While workers of generations past might have been willing to make do with an unfulfilling job that provided forty years of stability, today’s world is different. Now, we live in an age in which many of us expect to pursue our passions by engaging in work that makes our hearts sing.
This is a healthy change, both for individuals and the organizations in which they work. After all, when people love what they do, and see their work as a calling, they tend to have higher satisfaction on the job and in life in general. In turn, people who have a greater sense of well-being, tend to be more productive and achieve greater success for their companies.
But, what if you’re in a job that you don’t currently love? And what if now isn’t a good time for you to move on? Is all lost?
Thankfully, no. Although we generally think of passion as something that comes when you are in a job that is the right fit for you, research suggests that we can actually cultivate a sense of enjoyment for our work by changing our beliefs about it.
Interested in stoking some passion for your job? Try out these ideas:
1. Realize the Grass Isn’t Always Greener
When you are in a job you don’t like, it can be natural to think that the grass would be greener, if only you were working at another company. While this could be true for some, a research study of high level managers found a “honeymoon hangover” effect in which workers who voluntarily changed jobs experienced an initial increase in job satisfaction, that then dropped precipitously within a year. In other words, the grass was indeed greener at first, but then across time, they settled back into their more typical job satisfaction set point.
While I’m not suggesting that you just decide to make do if your job truly isn’t well-suited to you, it can be helpful to take a step back and get real. In her book,The Myths of Happiness, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests taking a week (or month) to try to experience your job as if you were about to leave it. This is because research shows that when you are having experiences for the last time, you tend to savor and appreciate them more (kind of like the way you try to appreciate all the sights, sounds, and feelings of the beach on the last day of vacation). By doing this, you might just find that you are able to get in touch with more aspects of your job that you can love.
2. Take Some Time Every Day to Focus on the Aspects of Your Job that You Appreciate
Sometimes we can get so caught up with focusing on the dissatisfying aspects of our jobs that we can lose sight of the parts of them that we enjoy. So, to get back in touch with the positive parts of your job, make a list of all of the aspects of work you appreciate. Or even better, to keep the love going across time, write down three different things that went well at work every day. For example, did you have an enjoyable interaction with a customer? Were you able to help a co-worker? Did your direct deposit enable you to buy an awesome new pair of shoes? As you develop a more balanced perspective about your job, you might find that your feelings about it change.
3. Make Sure to Take Time for Self-Care
Some high-achieving professionals with demanding jobs can tend to devote all of their waking hours to work. They spend long days at the office, stay glued to their smartphones in the evenings, and are often distracted by work concerns when they spend time with loved ones. While this might seem like the best approach to keeping up with the demands of the job, in my experience, when people’s jobs become all-consuming, they resent them.
Still, when I encourage them to create a more balanced lifestyle, many of my clients have argued that because of their big jobs, self-care is an unattainable luxury. However, upon closer look, those beliefs are usually self-imposed . No one was making them work that hard; they simply worried that if they didn’t, they would fail. And, once they made time to manage their stress by taking small steps to do things they enjoyed, the vast majority were more engaged and productive, because they were refreshed and renewed during the time they devoted to work.
Even if you think you don’t have time for self-care, experiment by taking small steps to recharge. Go for a walk. Spend time with friends. Develop a mindfulness practice. You might just be surprised by how much the benefits carry over to your work life.
4. Change Your Job to Make it a Better Fit
Sometimes we can get so caught up in feeling helpless at work, that we don’t move into a mode of being solution focused and modifying our jobs to make them more satisfying. Yet, research has shown that “job crafting,” or redesigning your work can be a powerful way to make your role more meaningful. Are you feeling bored? Find out if there are any stretch assignments you can take on or other ways that you can better utilize your strengths in the workplace. Are you a leader whose workload is too big? Perhaps you could start saying “no” or “not now” to requests that don’t align with company priorities. Or, strive to delegate more to your employees to develop them. Do you want more interaction? Find out if there are any workplace professional development groups that you could join. While you probably can’t change everything about your job, if you can empower yourself by finding ways to make it more satisfying, you might just find that fall back in love with your position.
Let’s face it — every job isn’t salvageable. But, if you try out these four approaches, you might just find that you start to love yours.
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