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Meet Tom Petersen

Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at www.HisWorkInProgress.com.

 
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Surviving a Slump

By Tom Petersen
www.HisWorkInProgress.com

CBNMoney.comIt’s that time of year again; time for my annual professional slump. When I am in a slump, I move slowly, labor over simple tasks and struggle to make it through the workday. I can tell I’m in a slump because I make foolish mistakes (like admitting publicly that I have a professional slump) and then try to rationalize or blame others for my problems. (Come to think of it, I never used to have slumps until the loud-talking woman moved into the cubicle next to me!)

It probably doesn’t help that my annual slump begins in late July and goes through early March (or early April, if spring is late).

Off-peak performance
In my fantasy work world, I would like to think that I am capable of operating at a very high level of performance all year long: sort of a Michael Jordan of the middle-manager set. But the facts don’t seem to support that. (Exhibit “A” is the cataclysmic annual report typo from the Great Slump of 1999. Who would have thought that such a small [-] sign could make such a difference?!)
Instead, I tend to alternate between (brief) periods of mountaintop performance and (long) periods of wandering around the floor of the valley wondering if I’ll ever see my peak performance again.

Slump identification
Slumps happen to the best of us. Professional athletes, actors and even day care providers have slumps. Sometimes my slumps are mild, resulting from a tough schedule or heavy workload. But sometimes my slumps feel more like the Israelites, wandering 40 years in the desert, wondering why God has abandoned them. My bad slumps are like that, but without the manna.

My slumps generally start in one of two ways. They may start because I blew an opportunity and then compounded the problem by beating myself up about it. Or I may fall into a slump because I got so comfortable with a routine that I didn’t realize I was drifting off track (or, conversely, I was standing still in my rut while the rest of the world moved on). Regardless of the cause, when I am in a slump, nothing seems to work right.

What you do with a slump
Of course, it’s not so much that you get in a slump that’s a problem. But it’s what you do with a slump that really matters.

You have lots of options when you’re in a slump. You can pretend it didn’t happen, but a slump is one of those things it’s hard to keep hidden from others. (My inability to produce any worthwhile work usually gives me away.) You can try to work harder to get out of a slump, but this sometimes makes the slump worse.

Taken to an extreme, one of my most common responses is to get angry and frustrated that things aren’t going my way. I then lash out at others or take some other path of destructive behavior. This, of course, augurs me deeper, and alienates everyone who could possibly help me out of my slump.

It’s only when I’ve reached this bottom rung that I resort to the right answer: taking a deep breath, and reconnecting with the source of my strength.

Resting through a slump

Scripture is full of references to God pulling his people out of slumps. The Psalms make up a whole book on that theme. A passage from Isaiah seems to have simple counsel for restoring us when we are in a slump: “For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel has said, ‘In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.’” Isaiah 30:15

Sometimes the right option is to examine if there’s anything that is in me that has shut off the spiritual power I need to survive – let alone prosper – in the workplace. I need to confess and repent of it when I find it.

The second step is often just to rest. Sometimes, being still, and knowing that God is God (to poorly paraphrase Psalm 46:10) restores and reconnects me.

Although it sometimes can feel like a slump will last forever, we shouldn’t lose faith that God will deliver us. There’s nothing like a period of rest to pull us out of the slump.
I’m looking forward to experiencing that, just as soon as the first robin of spring shows up.
How have you pulled yourself out of a slump? Send Tom an e-mail at tom@tomcpetersen.com

Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at www.HisWorkInProgress.com.

 

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