Work is not always a source of fulfillment.
Most folks toil in gigs that fall somewhere on the scale between boring and torturous. Of course, some (weirdos who merit deep suspicion) find their jobs to be a wellspring of encouragement, inspiration and validation.
For the rest who are caught in the middle—perhaps longing for greener pastures in a different company or career—consider these four ways to bloom wherever you’re currently planted.
1. Volunteer to take on more tasks. If your current chores bore you to tears, ask your manager if it’s possible to spice up your workload. Try to finagle some kind of load swap with a colleague, or convince your boss why it’d be prudent to scrape certain tasks off your plate. Actively strive to delegate busywork to someone else—but be ready and willing to accept new assignments.
If there’s a project, platform or program that piques your interest, ask to get involved. Make it clear that you’d like to contribute and learn.
Alternatively, if there’s a specific skill or professional development aptitude you’re keen to hone, ask your superior for permission to pursue it. Step up to the mic to take speaking opportunities—or step up your Mac game to earn an Apple certification. Build up a portfolio of work that excites you.
What’s the worst your manager can say? If he or she reacts poorly, feel free to start openly, loudly updating your CV for all to see.
2. Establish an internal group, competition or club. Having even one friend at work has an incredible impact on our engagement at work. So, if you’re stuck in a dead-end, dreary job, the simplest way to make it more tolerable is to assemble allies and cultivate camaraderie.
To do so, try starting an informal group that walks together, drinks coffee, plays kickball, goes to the dog park, exchanges extreme ironing tips or whatever. It doesn’t have to be anything weird.
You might also rustle up some positive social interaction by embracing the workplace benefits of fantasy sports or other friendly competitions. (Keep in mind most states frown on workplace gambling, so keep that high-stakes dice game in the back alley behind your house.)
3. Seek fulfillment elsewhere. If your efforts to find a friend or start a fun run, book club or fundraiser fail, fear not. Don’t rely on your job to provide profound fulfillment, joy or emotional encouragement. Find that stuff outside the office.
Use your off hours to get recharged and refreshed—emotionally, physically and spiritually. Visit your preferred house of worship. Go hiking. Join a weird exercise cult. Take self-care seriously, and view your job for what it is—a means to make money. Anything nice that occurs beyond that is gravy.
Consistently remind yourself how grateful you are for the opportunity to earn a living. However, your job doesn’t define you nor determine your self-worth—and it isn’t the thing that will bring you deep, lasting happiness.
4. Become a leader instead of a grumbler. You’ve likely heard the aphorism, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” Here’s a slight variation: “Be the change you want to see in your workplace.”
Complaining is easy. Fighting for change—especially if you’re a lower-level employee—is not. However, leading the charge for better pay, benefits, treatment or working conditions is a meaningful use of your time. If you dislike your work, try being an others-focused leader instead of an inward-obsessed grumbler. It might not transform your gig into a dream job, but you’ll squeeze more substance out of each day.