Some might argue that learning to love what you do is a surefire way to get stuck a comfortable place and never pursue your greatest work. I disagree. By learning to love what you do, you will create enormous momentum that will carry you forward much faster than if you are constantly focusing on how much your job sucks.
Before we can do what we love, we must first start by loving what we do.
Even if you have a clear vision of what’s next, what about right now? How can I enjoy what I’m being paid to do in the here and now?
You may be in a job or career that you don’t feel you can change right now. Perhaps because you have a big mortgage, kids, debt or any one of the other million possibilities that don’t allow you to totally push reset. That’s fine (for now). But that also doesn't mean you condemn yourself to a life of career complacency and sleepwalking.
How are you experiencing your work?
In some of my previous jobs, I found that the more I resisted the job, the harder it was for me to do it. Rather than pushing against it, I needed to be grateful that someone had trusted me with the opportunity to do work and be paid for it.
I remember the day where I realized that I needed to stop resisting my job and work with the opportunity that I was given. I had a business coach challenge me to either make the most of the opportunity that I had or get out! I can say with 100% certainty that this change in perspective enabled me to move forward by leaps and bounds.
How I turned my greatest challenge into my greatest ally
The first step — like most things — started with changing my point of view. Instead of seeing my job as a necessary evil, I started viewing it in a more positive light. I began being grateful for all of the things my job was allowing me to have and do.
The second step was becoming completely accountable for my situation. I began accepting complete responsibility for what I was creating in my career and in my life. I no longer made excuses for things that were (or were not) happening.
Please do not underestimate the power of these two steps. They helped me gain clarity about the kind of work that I wanted to be doing. And ultimately led to my current job which allows me to work from home, have some flexibility in my schedule, and pays me well enough to save 20% of my income.
As I learned how to value my job, my job began supporting me in many new ways, including giving the the flexibility to start my own business on the side. My job has allowed me to hone valuable skills that I am currently using to start my web show and consulting business.
My job has also helped me to be humble. I have accepted that while it’s not my ultimate dream to be in software sales, it isn’t too bad and it is allowing me to accomplish many things while I am building my new business on the side.
My day job has also taught me how to be patient. While working towards creating my own version of freedom, I am building a sustainable business that will allow me to leave my day job as my side business income grows. Building a new business is similar to farming. You till your fields, you plant your crops, and you cultivate them for weeks or months before you ever reap the rewards.
How to make your job enjoyable
1. Leverage your career strengths.
Leverage your current skills to do work that is familiar and will pay you well. This is also known as career leverage and it will make your life easier. If you already have a job where you are using your skills and being paid well, then consider yourself one step ahead of the game.
I took this step over three years ago when I leveraged my network to get back into software sales. Rather than seeing this as a step back, I knew that I could land a job that would allow me to do work that I was familiar with and where I could get paid really well for my efforts. And I also knew that there would not be much of a learning curve since I had done this type of work before.
As a result of leveraging my career experience, I was able to find a job where I'm directly paid for my results, I get to work from home, and I am challenged to be more.
2. Understand where you’re at your best.
Then spend your time doing it. And find a way to stop doing the things you hate and suck at. If you enjoy marketing but hate making sales calls, then get creative and find a way to do more marketing and fewer sales calls. Your situation might not be that clear but I guarantee there’s room to work. There always is.
Using my natural strengths has been the biggest single contributor to fulfillment in my work. Everything is so much better when you fill your time doing things you’re awesome (or at least good) at. As you begin experimenting with your own business ideas, it will become very important for you to focus on what you’re good at and delegate (i.e. pay someone else) to do the rest.
3. Find a bigger reason why.
When you’re stuck in spreadsheet hell, it’s all too easy to lose sight of life. Find a way to connect your seemingly mundane task (assuming someone else can’t do it) to the overall purpose of the company or the people your product or service is designed to serve.
Or better yet, know that the work you are doing now is supporting your efforts to do work that matters later. Some days, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that what I'm doing today is supporting a bigger vision.
Part of the path to doing work that matters is making sure that you have a sustainable path to fulfilling your desire. And unless you already have a large pile of cash, or are expecting a windfall, your current job is supporting you and your efforts to do more meaningful work later.
4. Negotiate working from home.
Sometimes being in the office and dealing with a commute is the worst part of your job. You might love the work but get lost in the B.S. of a bureaucratic office. You've got to convince your boss you can do better work at home. Start with asking for half a day on a Friday and then maybe a full day.
Be sure to be massively productive and send her everything you did on your day off. Explain how much more productive you are in a quiet and focused environment. Then show her the results. If a half or full day is too hard to negotiate then take a day off and tell her you have to stay home with your kids or wait for the plumber. Pick something realistic (and ideally true). And then use this time to prove how productive you were. Then follow up with a note that you had more time at home than you thought and here’s all the stuff you were able to accomplish in an uninterrupted environment.
Get creative and make the most of it.
I realize that not all jobs have this option. A nurse can’t do her job from home. But many jobs do offer this as an option. A big part of happiness for many people is owning their schedule. This starts with training your boss to focus on output, not time in office. With that comes freedom.
Making the best of today does not mean sacrificing your dream tomorrow.
Let’s be clear. The above is not an excuse to stay in a job when you know that you have more meaningful work to do. It’s simply a short-term solution to a problem that millions of people face.
You are still responsible for finding your most meaningful work. It’s out there. But remember, there’ll never be a perfect time to take the jump. Wait as little as possible. But be smart about the transition so that you don’t put yourself or your family in a bind.
Start saving some money to cushion the transition and start experimenting with how you can make your mark on the world. The more clearly you understand the importance of doing what matters, the more likely you are to do something about it.
Work your plan. Make your current job part of the plan and suddenly your meaningless commute will have a little more purpose to it. That’s a start.
Now it’s up to you.
If you've found meaning in the message above, then you have changed your perspective on your job and you understand the value in it as an important part of the journey to doing more meaningful work. I mean, if you’re going to stay in your job (for now) you might as well get some enjoyment from it.
But don’t sit idle. Start now by clearing some time in your week for exploring ideas that excite you. And remember that it’s most likely going to take work to get something new and exciting off the ground. Welcome it. If you aren't happy with your current situation then take some steps and do something about it. Remember…delaying happiness today does not equal more happiness tomorrow.
It’s up to you now.
No more sleep walking through life.
You can either sit idle while your story gets written or you can wake up and start writing it yourself.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever felt trapped by your day job? What did you do to change how you felt about it?