they liberally doused their food in it.
“Just four more hours of this,” I told myself, “And then you can go home and regroup.” However, by the time I got home each night, I was so depressed and hopeless, I hardly had the energy to pursue another role at a place that I was proud to call my work home with workers who limited their hot sauce use.
We all have felt this–our expectations are dashed, our hopes are smothered and our outlook is dim. We think of what we used to be, how we had it so goodback then and wonder what we did to screw up our good thing. It’s so easy to lose your focus when your circumstances don’t work out. But circumstances rarely work out exactly like we want. We don’t completely control our circumstances, even if our efforts do help us cope with them. What do we control?
We control our attitude.
We get told so often to “envision our success”, “live out our dreams” and “create our perfect future” that we tend to easily overlook the hidden treasures of our present, challenging circumstances. I hated that job. But that job helped me regain my footing in a professional world that had been shaken by a devastating recession. I wanted to quit that job everyday, but hung onto it long enough to show others I was really good at what I do and I was smart enough and innovative enough to remake myself to be successful in a changing world.
Years later, I don’t worry about what my co-workers’ lunches smell like. I don’t worry about the long, congested commute to work. I don’t worry about having to wear a suit and tie to work. My co-workers aren’t even in the same city as me. My commute is the walk from my morning cup of coffee at the breakfast table to my office. My work clothes are a baseball cap, a (usually) clean t-shirt and sweatpants. My co-workers are scattered throughout the entire country.
I’ve used my experience to become a freelance writer and editor, working from my home. I didn’t get the privilege of working from home by turning down opportunities–I got it by taking advantages of the opportunities given to me. I didn’t find success by sulking, brooding or frowning–I found it by being optimistic, friendly and not giving up. I never let my circumstances shape me–I shaped myself and used my circumstances to help me.
Your attitude will make you or it will break you. If you face tough circumstances, don’t be tempted to let them shape your attitude. You shape your attitude into what you want to be. Then keep your hopes up and your eyes open to jump at the next great opportunity.
You can’t imagine how happy I am to work in a hot sauce-free workplace. You can’t imagine what doors you open–and close–for yourself with your attitude.
This post first appeared on The Good Idea Exchange, a blog about leadership and self-improvement.