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Are you happy at your job? What should you do when you hate your job, but you can’t quit?
Your job satisfaction inevitably affects the rest of your life: If you like your job, you’ll have more energy to enjoy your personal life. If you hate your job, your dissatisfaction will lead to lower energy throughout the rest of the week. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of doing work they love: Many people hate their jobs but feel powerless in changing the situation.
Here’s what to do when you hate your job.
Solution 1: Create Your Perfect Position
In her book 168 Hours, productivity expert Laura Vanderkam argues that if you want to have a meaningful life, you must intentionally choose work you love for two main reasons. First, you spend many hours at work, so your job satisfaction inevitably affects the rest of your life.
Second, Vanderkam argues that if you enjoy your job, you’re more likely to achieve more in your career. When your job involves your unique strengths, you enjoy it more. When you enjoy your job, you spend more hours working—and thus are more likely to become an expert in your field.
According to Vanderkam, a fulfilling job has four main elements. When all the four elements are present, you are in what Vanderkam calls a “perfect position.”
- First, you enjoy and are good at the work (because it involves your unique strengths), so you’re willing to do the work even without the prospect of external rewards.
- Second, you have some control over how you do the work; for example, you can decide what time you want to work.
- Third, the work is hard but not too hard—and so provides regular opportunities to enter “flow,” a mental state in which you’re so immersed in the activity that you lose track of time.
- Fourth, you work in a supportive environment; for example, you have great bosses.
However, Vanderkam recognizes that you’ll likely not be able to find your perfect position because it’s tailored to your unique strengths and preferences. That’s why you must create it. You have two main options when creating this position.
Start Your Own Company
The first option to create your perfect position is to start your own company. This might involve chasing a lifelong dream; for example, you might finally open the bakery you’ve always dreamed of having. Alternatively, this might involve starting a company that’s not necessarily aligned with your passions but increases the control and support you have in your life. For example, you might not love accounting but having your own accounting firm will give you the flexibility to work remotely.
Adjust Your Current Position
The second option is to adjust your current position so it’s more closely aligned with your ideal. Vanderkam writes that most employers prioritize their bottom line—so they’re often not picky about exactly what you do, as long as it brings in profit. As such, they’ll likely be willing to adjust your position in the way you want, as long as you frame your desire in a way that prioritizes their profit margin.
For example, say you spend half your time marketing a product and half your time selling it, but you’re the top salesperson in your company and hate marketing. If you say, “I could double my sales if I didn’t spend all this time marketing,” your company may be willing to let you reduce or eliminate your marketing responsibilities.
Solution 2: Find Meaningful Work (Even if It’s Unpaid)
Meaningful work is any work that you’re passionate about. While some people have the privilege of making money doing the thing they love, most people have to find this work outside of their careers. This could be through volunteering, finding a hobby, or joining local organizations. For example, if you love performing, you could participate in a local choir or community theater.
Many people associate “work” with money, especially in American culture. This causes many people to avoid pursuing their passions because they fear it will take time away from “real work.” For example, an accountant may ignore their love of writing because they’re afraid it will take time away from the accounting work that brings home a paycheck.
If you don’t like your work but don’t have the opportunity to change occupations, consider finding meaningful work that brings you internal satisfaction. In her book The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown offers wise advice on what to do when you hate your job: Find meaningful work (even if it’s unpaid) and let go of expectations, especially around money. If something is meaningful to you, then it’s important. You don’t have to make money doing it. While financial factors may keep you from investing all of your time into your passions, finding some time for meaningful work will provide fulfillment and purpose.
TITLE: The Power Of Vulnerability
AUTHOR: Brené Brown
Solution 3: Change Your Perspective
Working a job you hate day in and day out is soul-sucking, yet many people won’t even try to escape because they conceive of their work as something they have to endure. Thinking of your job as something you have to endure has a massive impact on your overall happiness. If you hate your job, you’ll spend a third of your life feeling resentful and dissatisfied—assuming you spend about a third of your life at work. What’s worse, these negative feelings drain your energy and bleed over into the free time you work so hard to earn. You either feel too tired or frustrated about work to enjoy your free time, or you spend a large part of that time dreading your return to work.
According to Neil Pasricha, the author of The Happiness Equation, you should think of work not as a means to an end but as a means to satisfaction. Try to find work in an area that aligns with your interests and passions, you feel more engaged, motivated, and productive—and therefore happy—in that third of your life.
For your long-term strategy, Pasricha recommends substituting your goal to retire with an ongoing goal to look for challenging opportunities that keep you active and engaged. For example, you may continue to work, set learning goals, or volunteer for causes you care about.
TITLE: The Happiness Equation
AUTHOR: Neil Pasricha
Job satisfaction influences both your physical and mental health, the lack of which may drain the energy you need both to enjoy your personal life and succeed at work. So, what to do if you hate your job? You have only two options: change the situation or change your perspective.
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