Did you ever wake up with the “I hate Mondays” syndrome only to realize that it was a Wednesday? We all have moments when our job seems humdrum, or our career feels like it’s going nowhere. When this happens, if we dig deeply enough, we will discover that there are underlying feelings involved, whether it’s boredom, frustration, anxiety, or something else, which cause us to feel stuck, indecisive, or ambivalent about our work. At the core of those feelings are unexpressed sadness, anger, and fear.
Here are some quick ways to transform feelings of being stuck into renewed energy and motivation.
Express buried emotions.
It’s helpful to know that emotions—sadness, anger, and fear—are just pure energy in your body. If you look at the word “emotion,” it’s energy (e) in motion. Take some time in private to move those emotions out of your body, express them physically and in ways that are constructive. By crying to express sadness (watch a sad movie), punching or yelling into a pillow or stomping around to release the anger, or doing exaggerated shivering for the fear, you express the emotion. The energy dissipates and you won’t feel stuck.
Align short- and long-term goals.
Have you gotten complacent, lazy, or unmotivated at work? If you are struggling with a temporary inability to take action, there’s a fix for this too. You need to get a clear picture of your long-term work objectives for 1 month, 1 year, 5 years, and lifetime so you can figure out if your daily actions are moving you closer to these career goals or farther away. Write down your work goals for these four time frames. How can you make what you do today and next week build on your longer-term goals?
Discover your purpose.
Does your work feel meaningless and do your days feel empty? The fix is easy. Spend a couple minutes each day answering one of these questions: Why am I here? What am I doing? Where am I going? What do I truly want? What is important to me? Don’t censor yourself, and be patient and persistent—a satisfying answer will soon emerge. Finding and aligning with your purpose will restore your perspective and help you feel anchored regardless of the work you’re doing.
Give your job a grade.
Do you wonder if maybe you need to look for a new job? There’s an easy way to find out how good this job really is: grade it. Here’s how. Write down a list of at least 30 ideal qualities you’d like to have in a job if you could “have it all.” Now give each item a score: 1 = your work has that quality; 0.5 = your work has it somewhat; 0 = your work lacks the quality. Now add up your score and divide it by the number of qualities in your list to arrive at a percentage. That’s your job’s “grade”—90% and above is an A, 80% is a B, 70% is a C, and so on. This gives you an objective, accurate way to assess whether you should accept where you are or seriously consider moving on.
Do you feel pessimistic about your career? Do you notice what’s wrong around you more than what’s right? The fix for this type of rut is to recognize that you may have limited control over your situation or environment, but you have total control over how you perceive it. Mentally find something positive about everyone you encounter. Voice an appreciation for your job at least twice a day. Looking for the good in people around you will lift up your attitude.
Is there a sense of hopelessness about what you’re doing? Do you feel as if you don’t quite belong? Although this may sound a bit melodramatic, it’s not uncommon for people to feel defeated at work—especially when they’re engaged in a project that’s taxing, boring, or overwhelming. The best way to overcome defeat is to take charge of your life. Start by sleeping, eating, and exercising regularly. This will bring your body back into balance. Help someone else at work who’s struggling. This will give you a sense of mastery and accomplishment. And take at least one small action step each day to nourish yourself, whether it’s asking for help or completing a dreaded task you’ve been avoiding.
Accept the way things are.
Do you feel annoyed by people who try to get you to do more work or do it differently? Feeling entitled and intolerant is another way we get stuck in our careers. The fix: accept reality. Make a list of everyone and everything at your job you don’t like. Next to each item on your list, write and then repeat 11 times, “The [fill in the blank] is the way it is, not the way I think it should be,” or “My work mate is the way she is, not the way I want her to be.” You will be amazed at how quickly this little exercise will move you from frustration to true acceptance.