How to love your work… even when you don’t love your work.
Maybe you’re doing data-entry just to bide the time while you search for a full time job at a company you admire. Maybe you’re running a business that you (mostly, totally) love except for those moments when you don’t. Maybe you’re just experiencing a creative dry spell. Nothing feels exciting. But things still need to get done.
No matter what kind of job, gig or career you’ve got going on, there are bound to be times when you are just not “loving it.”
Should you quit? Switch to a totally different career and start over? Self-medicate with pot brownies because, hey, it’s legal in some states and YOLO!
These are a few of your options, certainly. But maybe not the best ones.
Before you crumple into a pile of sadness, try some of these strategies:
— Make adjustments.
Earlier this year, I was feeling burnt out so I had a chat with my clients.
I explained that I could no longer clip along at the same super-speedy pace they’d been accustomed to. I told them that from now on, I would still deliver the same amount of work (aka: completed writing projects) for the same price, but the pacing would be a little slower. As in, “You can expect to receive this in a couple of days, but not, like, tomorrow.”
They said: “Makes sense. No problem!” (Because they are awesome like that.)
I breathed a sigh of relief. This one adjustment changed the entire quality of my life.
Is there one glaring issue with your job or career? One “energy leak” that keeps coming up, sucking light out of your week? One adjustment that might change your whole day?
Before you decide to quit, make some adjustments and see if your attitude about your work starts to change. You might not actually “hate” your work. You might just be tired! Change things up and then review. One change might be all you need to do.
— Change your environment.
Get out of the house, office, or cubicle. Work in a coffee shop, public library, or co-working space. Take your work on the road. I am doing a solo-road-trip later this autumn because I always feel invigorated when I’m working somewhere “else.” Travel opens your mind.
— Focus on the bright spots.
It’s not all bad, right? Maybe you have really wonderful co-workers. Or the kindest, most generous clients. Or free, unlimited coffee in the staff kitchen. Or a really comfy office chair with sweet-ass wheels. Yeah. I said sweet-ass wheels.
Even if it feels silly and childish, try to focus on the bright spots in your day. Gratitude re-wires your brain. It’s been proven that the more you reflect on what’s going “right” in your life, the better you feel.
— Review your Happy File.
I keep a “Happy File” in my inbox — a folder filled with compliments, praise, kind notes from clients and folks who read my blog, plus notes from family and friends.
When I’m feeling stressed or depressed, I dig into my Happy File and quickly remember, “Oh yeah! I am pretty awesome. I help people. People like me. I am not alone in this world.”
My friend Sarah gave me the Happy File idea. She visits her file whenever she gets a snarky comment on her blog or a rough piece of criticism. It puts her mind right back on track.
— Rest more. Play more.
My friend Melissa advocates scheduling a “Pleasure Break” into your workday — a 30 minute break to read magazines, watch an uplifting TV show, sip a latte, stretch your legs, and just bring some fresh energy into your day.
My mom often reminds me, “When you feel like you can’t possibly afford to stop and take a break, not even for 1 minute, that’s exactly the moment when you need a break most of all.” My mom is really smart.
— Ride it out.
I know professional musicians, Broadway singers, pastry bakers, TV writers, life coaches, physicians, all kinds of people who absolutely love their work — except for when they don’t!
Experiencing a “lull” where you feel uninspired, stressed, or burnt out does not mean that you are a “bad” or “ungrateful” person, and it does not necessarily mean that you chose the “wrong” career.
What you’re feeling right now could be temporary. Just ride it out — at least for a little while.
If things keep dragging on, and nothing seems to be improving your outlook, check in with your doctor to rule out a health condition, chat with a life coach, career strategist, or psychologist, and / or get a reading from a professional mystic (maybe Saturn is moving forward in your chart and creating a topsy-turvy emotional state where your “life purpose” doesn’t seem to make sense anymore! See what the stars have to say. Couldn’t hurt!)
— Hit the finish line — just because it’s the right thing to do.
I know that when “work” starts to feel like “drudgery,” it can be so tempting to quit immediately, walk away, email your clients and say “I am over it!”, or start secretly browsing job listings when you’re supposed to be on the clock.
It’s great to explore future opportunities — go for it, by all means — but don’t leave your current colleagues, boss or clients in a rough spot by departing too abruptly.
If you’ve made a commitment to stay and work until, say, the end of the year, then do it. Follow through. Hit the finish line.
I know from personal experience that crossing that “finish line” will boost your self esteem (“It was tough, but I am proud of myself. I did the honorable thing.”) and it’s the best way to keep your professional relationships intact.
You can build new bridges without burning the ones you’ve got.
And who knows? By sticking to your current course just a little bit longer, you might actually ride through this rough patch and fall more deeply in love with your work than ever before.
On the eve of their 29th wedding anniversary, I asked my father, “What’s the secret to long-lasting love?”
He told me, “I have fallen in love with your mother many times. I fall in love with your mother in new ways through the years.”
I know that “falling in love” and then “falling in love again” is possible because it’s happened to me many times with people, with writing, with work, with all kinds of things.
So if you’re not loving your work right now, be patient. Make adjustments if necessary. Explore new options but don’t jump ship too quickly. Hang in there and hold out for love… again.
All is not lost. It never is.
Love has a way of coming back around again.