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Love your job again

Article

The honeymoon is over. You've settled into your new place, routine has set in, and you're starting to realize this marriage thing isn't exactly how you dreamed it would be. Sound familiar?

The honeymoon is over. You've settled into your new place, routine has set in, and you're starting to realize this marriage thing isn't exactly how you dreamed it would be. Sound familiar? There's one hitch: The love affair we're talking about is the relationship you used to have with your job. Are you ready to rediscover your passion for your work?

OK, let's be honest, it's hard to keep a job exciting, or even tolerable. So my goal is to give you easy tools to create satisfying workdays and learn to love your work again.

Now some of you are thinking your workplace is the problem. And it's true that there are some workplaces where mismanagement or a negative atmosphere make work unbearable. But for the most part, where you are today is just where you're supposed to be.

Christiane Holbrook

So let's start by adjusting your expectations. You won't find a formula that transforms your boss into a saint or turns long hours into short minutes. A more realistic solution is to spend a little time in self-reflection and realize that your job is only as interesting as what you contribute to it. As you grow, your work grows.

Sorry, no magic pill; just the truth. But I can offer you a little something to help the truth pill go down easier—a love potion to help you grow in your job and rekindle your enthusiasm:

balance + focus + purpose + relationships = A GREAT LIFE

Imagine yourself in a boat on the ocean, setting sail for a beautiful tropical island. Even if you've never sailed before you know that the sails alone won't get you there. You need a rudder to give you direction. Once you put the rudder down, you can steer in the direction you want to go.

Without the rudder, the boat floats in a circle, at risk of toppling over with every wave that hits. And you'll never get to your destination. So, to live a great life, you need a rudder. Use these steps to find your rudder and plot your course. 4

1. Live in balance

Balance requires regular attention to four areas of your life: your body, mind, heart, and soul. If you aren't eating right, sleeping enough, and getting enough downtime and exercise, even the most exciting work will lose its luster fast. Yes, you could live off adrenaline for a few days but then you would get tired, lose concentration, and feel drained.

Recognize the real problem

The same holds true for your mind. Without intellectual stimulation, boredom sets in. Why do you think washing the dishes is so boring? Because there's nothing new to learn about this task. Yet I bet there are areas within your work that you haven't explored. For example, if you commit to reading only one book a month on a subject that relates to your work, your peers will undoubtedly look to you for your expertise.

Once you've put your body and mind on the treadmill, it's time to give your heart a workout by cultivating close friendships. We all know how difficult it can be to stay connected with people in this fast-paced life. Yet we've all received that special card from someone we care about that made our day. Nourish your friendships and you'll feel connected, cared for, and ready to bring your best to your work.

The final piece in your rebalancing act is connecting with your spiritual side. No, this isn't about going to church necessarily. This is about time alone, spent in silence.

Our desire to surround ourselves with radio, music, podcasts, and television is so ingrained that we often forget to get away. So try turning off the radio in the car for 10 minutes, going without television for one night, or taking a walk without your iPod, so you can listen to your inner self. You will hear the truth. Listening to the truth will be one of your most powerful aids to help you make important life decisions.

SELF-EVALUATION: Do you spend enough time on all four areas of your life—your body, mind, heart, and soul? Which areas need rebalancing?

2. Find your focus

There's no doubt that e-mail, the Internet, and cell phones allow us to connect with others faster, but they also make it more difficult to focus on our work. We get sidetracked, multitask, and think we're getting so much done when really we're getting a lot of mediocre work done.

Nobody feels good about delivering mediocre work; there's no pride in it. We know, deep within ourselves, that we could do better.

In this loud world of ours, focusing is hard. I'm always tempted to check my e-mail while I write an article or to answer the phone while I finish an e-mail. The result: a so-so e-mail and a person on the other end of the line who doesn't feel listened to.

If you're starting to feel guilty, don't. Just commit to recording your daily activities for a few days and see where you get distracted. Then add 10 extra minutes of your undivided attention to your task and see how much more empowered and competent you feel. A side effect: You finish your task faster and have time for more fun activities.

Attention, technicians, find room to grow

SELF-EVALUATION: Where do you lose focus quickly? What sidetracks you?

3. Discover your purpose

Nowadays bookstores are bursting with books discussing purpose, finding your purpose, following your calling, and finding a dream job that gives you purpose. In reality, what you need is to find purpose in the job you have. We all forget from time to time why we do what we do. The result: Our enthusiasm deflates like a balloon with a slow leak. Finding your purpose at work helps you re-inflate your balloon.

Again, I'm not asking you to turn your life upside down or to move to Africa to save the giraffes. I'm suggesting that you find purpose in who you are. Who do you want to be in your work? How can your talents meet the needs of the world in your present job?

Paula is a great example. She's been keeping the books for XYZ Animal Hospital for almost 10 years now and she can add the columns and figures in her sleep. She's bored and she's seriously considering taking a huge financial risk by leaving the practice and the profession all together.

One day she realizes that there's always someone in her office talking about personal issues. She recognizes that her open, caring nature attracts others to share their feelings. She also learns that she's taken for granted how much satisfaction these conversations offer her.

By focusing on how and where she could make a difference in someone's life, she finds that she loves coming to work again. It's not necessarily the nature of her work that gives her the most satisfaction but the connection she's fostering with team members.

SELF-EVALUATION: What can you do to support others? What do you enjoy most during your day? That's your purpose.

4. Build strong relationships

So many people ask themselves, why am I here? What's my calling? Well, most great thinkers agree that productive work and meaningful relationships with others give us the most satisfaction in life.

I hope you've developed some great relationships with your co-workers, but don't stop there. What about suppliers, clients, and managers? To feel truly connected and satisfied at work, you need to look at all your relationships, not just the ones with people in similar positions to you.

First of all, as great as they might be, it's tempting to use co-worker relationships to unload frustration and grief. There's a place for that, but it can become the major conversation topic. That isn't going to solve any problems with work or elevate your satisfaction with your own performance.

So reach out to people outside your comfort zone. Start by making a list of people you encounter often during your day but haven't built a relationship with, such as the mailman or your drug rep. Another great relationship-builder: Learn at least five personal facts about each of your top clients.

There's so much more to people than we tend to realize, and it's immensely satisfying to learn more about those around you. One of the deepest human needs is to be heard and listened to.

Think back to the last time you really listened to somebody. What happened? I expect that you felt great—and so did the person you listened to.

SELF-EVALUATION: Can you be a good listener today and deepen your purpose at work?

I saved this piece of wisdom for last: When you truly put this formula of balance + focus + purpose + relationships into practice in your life, you'll not only enjoy your work day more and feel better about your life, others will recognize you as someone they can trust. And they will reward you with more responsibility, more exciting projects, and more financial perks.

How do I know that? Because 95 percent of people never put down the rudder in their lifeboats. They never take control of their lives, and they never commit to bringing their personal best to their work and to their relationships. So start practicing this formula for a great life today. It's never too crowded along this extra mile. Your skills and efforts will be recognized and rewarded, guaranteed!

Oh, by the way, don't forget to try this formula out in your love life, too. You'll be surprised. Maybe the honeymoon isn't over yet!

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