It isn’t a secret that many of us don’t love our jobs. At the moment, I am happily in that ‘I love my job!’ place. But I remember when, a couple of years ago, I was in the ‘I loathe my job’ place. You may be somewhere in the middle.
In many respects, that is the worse place to be. It isn’t so awful you are looking desperately for the escape hatch; but you aren’t that excited about it either. If you are in that middle zone, there are things you can do to shift your motivation and re-ignite your passion.
Start with gratitude. Feeling better about where you are starts by being thankful for where you are. One of my summer jobs was at the court house entering traffic tickets into the computer. All day, every day for four months. This was during the 1980s when computers were painfully slow and cumbersome. Other than being occasionally amused by the unfortunate names parents chose for their children, it was as exciting as watching paint dry. I am grateful that I am doing something else this summer. Sometimes re-awakening your motivation is as simple as reflecting on the alternatives.
Stop whining and take responsibility. Are you holding yourself back? Sometimes we allow ourselves to settle into a routine and then get irritated, blaming our malaise on the job, the boss, the company. It is your life, your job; own up to the part you play in maintaining your motivational mediocrity. If you want something to be different, take accountability for making that happen.
Empower yourself. While it can sometimes be hard to see how things might be different (blame the malaise), you probably have a lot more freedom and flexibility in your job than you give yourself credit for. Get to the heart of what is sapping your energy and give yourself permission to try and change it. My friend Tre was in a job with too much scope and he was frazzled trying to stay on top of everything and everybody. His boss noticed but it wasn’t at the top of her priority list to deal with. Tre took the initiative to have a conversation with her and, together, they came up with an elegant solution: one of his direct reports, who was ready for a promotion (she was experiencing her own malaise), took on leading part of the team. Tre is re-energized, focusing on things he cares about. Ask yourself what you can do, or what conversations you can have, that will help put you back in your motivational sweet spot.
Step out of your comfort zone. Sometimes recharging your mojo means you need to step out and do something different in your job. Some of us are wired to run head-long into challenge and change; some of us are not. Giving yourself permission to change something about your job is the first step; actually making that change happen requires follow-through. Change doesn’t have to be on a grand scale to be meaningful. For Shena, her change was nothing more than invoking a ‘closed door policy’. She prides herself on being friendly and helpful but that has led to a continuous stream of people stopping by her desk and interrupting her when she needs to concentrate. Now, for two hours each day, she pops on her head phones – her ‘do not disturb’ signal that tells people to drop by later – and immerses herself in her passion, spreadsheets.
Look beyond your job for satisfaction. Your job is just one part of your life. It has been my experience that people who strive for overall life satisfaction spend less time whining about their jobs. Jack is a guy who is always focused on the bigger picture. Like all of us, he’s had his motivational ups and downs at work. But he learned early on that he’s happier when he’s got more than just work going on in his life. An avid cycler, he rides with a group twice a week. He is also passionate about history and volunteers at a local museum. When work is dragging him down, he ups the time he spends engaged in other things.
We all want to have a reason to spring out of bed in the morning. If going off to work does that for you, lucky you. But if it doesn’t, you can do something about it.
Troy Media columnist Rebecca Schalm, PhD, is founder and CEO of Strategic Talent Advisors Inc., a consultancy that provides organizations with advice and talent management solutions.