We may feel that the answer is to move to a new job but are frustrated by the lack of opportunities available, or feel trapped because we can't afford to walk away from the salary or benefits we have, or even perhaps because we've trained and studied to do what we're doing and are reluctant to call it quits and move on to something else.
However, the solution may not require us to change our jobs or switch companies. Often the problem with what we are experiencing rests far more with our perspective than it does with the job itself. Too many people expect their work to satisfy too many aspects of their needs. When we are not feeling fully satisfied with our lives we put the blame on our work not being challenging or fulfilling enough. I can't count the number of people I've met that shift jobs every 2 years on the search for the 'right' role, never stopping to consider that their search will be fruitless if they don't first shift their thinking.
The important mental shift to make is to stop thinking that your 'work' must be 100% responsible for your level of satisfaction with your life. I will often get my coaching clients to complete a satisfaction exercise that you can complete quite easily on your own.
- Take a piece of paper and draw a chart with three columns.
- In column one list everything that matters to you in life. Start by listing all of the things that a 'perfect' job would provide or contain (financial requirements, achievement, learning, etc.) but go on to include other 'life' elements that matter to you also that might not arise when you think of work (Spirituality, community, adventure, etc.)
- In the top of Column 2 write the word Work and then go down the list of elements in Column 1 indicating how well Work is currently satisfying each element for you. Use a 1 to 10 scale with 1 being not at all and 10 indicating you are fully satisfied.
- In the top of Column 3 write the work Personal and do exactly the same thing assessing (using the 1 to 10 scale) how well your non-work life satisfies each of the dimensions.
- Review the results... look for elements that score high at either work or in your personal sphere. These are elements where you are being satisfied either in one sphere or another. Recognise that work isn't meant to satisfy all dimensions all the time. The key is to build in satisfaction somewhere. These high scores indicate you are doing that. Celebrate that rather than berating work for perhaps not doing it enough.
- Look for elements that have low scores within both spheres. This indicates an area that you could benefit from improving. Put on your creativity hat and begin brainstorming ideas and ways that you could improve this score but ensure that you consider ways and means both inside and outside of work.
- Look for elements that matter to you most and, regardless of your score, brainstorm some ideas for building in even greater levels of satisfaction. If it's an element that matters a great deal to you then even a small shift upward in your levels, even if they aren't bad to start with, will go a long way to heightening your overall level of satisfaction.
- Review your list of generated ideas, highlight the one or two that really resonate with you and implement those.
What this exercise does is to force you to recognise and acknowledge that dissatisfaction with our work is sometimes a reflection of just an overall sense of dissatisfaction. All too often we expect our 'work' to make us happy without considering that it cannot possibly satisfy us in all aspects of our lives. Looking for ways we can strengthen our out-of-work activities and experiences can serve to heighten our overall sense of satisfaction and lead us to feeling much more positively about our job.
So, rather than cursing the job you have or feeling that you need to find a 'better' one, maybe you need to consider boosting your outside-of-work activities. If you are feeling a lack of engagement, satisfaction and energy then look to your hobbies. If they are comprised primarily of watching television and scrolling through social media then you can definitely use a boost!.
A true hobby is one that requires active and mindful engagement, an activity that serves to heighten your mood and build your skills. Any hobby can do this; explore which ones will serve you. From biking or hiking, to ballroom or hip hop dance, to quilting or painting, to woodworking or rebuilding cars. All that matters is that it is something that interests and engages you.
The moment you stop looking for work to serve as the sole source of satisfaction in your life, and find other outside sources of satisfaction, the happier you are going to find yourself at work. Outside interests can go a long way to cultivating your interest in the work you are doing.
Maybe the next time you are thinking you need a new job, stop and think about whether you need a new hobby!