If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. – Lao Tzu
You may have a dossier of secret facts about your work life — rarely shared with others. This dossier may contain bits of conversations, observations and difficult truths. It may reflect that you’ve noticed the number of buoyant, fulfilling work days is decreasing. That your patience may be wearing thin. That you may not feel the “gusto” when approaching the tasks you might normally find engaging.
That the work somehow feels more difficult.
That joy is largely absent.
Time to open that dossier.
First things first. Have you stopped to process its contents or simply continued to muddle through without pausing? Know that to remain on the positive side of the joy equation, attention to this situation is vital. You can improve your joy factor. However, step one is to slow down, acknowledge the issue and develop a plan to help you address the deficit.
Here are a few steps to consider:
- Allow yourself that moment of recognition. You are experiencing a joy deficit. Stop fighting what you are feeling. Offer yourself the freedom to admit that things feel “off”. Attempt to leave any judgement concerning this state behind. Simply feel the emotion. We cannot affect, what we do not recognize.
- Acknowledge joy as a priority. Where has it been written that joy cannot be synonymous with work life? In fact according to research, most of us expect joy from our work, but many fail to experience it. There is always room in our work lives to build or seek joy — in elements both large and small.
- Examine your personal history. I’m certain this isn’t the first time you have felt weary at work. Look to your past and note when you might have felt the most drained (psychologically, spiritually, creatively). What was happening? Then, examine how & why you came through the impasse. Was it simply the passage of time? Was it a change of pace? A new chapter? What impacted your joy factor? What moves the needle?
- Try the arts for a kick-start. Solace can arrive in a multitude of forms. The arts can offer a time-worn solutions to spark the joy that could spill over to work life. Choose one form — art, film, poetry, photography, short-stories and dive in. Try the Pomodoro Method to help get the momentum going. Give it 5 days. Then check back with your mood & see if anything has shifted.
- Talk it out. Never under-estimate the power of sharing your feelings with another human being. Explaining how you feel, to a sympathetic ear should never be avoided. Whether this is a friend, counselor, psychologist or trusted colleague, try the cathartic method and share, share, share.
- Write it down. I’m not going to go on and on about the benefits of writing/journaling. The process of laying out your experiences in written form & a plan to affect it, can become a joy deficit shifter. Begin by answering this question: What brings me joy at work? Is it landing a new client contract? Building a great team? Sharing your work? Recognizing the contributions of others? The connections you’ve made among colleagues? Self-knowledge is power.
Have a minute? Share the elements that increase your work life joy coffers in comments.
Marla Gottschalk is an I/O Psychologist & work life blogger who explores core stability and its impact on work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.