One of the key psychological barriers to stress-free living is the internal conflict that arises between what others require us to do and what we want to do. Most of the time and for most people, we choose our professions and we love to do what our professions require of us. Unfortunately, what we perceived our professions would require of us are rose-tinted. That is because while the operational element of our professional expectations usually meet our expectations, the administrative, legal and procedural realities don’t.
For example, as a copper I was fully prepared to catch the bad guys and send them forthwith to ‘Er Majesty’s ‘Otel. I probably realised that there would be some paperwork involved – I’d seen the files on Jack Regan’s desk in The Sweeney. But between 1986 when one piece of paper was occasionally all that was required for a pre-CPS guilty plea to a public order offence, to 2019 when I had to write War and Peace every time I spoke to a member of the public, the non-operational burdens soured my early professional expectations. And fun.
There are numerous reasons why all this happened, but one thing remains certain – a lot of the bars to enjoyment of our work result from new expectations laid upon us that are outside of our control.
And this was something I realised this week when I was feeling miserable. I was writing some journal notes, and found myself asking wondering why I wasn’t getting some of the results I wanted. I found that my thinking processes were jumbled, frantic, messy and disorganised. And that’s when it hit me.
I’m so busy thinking about other people’s stuff that they aren’t being displaced enough by MY stuff.
My focus on problems outside of my control was preventing me giving due consideration to the things I CAN do something about – but the changing of focus from THEM to ME is constantly thwarted by the attention seeking demands placed upon me by others. Even when I am finally giving myself the attention I deserve (and tell me this doesn’t happen to you) someone or something interrupts that train of thought and my brain moves its focus there, instead.
And what about when that interruption is ‘someone’? They come into the room and start explaining their discovery, demand, dilemma or whatever, without even a ‘have you got a minute?’. This is, I find, particularly routine withing familial relationships. Don’t you just feel obliged to grin and move your attention to them, just to be polite?
I guess the answers are to know what is important to you as an individual, and to be willing, when necessary, to state clearly that you’re busy and not willing to be interrupted, thank you. The exact words may be softer depending on the situation or relationship, but a verbal ‘Keep Out’ is the best way to retain a sense of mental control and focus on what you need to be doing now. Assuming that what you are focusing on is something that warrants that attention because it is truly important and (in the moment) requires your attention more than the relationship might.
And if the situation allows, a closed door is the softest way to say Keep Out. It’s funny, but if a door is closed, it rarely gets knocked or opened unless the interruption is truly important.
It’s a minefield, I know.
But if you want to give important things the mental attention they need, you have to prioritise them over other things that are less deserving. You have to put you first, whenever you can.
Getting other people’s stuff done first is nice, but if you never get your own needs met ….. Mental Health Awareness Week (month, year) is your only refuge.
For more on the subject, visit https://policetimemanagement.com .