Most friends and colleagues that I talk to have lost enthusiasm for their jobs at one point or another and have a hard time getting their head back in the game. It can be especially hard when the heart wasn’t in the game in the first place.
It’s easy to say that we should let go of whatever no longer serves us, but often we are the ones in need of an attitude adjustment and reevaluation. As I stated in my previous post on the temporal nature of life, most of life occurs in the grey. The answer isn’t always “quit your job and find something better.” Sometimes the grey is where the gold and the growth is.
How do you navigate the grey when devoid of the motivation to do so? Here are some things to consider:
1. Change your routine if something has you in a funk.
It’s hard to be passionate about anything if you’re not getting enough sleep, or on the contrary, sleeping so much that you’re sluggish.
Some nights and mornings it’s just not practical or possible to fall asleep early, as environmental factors beyond our control might kick in and contribute to insomnia. However, as much as possible, try to rise early. Something about waking up after the sun and everyone else is already on the grind throws your day off. As Richard Whately said, “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will all day be hunting for it.”
2. Be intentional with your hours before and after work.
While I am happy at my current job, I recall being really frustrated with some previous temp positions I had that seemed like a total waste of time. The pay was decent and perhaps the positions would’ve led to something more in line with what I was searching for. However, I grew bitter about empty work taking time away from other things I’d rather be doing, like studying for the LSAT and contributing to a friend’s startup I was working on.
Yes, that thought is as ridiculous as it sounds, but it’s a common mindset of my generation. In focusing so much on our individual goals and dreams and seeking to find value and be engaged in the workplace, we forget why we were hired in the first place – to work.
Expecting otherwise may demonstrate entitlement and ungratefulness, but it may also reveal a poor use of personal time. I think there is a misunderstanding about what “work” during “work hours” really entails. It’s not an employer’s or corporation’s obligation to take your pursuits outside of work into account in offering workplace flexibility. Work cultures can sometimes be forgiving and a bit more casual, but it’s a slippery slope when our selfish ambition manifests on company time. Therefore, save yourself the frustration and use your own precious personal time wisely.
3. While there’s nothing wrong in seeking fulfillment, we ought to lean on gratitude and be sober-minded about the opportunity presented to us.
Life is a series of choices and consequences. In life, we are not guaranteed or entitled to anything. The same goes for our employment. It’s not like your position is guaranteed and you’re immune from being fired. If you become demotivated and don’t give your best effort, or if you decide to quit and pursue a position elsewhere, that is your decision and the consequence will be yours as well. At the very least, be grateful for the liberty to even consider other options.
Cultures naturally progress over time from working as a necessity of survival to working as a means of finding fulfillment. Those afforded the socioeconomic status to do so have the liberty of pursuing a job that is in line with their goals and adds value. Others who don’t have that privilege just work to survive.
A quote from John Adams sums up the phenomenon:
“I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematicks and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.”
Everyone’s freedom has come at a cost to someone else, even if that person is no longer living. Be grateful for the sacrifices, willing or unwilling.
4. Don’t procrastinate at work.
It makes the act of tackling projects seem overwhelming and that much less appealing. Procrastination begins with a resistance to something – be it labor, the unknown, or a fear of your work being less than perfect. It also removes the recency from a certain project which can contribute to less passion overall.
Once you start whatever task you’ve blown up to be a dread, you may even find that the work poses a stimulating challenge that keeps you engaged.
5. Look for another role or career track with your current employer.
After getting a good idea of the internal politics and systems at play at your current workplace, determine who you need to ask and what process you need to go through to do an internal transfer request. For some small companies, this might mean just talking to your direct manager. For larger firms, this might entail a whole HR and interview process with the new team.
The company culture will affect how likely it is that your request will be granted. Some employers encourage employees to rotate between teams in order to gain a better understanding of firm-wide operations. Others may not have the manpower on certain teams or have other limiting factors that would prevent you from switching. In the end, you never know until you ask.
6. Pursue higher education.
Getting a professional license or certification, attending workshops, and taking online classes can be a valuable way to expand your horizon. Some firms may fund programs or offer a bonus at completion. Be prepared to demonstrate the knowledge and skills gained by applying them to new solutions and projects at work.
7. Record your habits.
You can discover what your passion is by how you spend your time. So how do you put into action a plan to achieve your professional goals?
One method I started using this month involves labeling a calendar with all the things I want to work on in a given week. Using a stick-on whiteboard wall I bought at CVS, I put an abbreviated list of goals at the top and mark the initials I accomplish each day. So for example, on days I work on the site, I write “WB”, days I write a blog post, I put “WR” for writing, and because I haven’t been drawing or learning guitar, there is not a “DR” or “GU” in sight. Activities I thought I would put time into have become my last priorities, for now at least. This type of self-audit can help put things in perspective.
8. Finally, find other outlets you’re passionate about.
There’s a sense of freedom felt when your identity isn’t tied to your job. Be it a side hustle or a new hobby, find the pursuit that fuels the fire in your belly.