Scary films and career woes: What do they have in common?

Last week I went to see the new film ‘Hereditary’ at the cinema. I am a bit of a horror movie fan, and was excited to see what all the hype was about. It wasn’t really what I expected it to be, but I “enjoyed” it nonetheless. I put the term “enjoyed” in inverted commas as I’m not sure that’s the right word to describe how you feel while watching a scary film through your fingers on the edge of their seat.

During a particularly tense part (after a big jump had already caused me to spill my glass of wine) I realised I was consciously reminding myself I was just watching a film on the screen, and a satanic possessed being wasn’t going to ‘get’ me. I focused my attention on my snacks, the seats in front of me, and my fellow cinema-goers around me to take my attention away from the onscreen action when it all got a bit too much for me.

My conscious, rational brain knew I was watching fiction, so why was I so scared and jumpy I felt the need to save myself from the story by paying close attention to my popcorn?

Perhaps watching a horror film is a good analogy for describing how many of us deal with problems in our jobs and careers. When I am experiencing a professional challenge, I can get very caught up in it. I am a fixer, and have a tendency to roll the issue around in my mind, focusing on little else until I have resolved it. With enough attention paid to the negative, challenges tend to overinflate and can appear as even bigger issues in my mind.

Overinflated professional challenges can feel scary and unmanageable – not unlike unresolved spirits back from the dead in a horror film.

For me, pretending problems don’t exist doesn’t work. I still feel fear in the cinema when I know it’s just a movie, and can still feel stressed over relatively trivial problems in my working life.

So, what’s the solution?

Here are my top 4 tips for dealing with everyday challenges that come up in your professional life (which can equally be applied when watching a film that starts to get a little hairy…)

  1. Stay present

Getting overly caught up in narratives (professional past, professional future, or the narrative of a scary film) can feel overwhelming and take our attention away from potential solutions. Take some deep breaths, remind yourself where you are now, and move forward.

2. Recognise the context and get some perspective

Most professional problems – like tense moments in a horror film – are temporary. Challenging relationships with colleagues can feel all-consuming, but it’s unlikely you’ll still be working together in 10 years’ time, perhaps even in 1 year’s time. Recognise past worries that evaporated into nothingness, and keep your challenges in perspective.

3. Remember what is constant

Life can feel busy and hectic, and with most of us moving jobs and changing career more frequently, the highs and lows can sometimes feel turbulent. Remind yourself what is constant in your life – whether this is a hobby, your family, or even a regular exercise that you do. Reminding yourself of the friends and family you have around you can make even the scariest of films/jobs more bearable.

4. Take action

And finally – remember there are always things you can do to change the situation you find yourself in. You can look for a new job, you can have a difficult conversation with your boss, or you can choose to explore a career change. You can choose to switch the narrative and watch a totally different kind of film. (Luckily, things didn’t get this bad at Cineworld last week.)

To find out more about how coaching could help you find solutions to your professional problems, visit this page on my website or get in touch through the contact form below to request a free consultation. 

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