At some point or another, we all hit an impasse at work, a moment when the “I hate Mondays” syndrome seems to take over the entire week. When we get into a job rut, there are always feelings involved, whether it’s boredom, frustration, anxiety, or something else that causes us to feel stuck, indecisive, or ambivalent about our work. And underneath those feelings are unexpressed sadness, anger, and fear.
Here are some quick fixes:
Deal with your emotions
It’s helpful to know that emotions–sadness, anger, and fear–are just pure energy in your body. Look at the word “emotion.” It’s energy (e) in motion. Take some time in private to express those emotions physically and constructively. By crying to express sadness, punching or yelling into a pillow or stomping around to release the anger, or doing exaggerated shivering for the fear, you express the emotion. The energy dissipates and you won’t feel stuck.
Find your purpose
Does your work feel meaningless? Do your days feel empty? Does it feel as if something is missing? The fix is easy. Spend a couple minutes each day answering one of these questions: Why am I here? What am I doing? Where am I going? What is my purpose? What do I truly want? What is important to me? Don’t censor yourself, and be patient and persistent–a satisfying answer will soon emerge. Finding and aligning with your purpose will restore your perspective and help you feel anchored regardless of the work you’re doing.
Align your goals
Do you feel lazy or unmotivated? Have you gotten complacent in your job? If you are struggling with a temporary inability to take action, there’s a fix for this too. You need to get a clear picture of your long-term work objectives for 1 month, 1 year, 5 years, and lifetime so you can figure out if your daily actions are moving you closer to these career goals or farther away. Write down your work goals for these four time frames. How can you make what you do today build on your longer-term goals?
Grade your job
Do you have a hard time deciding if you need to look for a new job? This is a sign that you need to take an inventory about your work. Write down a list of at least 30 ideal qualities you’d like to have in a job if you could “have it all.” Now give each item a score: 1 = your work has that quality; 0.5 = your work has it somewhat; 0 = your work lacks the quality. Now add up your score and divide it by the number of qualities in your list to arrive at a percentage. That’s your job’s “grade”–90% and above is an A, 80% is a B, 70% is a C, and so on. This gives you an objective, accurate way to assess whether you should accept where you are or seriously consider moving on.
Accentuate the positive
Do you feel pessimistic about your career? Do you notice what’s wrong around you more than what’s right? The fix for this type of rut is to recognize that you may have limited control over your situation or environment, but you have total control over how you perceive it. Mentally find something positive about everyone you encounter. Voice an appreciation for your job at least twice a day. Looking for the good in people around you will lift up your attitude.
Regain your balance
Do you feel as if you don’t quite belong? Is there a sense of hopelessness about what you’re doing? Although this may sound a bit melodramatic, it’s not uncommon for people to feel defeated at work–especially when they’re engaged in a project that’s taxing, boring, or overwhelming. The best way to defeat defeat is to take charge of your life. Start by sleeping, eating, and exercising regularly. This will bring your body back into balance. Help someone else at work who’s struggling. This will give you a sense of mastery and accomplishment. And take at least one small action step each day to nourish yourself, whether it’s asking for help or completing a dreaded task you’ve been avoiding.
Do you resist and rebel against change at work? Do you feel annoyed by people who try to get you to do more work or do it differently? Feeling entitled and intolerant is another way we get stuck in our careers. The fix: accept the way things are. Make a list of everyone and everything at your job you don’t like. Next to each item on your list, write and then repeat 11 times, “The [fill in the blank] is the way it is, not the way I think it should be,” or “My work mate is the way she is, not the way I want her to be.” You will be amazed at how quickly this little exercise will move you from frustration to true acceptance.
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About the Guest Post Author:
Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her award-winning book is Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. Learn more at www.attitudereconstruction.com.