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How Getting in Touch With Your Career Values Leads to Happier Mondays

Yes, you might have an excellent salary and terrific perks that keep you comfortable. But if you’re reaching the point where Sunday nights give you a pit in your stomach, you need to weigh your happiness against your current circumstances.

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Mondays have a bad reputation. According to a LinkedIn survey, 80% of people begin their workweeks with a sense of anxiety. But the day is not the problem — the issue is that most people don’t feel a sense of connection to what they do for a living.

A mere 15% of workers are truly engaged, per Gallup’s research. But why? Part of it comes down to bad management. Unfortunately, we all know people who hate their bosses — and they have their reasons. Many managers lead with a half-empty philosophy; they point out weaknesses, assuming employees will suddenly rise to the occasion if they’re told what they’re doing wrong. But negativity isn’t motivating.

Findings from Gallup show that 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores boils down to management. If managers don’t acknowledge and leverage their employees’ core strengths, they can’t expect those employees to deliver their best work.

Many supervisors also don’t make an effort to unpack the hidden motivations that drive their employees. Instead, they see the employee-manager relationship as transactional or robotic. Is it any wonder, then, that workers are losing passion and energy?

This isn’t to suggest that cases of Monday blues are caused by managers alone. Plenty of employees bring low levels of interest to work and reserve their passion for hobbies, family life, and other outside pursuits. But even those who would like to leave their positions know the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side. Finding a new employer takes work and can be fraught with its own frustrations.

The Perils of Ignoring Low Engagement

For those struggling with a lack of motivation at work, it’s important to know that you’re not stuck. There is more. And figuring out what that “more” is for you starts with understanding what you can do instead of what you want to do.

For instance, you might be highly skilled at creating budgets but find pulling together numbers to be mind-numbing work. If that’s the case, you could subconsciously be phoning in your work; perhaps you wait until the last minute or miss a critical deadline. As a result, your manager might assume you’re a bad worker — when you’re really just putting halfhearted effort into work that leaves you unfulfilled.

There are many red flags or limiting behaviors that you would easily see in others but might miss in yourself. Maybe you don’t return emails promptly. Perhaps you’ve started arriving late and leaving early. Or you might not listen when your manager makes suggestions. These could all be indicators you’re not being true to yourself.

Yes, you might have an excellent salary and terrific perks that keep you comfortable. But if you’re reaching the point where Sunday nights give you a pit in your stomach, you need to weigh your happiness against your current circumstances.

Finding Passion for Your Career

Before you worry that you’ll have to pick up and leave your workplace to be happy, know that isn’t necessarily the case. You may be able to stay with your employer and find ways to boost your engagement. If that’s not practical, though, remind yourself that the stress of looking for another position can pale in comparison to staying at a place that no longer fulfills you.

By increasing your motivation and inspiration, you can reduce your anxiety levels, lower your negativity, and begin to regain your confidence. Thankfully, a similar process can help you either become more engaged at your current job or pinpoint a career that will reignite your passion. Get started with these five steps:

1. Declare you’ll find a position you love — and that will love you back.

Language powers our world. If you make a definitive declaration that you are taking control of your career, you are bringing that thought into your conscious mind. From that point, you can rev yourself into action to make progress toward the future of your dreams.

2. Outline your ideal workday.

How would a perfect day look? Be specific, right down to start and stop times — and your ideal teammates. What about your work would excite you? Is your dream job in a casual or more formal setting? How would your day-to-day routine differ from what you do now? The ability to picture your optimal work situation allows you to understand precisely why you would find it satisfying.

3. Beyond money, why do you work?

Most of us have a higher purpose. What’s yours? Review the ideal day that you just outlined. What values would your finished projects embody? You may realize at this step that some aspects of your current job align with your values. That could be a sign that you don’t need to switch employers to defeat disengagement.

4. Be honest about what you’re good at versus what you love doing.

Not everything you do will give you energy. Are there any skills you possess but no longer want to use at work? You could be a brilliant teacher, for instance, but you might want to move into education administration if you’re no longer inspired by teaching others. It’s okay to change. Personal aspirations often evolve over a lifetime and grow as you do.

5. Consider ways to change your current role.

At this point, you have a choice: Stay or leave? Only you can answer that question. Just don’t assume that you have to take bold steps to be happier and more involved with your work. Sometimes, just tweaking your assignments can help you get back on track and feel less overwhelmed when the weekend winds down.

It’s time to start embracing a more engaged working life. With a little introspection, you’ll be able to hit the ground running on Monday mornings and dive into a week of challenges that leave you feeling energized — not empty.

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