I have dealt with hundreds of youth and young adults going through the process of finding one’s life purpose or redefining it. This is always exciting as such clients are entering a new and promising stage. Mentors and life coaches are also sought after when people have recently quit their jobs (or want to) in hopes of rediscovering a new path in their lives. However, I feel that the people that do not get addressed or written about as much are those that stay in their jobs for the long haul. I am speaking particularly to those who are facing small or big ruts in their lives i.e. to those who have occasional ennui or even long moments of languor. Yet they have little leeway in changing their situation due to financial obligations, seniority or just the very fact that they are too old to retrain or are already very near their retirement date.
1. The first thing to do is to analyze where exactly the dissatisfaction is coming from. A common problem is when the job just doesn’t offer the same challenges it used to when you first started out. Another possible issue is when the corporate culture in your department changes due to a change in management or staff or both. For your own happiness and sanity, it’s vital to make sure that there is absolutely no way that a career or company change can be made first. If a career move is not an alternative, there are approaches to work that can be taken to help one alleviate boredom or the lack of dynamic emotional flow.
2. Scope out any other positions. One possibility is to see if there are other positions in the same company or another branch. Some people fear that showing any curiosity about other positions could jeopardize their current one. This could be true but if that is the case, then it would help to speak to colleagues in the know before approaching your own manager/senior about your desire.
3. Redefine part of your job role. I know someone who has been in her job for more than eight years as a statistician. For the last two years, she had felt a certain work ennui and had considered leaving the company. However, she had a fair bit of dialogue with her CEO and mentioned a few ways she felt she could add value to the company. The CEO agreed and allowed her to have more input in her department which entailed her expanding her role without actually being promoted. The non-promotion did not matter to her. It was the ability to redefine her position that allowed her to try out new ideas and which obviously gave her great satisfaction as she told me she was rather happy in her company now. There are three things to learn from this. If she hadn’t taken the initiative to do anything, nothing would have happened. The second point was that she knew how to couch her suggestion in such a way where she “could add value to the company” as opposed to “what I think your company needs to do”. The third thing—although it’s often impossible to completely change your job role, changing a part of it helps.
4. Adjust your job perspective. I have recently been helping someone who has been experiencing work ennui due to many years working at the same office. In one of our sessions, I asked him what extra-curricular activity gave his joy and a sense of serenity. He mentioned gardening. We explored what exactly about the activity was attractive to him. I then told him to take various parts of his work life and to imagine them in terms of gardening metaphors. This helps when boredom is partly due to task repetition. At work, one can try this exercise of viewing a daily routine the way one would plan where and what to plant. One can view clients or tasks as different types of plants who need their own type of care and pruning. Another version of this exercise is when one visualizes the favoured activity, one can take that joyful feeling and feel into it when doing the most tedious tasks of the day.
5. Another coping methodology is to practice a combination of partitioning and mindfulness. Paper work and report writing are tasks that most people do not enjoy which is why they are often a cause for procrastination. When envisaging a project report, one can become overwhelmed by the enormity or the tedium of the task. However if one breaks the larger task into smaller ones interspersed by doing something easier or more interesting, this can lessen the feeling of dread. Mindfulness is different from using one’s favourite hobby (such as gardening) as a work metaphor. Instead one breaks down a task and endeavors to appreciate the value of different aspects of the task.
6. Involve others. Asking for input can help you add a fresh perspective on a work account or project. At the same time, if you can help other colleagues with any work without their seeing it as intrusive, then by all means do so. This also adds a greater sense of solidarity at work which brings me to the next point.
I often encourage people to make at least one friend at work even if that person does not have the exact same seniority. It is always good to have a person one can have occasional lunches or short chats with in an eight hour day.
7. Try to not lump everyone as difficult or boring just as it is important to not lump every work activity as utterly tedious. One can admit to certain truths but seeing something in black and white terms is a definite route to anxiety or work depression. This sometimes happens on a very bad day or a string of bad days. But it is important to get back on track and find one or two elements at work that can actually give one some form of satisfaction.
8. Lastly, take shorter but more vacation days. This is another way to add quality to your life. It’s one way to regularly reward yourself by and experience extra spurts of joy de vivre. Taking an occasional course or hobby where you can meet people who share the same interests as you is also another way to gain stimulation and make another circle of friends.
In the final analysis, unless you are very near to the retirement deadline or if this is the one job that is paying some substantial loans, it is still worth considering putting the word out to friends about the ideal job position you would like and the skills you have to offer. If it is getting very difficult to wake up in the morning to muster the get go, then changing your mindset or work environment are really two vital avenues to consider for your mental health sake. If we only have one life to live, it is definitely worthwhile learning techniques to avoid a situation you are unhappy about.