It’s called work for a reason. This is what I used to tell myself, especially when I was feeling particularly disillusioned with my work or career. You are not supposed to enjoy work are you? That’s why it’s called WORK!
According to the Oxford dictionary, work synonyms include: labour, toil, exertion, effort, slog, drudgery.
Is it any wonder so many of us put up with jobs that we don’t enjoy when this is what we are lead to believe ‘work’ means?
Well guess what? You can enjoy work. In fact you can love it!
Loving your work doesn’t mean that you are going to enjoy every minute of it. But it can mean that you love what you ‘do’. And when you find yourself in this position, at the risk of sounding a bit like Mary Poppins, you will wake up smiling (most!) days. I believe everyone can be in this position, it just takes some conscious effort, trial and error, zig-zagging, testing, research and much self-reflection.
It is important to know that doing what you love still requires…wait for it….work! But when you know that the ‘work’ you are doing is contributing to something that you feel connected to and that you genuinely and wholly believe in, the ‘work’ part becomes that little bit easier.
There will always be tasks and activities that you will find draining or arduous. Often these are things that don’t play to your strengths. For me, this is anything to do with numbers and spreadsheets! Repetitive, mundane tasks are a one-way ticket to disillusionment town for me. It will be different for you. Find out what excites you. Don’t accept being perpetually unhappy at work. Too many people accept the status quo for too long, telling themselves that work is just a ‘means to an end’. This will eventually catch up with you. Your Sundays will be spent with a knot in your stomach and a grey cloud over your head as you brace yourself for another week. How would it be if you put the energy that is usually invested into hating or dreading your job, into thinking about ways to change your situation? Here are some ways to start:
Identify whether it is the work or the company? One of the key things to think about is whether it is the work you do or the organization you work for that is causing you the unhappiness. I have met people who simply changed employer’s or industries and found that was enough to re-spark their energy and interest in work again. Usually it comes down to how you feel about the greater purpose of the company and whether you are genuinely aligned to that. If you don’t believe in what the organization stands for, it might be time to get out.
Make a list of the things you don’t like. This is often just as helpful as identifying the elements of work that you do like. Your list might include things like: the number of meetings a week, the length of the commute to work, the culture of the organization, how much of your day is spent at a desk, the flexible work arrangements in place, how much fun is fostered etc. There may be small changes to your existing job that you can make to improve your enjoyment, but if you have deal breakers that your current employer can’t fulfill, take steps to move on.
Consider whether you are just staying for the money. Staying in a job for the money can work for a time, but it is not sustainable long-term. It is possible though for your purpose to be something that money affords you. For example, nice holidays with your family that create life-long memories, the ability for your partner to stay home with the children, your children’s education, the opportunity to indulge in your hobbies and passions, being able to give to charities dear to you or helping out friends or family in need. This is when staying in a role primarily for the money can provide you with the purpose needed to get you up in the mornings.
Work out what the ‘why’ is for you: you have to have a why. This is critical for you to want to show up each day. Your why will be a meshing of your talents, values, passions and skills/expertise. When working with our clients, we often talk about the Japanese concept of ‘Ikigai’ which can be translated to ‘Reason for Being’. This is what you get up for every morning. It is what gives your life purpose and meaning. To find your Ikigai, think about:
- What are you good at?
- What can you be paid for?
- What does the world need?
- What do you love?
- What are your values?
When you have found your Ikigai, you will stop questioning what it’s all for and why you are sticking around in your job. You will be clear on what you are getting out of bed for. And work will no longer feel like labour, toil, exertion, effort, slog or drudgery. Now that’s worth working for!