At one point or another most of us have a job we want to escape. Not surprisingly, many of my clients come to me wanting out of their jobs ASAP.
But as important as it is to do work you love, it’s not always possible to leave that old job right away. You might have financial obligations, want to build up some savings before you take the leap, or you just might not know what you want to do instead.
So what do you do in the meantime, when you dread going to work and feel like your soul is being slowly sucked from your body every day that you’re there?
As someone who was unhappy in more jobs than I’d like to count, here are some strategies for not just surviving but finding some happiness in your day.
As a side note, if your job situation is truly toxic and is damaging your mental or physical health (and there is nothing you can do to make the situation better), then by all means do everything you can to get out ASAP!
If you feel unhappy, bored, or just fed up with your job, but it’s not an abusive situation, then keep reading and try these three steps:
1) Adjust your attitude.
I know, this is probably not the advice you were hoping for, but honestly, a job is a relationship and making a shift in the way that you show up can make a huge difference in your happiness at work.
For years, I’d always believed my job was the problem, and I had a long list of things I was unhappy about, whether it was the long hours, the unfair boss, or the teammate who wasn’t pulling his weight.
Now looking back, I see how much I was actually part of the problem. I only focused on the negative. I got satisfaction out of venting to my co-workers and to my friends. Most of them were unhappy in their jobs too. It felt good to connect over our shared misery.
But in the meantime, that complaining not only took a lot of energy, it also was part of what kept me feeling stuck and disempowered. I was focused on what was not working instead of investing energy into figuring out what I really wanted and what actions I could take to get there.
When all you do is complain about what you don’t want, you’re not allowing space in your life for what you do want.
Ask yourself honestly if you’ve gotten into the habit of only focusing on the negative at work. What might open up for you if you stopped complaining about your job for a week? I challenge you to try it.
2) Figure out what’s in it for you.
Along the same lines of not complaining, I also challenge you to take a hard look and really identify what you DO get out of your job.
Reframing the situation by noticing and articulating what’s in it for you actually puts you in a more empowered position.
Let’s be honest. When you tell yourself you have no choice but to go to this soul-sucking job every day, it feels pretty crappy.
But if you reframe it and remind yourself that—for now anyway—you’re actually making a CHOICE to be in this job because of what YOU get out of it (for example, a steady paycheck that gives you the freedom to explore new options or build a cushion until you take the leap), you feel less like a victim and more like you’re in charge of your own life. (which you are!)
When I look back I can see a lot of things — big and small — that I could have actually been grateful for in those jobs that made me so miserable at the time.
The income allowed my family and I to live comfortably. I learned a lot of things that help me now in running my own business. I also learned a lot about what I DON’T like, which is equally valuable. I made friends at work and enjoyed getting out of the house and connecting with them each day. I could print or copy things for free any time I wanted to. I got a discount at the gym. You get the idea.
The next time you catch yourself groaning about the work you don’t want to do, take a breath, reframe it, and find a bigger picture benefit that does motivate you. What are you actually grateful for in this job? What would go on your list of all the things, big or small, that you do get out of it?
3) Figure out how you can make it better.
In addition to noticing what you do get out of this job, are there any actions you could take to allow you to get MORE of what you want each day? That could mean anything from asking to work on a different project to taking breaks and getting out of the office once a day to making your work space nicer.
Just as importantly, when you’re NOT at work, what are all the ways you’re taking care of yourself so that you have the energy to do this job?
Self-care is not only essential to surviving your job, it’s also crucial to figuring out what you want to do instead.
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A version of this post appeared originally on juliehoughton.com.