When it comes to the topic of finding one’s passion, Curt Rosengren is the man with the plan. He’s been blogging on this issue longer than anyone else I know, and here’s what he had to say most recently on Wild About Work:
“Far too often when people’s careers start to get a little stale, they do one of two things. They either go into ‘grit your teeth and suck it up’ mode (after all, work IS a four-letter word, right?), or they do a swan dive out of the frying pan into the fire by making a knee-jerk job change, hoping they can leave that boredom and frustration behind.”
You probably realize by now that I do not advocate the swan dive approach, so I asked Curt for some recommendations for how you can re-energize your work without making any drastic and risky moves.
Take the cumulative view
Understand that the goal isn’t to make one broadly sweeping change that will make everything better. The goal is to juice up your job cumulatively, benefiting from the sum total effect of a lot of smaller changes.
Do an energy audit
Take a look at your job and say: “What gives me energy here? What do I enjoy?” and “What drains my energy here? What do I dislike?” The more detailed your understanding of what’s actually happening, the more potential you have to make choices and changes that will energize your work.
Identify your energizers
What are the underlying themes that tend to be present when you’re happiest at work? Put another way, why do you love what you love? When you feel most in your groove, what is it about what you’re doing that feels so energizing?
Consider some incremental changes
Is there anything that energizes you that you could do more of? Is there anything that drains you that you could do less of? You’re not going to turn a toad into a unicorn, but if you can even improve things by 10 percent, that’s a good start.
Adjust the “how”
Even if the actual content of your work doesn’t change in the slightest, you can re-think how you approach it so that it feels less frustrating and more energizing. A classic example is turning a boring, repetitive task into a game, perhaps seeing how much faster you can get it done from one time to the next, or looking for ways to make it more efficient. Make it a habit to constantly explore the question: “how can I approach this so I enjoy it more?”
Change why you do it
Humans are wired to want to make a difference, so spend some time asking yourself: “Why am I doing this? Who benefits? How?” Focusing on the benefits and positive impact of the work you do can mitigate feeling like an isolated cog.
Change your perspective
In this option, you don’t have to change a thing externally. All you need to do is pull your attention out of the gaping maw of negativity and direct it at the positive. Ask yourself: “What is worthwhile about this job? Why am I lucky to have it?” The more you consciously focus your attention on what’s good, the more good you experience, the more good you notice, and the less time you spend focusing on the unpleasant.
Change your story
Recognize that you experience the world through the lens of your stories – your expectations and assumptions, the meanings you assign things, etc. Changing your story can turn an identical situation into a completely different experience.
Find a vision
Another way to open up space and not feel so compressed and constricted is to put your current situation into a bigger picture context. In the next ten years, what do you want to accomplish in your career? Then, put your current position in the context of that vision. How is it a step in the right direction? What other steps can you take right now to bring your vision to life?