We’ve all had it happen. When your passion for a project, a job, a career putters out, it can be so disappointing. Depending on the situation, it can feel devastating. After sacrificing tens of thousands of dollars and years of your life gaining the education and training you need for a career only to find out that not only are you not excited by the career anymore, you are actively miserable in it, it can feel catastrophic. Every day feeling tedious, monotonous and feeling like you have lost that vibrancy your life once had.
It is becoming increasingly common now for people to switch careers more than once in their lives instead of sticking with one field and devoting the rest of your life to it.
But just because your enthusiasm is ebbing for what you do or what you’re working on, doesn’t mean it has to remain that way! Here are some things to consider or try out before throwing in the towel all together:
Clarify the Root of the Problem
You may be extremely aware of the aspects of your job or career that make you severely unhappy, but these are likely symptoms, not the actual problem. If you just make decisions and act based on these surface symptoms, the problem will still be with you in your new job or career.
Take some time, sit down and really pick apart what is eating away at this career or job about which you were once so passionate? Reflect even more on it to see if what you come up with might have another, bigger issue attached to it.
Be More Mindful
Yes, I know. In probably most of my posts I remind people to be more mindful of something. The truth is, being mindful of the details of a problem and how it is affecting you specifically, allows you make a sound plan and do something about it!
So study what this lack of enthusiasm feels like in the moment (this will feel very uncomfortable). How is it seeping into other parts of your life? Is it impacting your relationships? Can you feel the stress of this manifest in your body in any way like tight neck and shoulder muscles or constant fatigue? Are you able to feel enthusiasm or passion for other things in your life?
It’s tough, but it needs to be said. Might there be anything you are doing, on a conscious level or not, that is contributing to the problem? Often times we humans are very hesitant to allow change to happen to us, even if it is a positive development. We are excellent at self-sabotaging to avoid experiencing the uncomfortable change that would come with success. This is often not a fear that is in our immediate awareness.
So become mindful of this too. How might it feel if you were passionate or enthusiastic about your project, job, or career? How would that change how you feel emotionally or even physically? How might being successful change your relationships? Really visualize it in detail. Allowing yourself to experience the change in your mind, seeing yourself living in the change, can be a helpful way to get over the fear of success.
Having a deeper understanding of what you truly value in every aspect of your life is incredibly powerful. Sitting down and figuring out what your values are and how they rank in relation to each other can be a great way to help revive some of your passion and enthusiasm. Try this worksheet and see what you come up with!
What about your current job fits in with your personal values? Did you find that you highly value community and realize that you work on a great team with people you respect? It could be that you value being a loving, caring parent who provides for your family and your job allows you the income to do that. Knowing this could change how you view your day-to-day experience at work.
Be open to the possibility that perhaps over time, your values have changed and this could be part of the problem. If they have changed and changing jobs or career is not currently an option, begin experimenting with different aspects of your work that lend themselves more to your current values than your old ones. This brings me to my next point…
You’re probably thinking “Seriously? Work is already hard enough for me!” Yes, your day is probably very difficult to get through, it’s probably long, you probably stay late most nights. You can make the tedious, monotonous parts of your job feel more natural and fun if you set yourself new challenges. See how many reports or memos you can crank out in a certain amount of time. Push yourself to volunteer for a new project in a meeting. Playing this game of new challenges with yourself changes how you are approaching the issue altogether.
No matter what career, job, or field you are in, you are going to have aspects of it that are much less fun and you’ll probably find that they take up way too much of your work day. Make up games for yourself and be a little playful with it. Also, putting the items you want to do least at the top of your to-do list will mean that you get to them while you still have energy left. Leave the items you’re most excited about for last. You’ll be better at mustering up the enthusiasm to get to them with the added bonus of knowing your menial work is already done!
If after you try all of this and still feel like this is not the career or job for you, that’s okay! We can’t always know getting into a field if it is going to be completely right for us until we’re doing it. And sometimes that career was right for us at one point in our life but we’ve changed and so have our wants, needs, and values.
Remind yourself that you don’t have to stick yourself with something you hate just because at one point it was something you loved. It takes courage to say to yourself and especially your loved ones that you want to make this huge change and that no, you’re not sure how this is all going to turn out yet. Preparation will be key but it is completely possible to shift gears and let go of a career or job that was a major part of your identity. I bet if you begin asking around, you’ll find that a lot of other people you know have had several different careers and professional identities!