You know those movie characters who are always extremely motivated in their jobs? Like the stereotypical detective who takes on extra cases and spends their nights in the station, poring over endless paperwork? Or the confident entrepreneur who seems invigorated by confrontational business calls and tight budgets? Those characters are motivated, passionate, and inspired by their jobs, Oftentimes, we want to channel that same passion! Yet that constant, intense engagement with work is not something most of us experience on a constant basis–in fact, sometimes we feel like we’re barely connected to our work at all.
Sure enough, according to Gallup, at least 51 percent of US workers feel disengaged from their jobs. For those of us working roughly 8 hours a day, that means we’re spending a third of our time doing work that we’re not passionate about. Does that mean 51 percent of us need to quit our jobs?
The short answer: no, of course not. Feeling a lack of engagement with your job is normal. It’s so normal, in fact, that there’s a bevy of information on the web about regaining your initial motivating spark. Here’s a portion of it:
Seek growth at work: The Harvard Business Review notes that one of the biggest workplace motivators is feeling that you’re able to learn and develop in your position. When we’re not learning, we often find ourselves stuck in stagnant and mundane routines, which is extremely unmotivating. On the other hand, accomplishing something new can be exciting and confidence-boosting, and help us discover new interests within our field.
How can you create opportunities for development within your position? First, make a list of things you’d like to learn: leadership skills, budgeting, event planning, etc. Let your supervisor know that you’re interested in strengthening your knowledge in these areas, and they might have a few projects or ideas to send your way.
You don’t just have to rely on your supervisor for ideas. Is there a new project coming up that you could take the lead on? Try it, and engage in new tasks that will expand your knowledge and experience. Is there another employee who might be willing to mentor you in their area of expertise? Ask them if you can sit in on some of their calls, assist them on certain projects, or just meet with them for coffee to get a better idea of what they do. Chances are, they’ll be flattered.
If you’re out of ideas for creating your own workplace opportunities, don’t worry. Forbes compiled a few ideas that you can try out here.
Pay attention to what brings you joy: Do you thrive when you’re able to collaborate with coworkers? Maybe you prefer to focus on highly detailed tasks, or aesthetically-oriented ones. Take note of the work that fully absorbs you, the tasks that you find easy (and enjoyable) to get in lost in. Figure out what it is about these tasks that you enjoy, and brainstorm how to incorporate those traits into other areas of your work.
For example, do you hate making timelines but love creating graphics? Try using Canva or another free tool to make gorgeous visuals of your goals and deadlines. Do you need some alone time but have a job that requires you to sit in frequent meetings? Consider setting up meetings over the phone so you can still have private, personal space, or save time before and after those meetings that’s just for you to take a walk, sip some tea, or engage in a solo project. Chances are, your work will flourish when you make the experience more pleasant.
Find passion within the work: They say that if you’re passionate about your job, you’ll feel like you’ve never worked a day in our life. This is a bit intimidating, especially for those of us who took a job because it was available and we needed an income, not because it was our absolute life dream.
Yet there’s no need to quit your job just because it isn’t in the field you originally felt the most passionate about. In fact, as this article from The Atlantic notes, we discover and embrace new passions all the time in areas that we might never have anticipated. Just think–have you ever known someone who entered a field, planning for it to be temporary, and then discovered an aspect of the work that they really loved and stuck with it? It happens all the time.
Even if you still don’t think your current job is where you always want to be, you can find passion in the day-to-day moments. Are there certain projects you genuinely enjoy being involved in? Results that make you feel proud even after you’ve left the office? You may not love being a bank teller, but you might really value the feeling of helping someone find a solution to a stressful financial concern. Likewise, you may loathe drafting legal documents but love getting to tell a client that they’ve won their case. Discovering new passions can both help you improve your workplace experience and discover more about yourself.
Expect engagement to fluctuate: Even the most engaged worker will have times of decreased focus and work-related joy. If this happens to you, don’t worry or get down on yourself for being a “bad employee”–occasional “worker’s block” is perfectly normal.
We can’t always be completely immersed and enjoy every moment of the job. Life happens, and when we’re dealing with a major stressor outside of work, like a medical diagnosis or a complicated move, we can’t help but have a little less energy and patience for our careers. Studies also suggest that our engagement is prone to fluctuation when we’re feeling lonely, as the pain of loneliness often causes us to disengage.
Small periods of disengagement usually pass with time, but you can try to speed the process by seeking social support. You may choose to connect with your officemates via lunch, or set up time to talk with outside friends and family after work. Working through stressors or loneliness with a therapist can also alleviate some of your worries and help you discover new strategies to make your job more enjoyable.
How have you picked yourself back up after a motivation rut? What are some ways you feel more engaged in your office? We’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, we hope you find your daily inspiration in the work you do!
Erin Ross, MS OTR/L is an occupational therapist and an aspiring science writer in DC. She believes in evidence-based practice, clear communication in healthcare, and diligent inclusion of the Oxford comma.