To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth!Pearl S. Buck
Here we are in 2022, and COVID-19 continues to roll along. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing it had never happened, or that it would disappear as quickly as it arrived!
As we move into a new year of living with a pandemic, there’s one area of our lives that remains in flux: our jobs and the way we work.
The past few years of turbulence has left a lot of people toiling away in jobs they don’t enjoy. Others feel stuck in positions that do not bring them meaning and purpose. It’s a helluva position to be in, and a fast-track to burn-out.
Most of us work because we have to. There are bills to pay, a family to care for, money to make for a much-needed vacation. While working through burn-out ensures your survival needs are being met, your mental health can take a toll. Beyond feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, being stuck in a job that doesn’t bring you meaning can cause a range of physical and mental health issues.
So, what can you do?
Leaving your job is an obvious solution, but not so realistic. The next best thing is to learn how to find joy in any work environment by shifting your mindset. When you learn to reframe negatives and see your job through new eyes, you can turn burn-out into renewed energy – and maybe even learn to love your job!
Of course, thinking positively about your job is easier said than done. That’s why I’m sharing these 6 simple tips to improve your career mindset and learn to enjoy your job now.
6 Ways to Improve Your Job
Identify What Your Dislike (And Like) About Your Job
Let’s start with the dislikes. Is it your boss’s late-night emails? Your coworker’s grumpy attitude? Too much on your plate? Too boring and slow? A long commute? Write down all of your dislikes.
Now, put a star next to the things you can change. There are going to be some things that are inevitable, such as the distance from your house to your job. But start by identifying the things that you do have control over.
Ask yourself how you can work around the things you dislike about your job because more often than not, there are solutions to most of these problems. Maybe you really can talk to your boss or coworker about what’s bothering you (because bottling up your feelings has worked wonders so far).
That project you’re not suited for? Ask your boss if you can re-work the roles with a willing coworker. The colleague that makes your work life miserable? Set some boundaries, or make an effort to get to know them better. The endless days of monotony, waiting for the clock to strike five? Try killing your work boredom with a stimulating playlist or new podcast.
Tip: If you get stuck, try the reversal exercise from Bonnie St. John in her book, Micro-Resilience. Get a piece of paper and on one side, write the issue that seems unsurmountable. For example, ‘Our team doesn’t get enough budget to do the projects I know will make an impact.’ On the other side, write the opposite. ‘There is plenty of money to carry out our impactful projects.’
Simply seeing this mindset shift on paper opens your brain to think of new opportunities or ways to accomplish your goal. Perhaps you can reallocate budgets from elsewhere, start a fundraising campaign, or innovate a new, more affordable way to run the project.
On the flipside, there will be things that you like about your job after all. Even if it’s simple, like getting to take a break, the free coffee, or the cheerful goodbye from your favorite work friend at the end of the day. There has to be something that brings you a small, momentary feeling of happiness. It may even be something you take for granted, like how your building has air conditioning or how peaceful and quiet the office environment is. Whatever you like about your job, write that down too, and focus on it from this point forward. And speaking of gratitude…
Start a Gratitude Journal for Your Job
Gratitude journals are all the rage these days, but how often do you hear about people starting one specifically for their job? Well today is the day my friend! A work gratitude journal helps you spend more time focusing on the positive aspects of your job and primes your brain to see the good in it more often.
Start by writing down all of the things you’re grateful for within your job. It can even be just one thing per day, like ‘I’m grateful for my 30-minute lunch break in the afternoons.’
Try to write something new each morning before you begin, or once a week if that works better for you. Shifting your focus to positive aspects of work also helps to reduce depression, melts away negative emotions, and promotes changes in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain, according to Greater Good Magazine.
Is it the Job or Your Ego?
Maybe the job isn’t the problem. Have you ever caught yourself thinking, ‘This job is beneath me,’ or ‘This job would be nothing without me’?
In some cases, a shift in attitude or your inner ego may help to remedy this problem. But since this is an innate part of all of us, this may be difficult to do on a whim. That’s where the power of mindfulness meditation comes in handy, as it helps to promote a more objective perspective on life and quiet the ego, according to Harvard Business Review. Simple guided meditations (like this one) can be a great way to start the day with a positive, open mind towards your job.
Identify What the Job is Teaching You
Even if you don’t love the job you’re in, view your current profession as a stepping stone to becoming the person you were always meant to be. This perspective also means accepting the current work situation as a learning tool, paving the path for a healthier brain and body, as well as a wiser mind.
No matter how awful a job is, you can always learn something valuable from it. Retail and restaurant jobs are often painted as terrible places to work, but few can deny the work ethic, patience, and customer service skills gained in these fields. You can even learn from your coworker’s or manager’s mistakes or how not to behave at work, or how not to lead others when your time comes.
If you start viewing your job as a big life lesson that will only benefit you, it will make working there that much better!
Change Up Your Work Routine or Environment
Doing the exact same routine day in and day out bores the hell out of some people. If you’re the type of person who enjoys a change of pace, then changing up your work routine or environment may make all the difference.
If you work in an office, a change in environment could be as simple as driving a new route to work. Or, try updating how you organize or decorate your workspace. Give your computer desktop a fresh image and clear out those old emails and digital clutter.
If you work from home, consider rearranging your office space, working in a different area of your home, or adjusting your working hours. Treat yourself to focus-enhancing aromatherapy or a nice new daily planner.
Other things you could try include eating a different kind of meal at lunch, wearing a shirt you haven’t thrown on in years, or practicing yoga before leaving for work. Whatever it is, try to change one small thing about your work environment every day, once a week, or whichever works best for you. New experiences can make your days much more positive and rewarding – and your brain will thank you later.
Practice Self-Care and COVID Burn-Out Prevention
Over the past few weeks, I spent time talking to people in various walks of life – those who are retired, past colleagues in the hospitality and meeting event industry, others working for technology companies, and those who have reinvented themselves and started new careers.
They all shared one thing in common: they have COVID burn-out. No matter how much they enjoy their jobs (or not), COVID has poured new layers of complexity into our work lives.
In fact, according to Forbes, this burn-out ‘pandemic’ doesn’t just make us more stressed. It also leads to poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and a weakened immune system. Not quite a recipe for success…
To combat the ongoing pressures that Covid has brought to our work lives, we must invest time and energy into our self-care.
Practices such as scheduling downtime, prioritizing your sleep, meditation, exercise, healthy cooking, and spending time on hobbies you enjoy are essential to fighting burn-out and staying positive. According to Inc.com, you can even build self-care into your work day by setting healthy boundaries with coworkers and eliminating distractions.
Mindset Shifts to Help You Find Joy
If you only take one thing away from this post, remember that no job is finite. Misery doesn’t last forever, and all negative emotions come and go like the waves of an ocean.
If your job is wreaking havoc on your physical and mental well-being, then do everything in your power to work towards finding a different career path. But until then, know that you are able to cultivate a sense of peace and calm within your work environment, no matter what that may be (even if it takes a whole lot of time and a few pages of your newfound gratitude journal).
You got this.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied
is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”
~ Steve Jobs