When Your Heart Isn’t in Your Work Anymore
In an ideal world, our work lives would be completely fulfilling, full of meaning, and intrinsically satisfying.
But what happens when they’re not? What happens when your work, once a perfect fit with your gifts and interests, has become unfulfilling?
You may have been evolving, but your work stayed the same, and the work you once loved is now keeping you stuck.
Your heart isn’t there anymore.
If this is you, know that you’re not alone. More people find themselves in this situation than you’d think. I come across examples of career stuckness all the time — in my work with private clients, in my DMs on social media and in conversations with family and friends.
Though the tendency among some is to simply grin and bear it, there are steps you can take to reimagine, reenvision or reinvent a renewed inspiring professional life:
Make an honest life assessment.
When you look at your life as a whole, what do you want to experience in this season of your life? What might it tell you about what you want out of work at this point in your life? Not everyone wants or feels called to fulfil themselves through their career. There might be a season when one feels more inspired, driven and passionate about finding a career that feels truly meaningful to them, an experience of work that’s engaging, intrinsically motivating, or/ and has a positive impact on the world. And then, there may be seasons in life where one might feel more drawn towards a ‘simpler’ career, one that pays the bills, that doesn't ‘interfere’ with their personal life, where they don’t feel a strong connection to their workplace, and therefore allows them to focus on creating a life outside-of-work life that they love (a family life, a creative life, a hobby life, a volunteering life, etc.) There’s no good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse. The key for you is to determine what YOU care about now — what drives you, what you’re passionate about, what truly motivates you, what matters to you, what you value and your priorities — and build from there. It’s quite possible that what drove your career in your 20s is no longer relevant. Don’t force your 30-, 40-, 50-, or 60-year-old self into your 20-year-old sense of drive. There’s a caveat though – if you find yourself in a job that you hate, or that you’re bored of, or that you’re terrible at or that is ‘soul-sucking’ – in my opinion, no one should stay in this situation for too long. Our careers don’t have to be rooted in our passions or purpose. However, our careers should enable us to discover and invest in our passion and purpose. Our careers should allow us the space, time or money to fuel what truly makes us come alive. If your career allows you to express your purpose, then that’s amazing. If your career allows you to explore your purpose, then that is amazing as well! See if you can redesign your current job. Some parts of your job may be ‘craftable’, meaning you might be able to tweak certain aspects of your job to gain a greater sense of meaning and satisfaction. There has been considerable research on this idea of ‘job crafting’ by organisational behaviour scholars Justin Berg, Jane Dutton, and Amy Wrzesniewski, which has shown that sometimes it’s possible to get more meaning out of our jobs simply by changing what we do and the ‘whole point’ behind it. This may include redesigning what we do at work, relationships, and our perceptions of our jobs. For example, if you enjoy research but not sales, can you adjust your responsibilities in that direction? If you love working with others but most of your day consists of individual work, can you shift to working on projects that involve more collaboration? One of the participants from Berg, Dutton, and Wrzesniewski’s research redesigned her marketing job to include more event planning, even though it wasn’t originally part of her job description. But as she was going through the process of job crafting she discovered she liked it and was good at it, and by doing so, she could add value to the company and to her own work experience at the same time. Another great example of job crafting is a corporate attorney with a passion for teaching who started an intern program. Do a “before” and “after” sketch of your job responsibilities, with the “before” representing the uninspiring status quo and the “after” representing future possibilities. What tweaks can you make to redesign your job, even slightly? Sometimes even the smallest adjustments can lead to meaningful changes in how you experience your work. Explore your passions and interests outside of work. Having a rich life outside of work can counterbalance the monotony of nine-to-five daily work. These inspirational endeavours may even have unintended positive effects at work, boosting your energy and inspiration to reconnect with parts of work you actually like. This can look like reigniting an old passion, pursuing a new hobby, starting a passion project you’ve been interested in working on for a while but couldn’t find the time or energy for it or perhaps even starting a ‘side hustle’ that could potentially turn into your full-time job in the future. Try my ‘What’s In Your Attic?’ exercise to help you discover what it may look like. Sometimes it’s just time to make a change. Sometimes, you just know in your bones that it’s time to move on. You don’t have to exhaust all possibilities before you make a move, but it’s important not to act on impulse. To really allow yourself the time to consider – What is it that you truly want? How do you want the next season of your life and career to feel? What would fulfilment at work look like for you? What would alignment with work look like for you? What would expressing yourself at work look like? At the same time, it’s important to remember that big life changes are always going to feel scary, which is part of the reason why it’s so easy to get stuck in indecision. What’s key here is, on one hand, not to make a rash decision, and on the other hand, not to fall into endless procrastination. I hope these prompts and suggestions help you to see how you can improve your situation, or at the very least, have given you some food for thought. Most importantly, though, if you’re finding yourself uninterested, uninspired and unmotivated at work, I hope that within these paragraphs you can see that there are possibilities out there for you. Don’t lose hope. There are ways you can reignite your passion and find your way forward with a renewed sense of purpose. If guidance and support around this feels like your right next step, I would love to take you on this journey. If you're interested in connecting for a chat to learn more and see if we are a good fit you can apply for a free 30-minute consultation right here.