Regaining Passion for Your Job
By David Buckmaster
March 23, 2009
David Buckmaster lives and works in the Seattle, Washington area. He can be found on Twitter at @d_buckmaster.
Of those on the good side of that statistic, only half are said to be satisfied with their current place of employment. Even fewer can say they are passionate about their job. For an increasing number of people then, having a bad case of the Mondays is a weeklong event.
Why are so many people unsatisfied with their job? Many times people will say some variation of the following:
I don’t get any recognition for the work I do.
My boss and/or coworkers are jerks.
This job is a dead end.
While these are valid complaints, they won’t help you become passionate about your job. To do that starts with reflecting on the following questions:
1. Where does your validation come from?It’s said that God is more concerned with who you are becoming than with what you do for a living. In light of this, what measures are you using to define job success, and most importantly, who are you looking at to tell you if you are successful? If your answer to the second question is anyone other than the God who loves you without conditions, you will eventually be disappointed. While most employers offer recognition programs and performance reviews as a temporary ego boost, lasting job satisfaction will come only when you direct your need for affirmation to the right place.
2. How well do you know your boss and/or coworkers?
I’m convinced that an inverse relationship exists between how much you hate your job and how well you know your colleagues. I don’t mean that if you bring cupcakes to the office and join the party planning committee you will immediately start loving your job. I’m saying that it’s hard to hold a grudge against your micromanaging boss when you have been walking with her through a bitter divorce. And you can’t get too mad over your health insurance premium increasing when the coworker you babysit for was just laid off. Even if it means talking to the maintenance guy with the awkward lingering handshake or the woman in accounting who steals all of your purple paperclips, at some point you have to make yourself vulnerable and invest in the lives of others. You may not learn to love your job, but you can learn to love your coworkers.
3. Are you doing anything to prepare for a change?
While the economy doesn’t currently lend itself to job hunting, that shouldn’t stop you from preparing for the future. If you know you are meant for something different, what skills are you building right now to make a change? It may mean sticking out your current job to gain experience, finishing a degree, learning a second language or writing that business plan you’ve been toying with for years. My friend John has no job, but loves baseball passionately. He loves it so much that he has spent the better part of the last two years trying to get a full-time job in scouting. If “atta boys” could pay the bills, John’s past advice to professional scouts could buy a senate seat in Illinois. He leaves this week for the Dominican Republic, where he will live at a baseball academy to scout. Though he isn’t getting paid and doesn’t know if it will translate into a full-time gig, he has 20 pages of notes ready to go for a screenplay about the cartel-like buying and selling of baseball players in the third world as a backup plan.
Two of the biggest myths in our culture are that the only worthwhile professions are the glamorous ones, and that you are less valuable if you aren’t calling the shots. It’s easy to get wrapped up in these feelings of entitlement and anxiousness about the future, and I often do. But then I’ll hear a story like the following that instantly rearranges my priorities.
My organization cares for abused and neglected children across Florida and internationally. On a recent trip to Russia, our staff partnered with a local orphanage for children with AIDS. They were able to offer basic hygienic advice that will have an immediate impact saving hundreds of lives. As I let the implications of that story sink in, I could feel the weight of my selfishness press down upon me like a ton of TPS reports. However indirect my role was, I need reminders like this. It is important to see that when my priorities don’t line up with the world’s needs, I am the one who needs to adjust.
As Christians, we have to get to the point where, as Paul says, we are content regardless of our circumstances. Coming from a man who suffered beatings, false imprisonment and constant persecution, Paul was able to remain not just content, but passionate through it all. Paul’s life implies that in regards to passion, we have a choice to make, and that our external situation has very little to do with it.
There are a lot of things you can’t control about your job, but your attitude toward it isn’t one of them. When you choose to do your job creatively, with integrity and in a way that gives life to others, you can find passion in even the most mundane occupations. But if you are content in hating your job until something better comes along, just be sure to keep it to yourself. Remember that at 4.1 to 1, choosing to be passionate about the job you have is looking more and more like a good option.