“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Yeah, that’s what They say, but you know better. That’s hogwash! Isn’t it?
I mean, we hear a lot these days about “quiet quitting” and “burnout” and the many reasons it’s hard to keep employees engaged, motivated, and productive. And if we listen to what They say, it’s not surprising that one of the most prevalent pieces of advice, both on social media sites and throughout the working world, is to help people discover what they’re passionate about, and to follow that passion.
If there’s truly a deep, personal connection between what we do (our vocation) and what we love (our passion)…cue the angelic voices, pan out to capture the entire rainbow, and bask in the rare glory of that moment. Without question, this is the ideal. It’s not 100% hogwash!
There is some truth to the fact that when we’re doing something we’re passionate about, we have a different sense of purpose, a revitalized commitment, a greater likelihood of hitting that “flow” condition where time stands still and we become absorbed in what we’re doing.
Ideal as it may be, it is precariously rare. And it’s unequivocally unreasonable to expect that anyone would be wildly and madly in love with every element of every moment related to their job and work responsibilities. Shoot, I love what I do, but I don’t love everything about it!
So, what happens when our work isn’t our passion? When our passion and vocation do not intersect, what’s next? How do we remain engaged, motivated, and productive, when some (or even most of) our work is, well, drudgery?
Almost without fail, my clients either a) experience some form of “I’m not enamored with my job” or b) supervise folks who experience some form of “I’m not enamored with my job.” This condition is everywhere, and no one is immune to it. Remember: Work is hard (it’s a four-letter-word for many people), routines can become tedious, the demands can overwhelm us, it is often challenging to see the big picture and/or remain grounded in our purpose at all times, and the people we work with (and work for) can complicate our relationship with the work itself.
Fortunately, there are many strategies we can employ if we’re looking to ramp up our emotional connections to our work.
When you’re not “enamored” with your job, it’s time to shift your focus. Control your thoughts about work, and watch the emotional connection take hold.
Here are four of the top strategies I suggest to my clients. You know what They also say: “Believe it and you’ll see it.” Almost without fail, these approaches help immensely:
1. Shift your focus. Can you focus on what you love? Often, when we start thinking we’re burning out, we focus on what’s exhausting, unpleasant, and unsustainable about our work. We think about what’s dousing our flame. What if we shifted our lens and really started paying attention to what’s good about it? After all, if you’re feeling like you’re burning out, that means at some point there was a fire a-blazing. So, what ignited your passion in the first place? What are some of the elements of your job that are still flickering? We know that we’ll get more of what we focus on, so why are you focusing on what’s wrong? Shift that focus on what’s right, what’s working, what you enjoy, and you just might get more of that!
2. Know thyself. Do you know what you truly love? Do you know what fills your bucket? Do you engage in the behaviors that help you feel invigorated and positive every day? If you don’t, why not? Can you reorient your schedule to ensure that your energy-infusing activities (tasks, people, projects, locations, duties) are part of your everyday routine? Here’s a simple fix: If you’re lifted by interacting with other people and you find yourself working in isolation, get up and deliver a message in person to a co-worker instead of emailing it. Pick up the phone and call your contacts and colleagues. Here’s another: If you enjoy solving complex problems, and you find yourself in a mind-numbing rut, repeating the same procedure over and over, hone your mental lens on all the possible ways you can do what you do more efficiently, faster, and using your available resources. Once you know what fills your bucket, make sure you’re doing those things every day.
3. Look beyond the work. Can you love what your work produces? That’s right, if the work is excruciatingly difficult, tiresome, unpleasant (etc.), think about what doors the work opens, or what sits on the other side of it. The end might justify the means, in this case. All those hours hanging and mudding drywall in one new apartment after another could become monotonous and tedious. However, when this project is over, you’ll be able to look at the amazing, smooth, beautiful, finished product. If you can envision that beforehand, and if you can feel the pride and joy in that impending accomplishment, it makes each drywall screw and each swipe of the blade more palatable. (In dire straits, remember there’s a paycheck lying in wait, allowing you to put food on the table, a roof over your family’s heads, a vacation on the calendar, or whatever else that income does for you.
4. Find a higher path. Can you love the impact of your work? There’s a Mother Teresa quote I just can’t get enough of: “Wash the plate not because it is dirty, nor because you were told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” Oy. If that doesn’t ring your righteous, noble bell, I don’t know what will. No matter what we’re doing, there’s a recipient of our hard work sitting on the other side of it. When we consider our neighbor’s journey, and when we intentionally think about how our work can positively impact someone else, this promotes physiological changes in our brains linked with happiness. As we know, happy workers are productive workers, meaning not only will we whistle more while we work, we’ll also be more likely to repeat the behaviors that led to the happiness in the first place: working for someone else, the greater good, or a nobler cause.
If you’re feeling stuck at work, try one of these strategies. Shift your mindset and see if that new perspective brings you renewed joy, a boost of energy, and an additional flicker of passion. After all, if you enjoy your work, you’re more likely to be optimistic, motivated, learn faster, make fewer mistakes, and be someone that your boss, your co-workers, and you yourself will enjoy being around.
Pete Hall is the President/CEO of Strive Success Solutions. You can reach him via email at Pete@StriveSS.com.
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