How to make life bearable at work – plan your escape!

Imagine you’ve been sent to prison for life: there’s no prospect of early release or time off for good behaviour.

You can sit down under it and try to make your cell a bit more homely, befriend other prisoners and maybe some guards, wait for visits from people on the outside. You can shrink your world down until what little you have fills it up.

And then, perhaps, news comes that they’ll be letting you out.

Suddenly, you have something to work towards, something to look forward to. You can review your options, make plans and visualise a better time ahead.

I expect you see where I’m going with this!

If you believe that you’re stuck in a dull, dead-end job until they pension you off (probably stingily!) or you keel over, you can try to make the situation as bearable as possible but, slowly and steadily, your world will shrink. Your confidence and self-esteem and, quite possibly, your health will suffer.

You need a vision of what’s beyond your cell walls; you need a sense of what’s possible beyond the confines of your existing world to give you a goal to work towards. Having an escape plan can be enormously motivating and the knowledge that you only have to tolerate what you don’t like for a measurable amount of time longer can make it all much more bearable.

It needs to be a good escape plan, though! You need to put a lot of thought into it and ask yourself some questions that will help you to set clear targets. Here are some to start you off:

Where do you want to be in 6 months’ time? No pussyfooting here, no setting up barriers! Imagine everything is perfect: where are you? Who (if anyone) is with you? Exactly what are you doing? How have you financed yourself?

What do you know/need to learn to get you to where you want to be?

Who do you know/need to get to know?

What have you got (in terms of finance/equipment/skills) and what do you need to acquire?

Do you need to consider doing something different as a temporary measure to fund your project?

I’d use Mind Maps to help me think all this out – maybe you have another preferred method. Whichever you choose, set aside a few hours (not necessarily all at once), let all your creativity loose and get all your ideas down on paper. Then you can pick the best and make a start!

How does your job score for the 5 Cs?

To get the most from your career – and, as it’s a major part of most of our lives, you really should aim to get as much as you can – there are 5 factors that you need to consider.


Does your current job make you feel that you’re adding something to your own and others’ well-being? Do you feel that you’re adding something to the general good?

It may be fairly obvious if you’re a brain surgeon or a charity worker but don’t underestimate the value you can add with any job.

Take something like hairdressing, for example. Few people have as immediate and profound an effect on their client’s sense of well-being: they can send someone out to face the world feeling great or feeling terrible.

As well as knowing for yourself that you’re making a contribution, it’s essential that that contribution is acknowledged.

Whatever form that takes, whether it’s a financial reward or an “Employee of the Month” trophy or a sincere “Well done!” from your boss (and, really, how hard can that be?), everyone is entitled to the respect of having their contribution valued.


This one’s about motivation: if you can’t believe in what you’re doing, how can you feel motivated to keep doing it?

If you can’t care about the product/service you’re part of providing, you’ll struggle to motivate yourself and work will simply be drudgery you have to slog through to collect the pay-cheque at the end of the month.

And it would have to be a pretty humungous one to make up for spending a large part of your life doing hard labour!


Do you sometimes (often?!) feel that you’re the only one in your group of colleagues who feels the way you do?

Can you align yourself with your employer’s mission and values statements – assuming they have them? And, if they do, how committed are they to abiding by them?

When you can’t feel the “fit” at work, having to compromise your own beliefs and values can take its toll on your nerves and your self-esteem.

Beware, too, of the sessions with colleagues where you gather with a cup of coffee to slate your boss/company/colleagues not actually present! It may be a short-term fix to make yourself feel a bit better but, long-term, it can seriously damage your emotional health.


You’re giving a large chunk of your adult life to your employers. If there’s no feeling of contributing and/or no recognition for your contribution, no belief that what you’re doing is of value and no sense of “fit” with your employers and/or colleagues, how can you feel any commitment to what you do?

And without commitment, how much of a success can you make of it?


One of the most dangerous things about being unhappy at work is how it saps your confidence, not just in your professional ability but in all areas of your life.

Our sense of ourselves, our identity is closely tied to what we do for a living and, if you feel that what you’re doing isn’t making the most of your time and talents, it can have a very negative effect on your self-esteem.

Once that starts to sink, you can so easily lose the will to find something better and the belief that you’re capable of doing so.

Before that happens, it’s time to take a good look at what you really want to do and how to achieve it. And if it’s already happened, it’s still not too late to get some help to move forward with your life – where could you be in 6 months’ time?

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