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In one of my favourite books, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, author Alain de Botton spends a chapter detailing his time spent with a career counsellor.
de Botton explores the career of Robert Symons – a British man who claims he has found meaning in his job by helping others find meaning in theirs. It’s a fascinating read because it quite simply answers the question about why people might hate their job:
They expect too much from it.
It’s an interesting read (one that I recommend) but the outcome of this chapter is somewhat along the lines of “in order to be happy at work, you need to lower your expectations”. It’s not to say you can’t be happy at work, but it does sometimes require a person to give up the romantic notion that your job should be giving you this, and that, and everything else you’ve always wanted.
In fact, it sounds a lot like relationships. So, how can you rekindle the love you once had with your job?
Well, like a relationship or a marriage, it often requires you to take a step back. Think about when the last time was that you felt happy. When was that? What were you doing when you were happy? Chances are you’ll discover that you don’t hate your job as it is now – you’ll hate the way you’re doing it. This is good news, because this can be fixed.
I can’t remember exactly, but in de Botton’s book, Symons gets his clients to think in detail about what they hate about their jobs. Then, they dissect the reasoning behind this hate, and often they discover they don’t actually hate it, it’s just easier to say they hate it, because they’ve believed themselves for so long.
An important thing to remember when reevaluating your career choices is that what you like is not the exact opposite of what you hate. Meaning, a job hop into something totally different is not necessarily going to be the answer to your career woes.
Therefore, it’s important – once you’ve figured this out – to speak up about what you want. Do not assume your boss or manager knows what you want, and even if you think you’ve made yourself clear, make yourself even clearer.
It’s exactly the same as dealing with frictions in your romantic relationships, and it’s the reason why many of them break down. One party think they’ve made themselves clear, and the other thinks they’ve done what they can to accommodate them, when in fact both parties have been communicating extremely poorly with one another.
So, start talking! I mean, if the alternative is to quit your job, then what’s the problem?
Lastly, when figuring out how to find the love in your job again, focus on the bits you love. Most of what we do during the working day are not things we love doing. They are things that are necessary for our jobs to continue – meetings, emails, mundane tasks, etc – but they’re not what keeps you ticking.
Make time to really do the things you love at work. Schedule it in if you have to, or put less pressing things aside to do the tasks that affect your bigger purpose at work. I’m not sure what will happen exactly, but surely it’s better than sitting there moaning to yourself about doing something you claim to hate.
The secret to happiness, or at least contentment, with our jobs isn’t about making our jobs work better for us – it’s about working better in our jobs once we’ve taken a realistic look at what we’re doing.