This is a question many of us ask ourselves. We want to know why we sometimes hate our jobs and if we could, one day, find a job that we enjoy or love. Maybe you don’t ask this question with these exact words, but if you often think about how much you dislike your job or dream about a different one, then you are still looking for the same kind of answers.
I think that this question is very important and many people would like to find the answer to it. And there are so many answers to it. Most of them are probably wrong, but some are right and practical.
Let me give you some of the “wrong”, incomplete or misleading answers first. Some people think that the difference between a job you love and a job you hate is:
- the amount of money you earn
- the field in which you work
- your position in the company
- the house and car you can buy with your salary
- how many vacation days you have
- the perks and benefits you get
All these things matter much less than we think they do. I know, you don’t want to believe me. I get it. But I did not randomly pick these answers. There is a good reason why I chose these answers. I could explain each point separately, but that would take about 6 more articles. Keep reading and you’ll find the answers you are looking for.
So these are the “wrong” answers. But what are the right ones? In short, there are a few things that make you love your job more. Here are some of the factors that truly make a difference:
- how meaningful your work is
- how often you use your strengths and skills
- the opportunities to improve
- how much you can contribute in a meaningful way
- having freedom and control over your work
I would say that there is a very big difference between the “wrong” answers and the “right” ones. One of the differences is that the things in the first category are sometimes easier to understand and pursue. The ones in the second category are a bit more vague, abstract and they seem harder to achieve. So let me simplify everything.
The only thing you need to change
What if I told you that you can focus on just one thing? What if I told you that if you change just one thing, you will begin to enjoy your job much more – regardless of what you do and where you work? It is true that some jobs are easier, better paid or more suited for you than others, but you can find a way to enjoy almost any work (as long as it’s not dangerous or degrading).
The only thing that you need to change to stop hating your job and to start loving it is…your mindset!
What does this mean? Well, simply put, it’s all about the way you think about your job. Your perspective influences the way you feel more than you probably realize.
Let me give you a great example from Martin Seligman’s book “Authentic Happiness”. Seligman was in a hospital to visit a friend when he noticed a man who worked there. That man was an orderly.1 If, like me, you don’t know what an orderly does, I’ll tell you: they usually assist patients in hospitals, but they do not provide medical assistance. They may help patients eat, get dressed, shave them before a surgery and so on.
But this orderly that Seligman noticed was different. He took his job very seriously and went the extra mile. Besides doing his duty, he used to put pictures in the patients’ room. Why? He wanted his patients to see something beautiful while they are in the hospital. He wanted to help patients recover and he considered that he is also responsible for the health of the patients.1
This man was not directly responsible for the patient’s treatments or medical interventions. So technically, he could not do much to influence a patient’s state or recovery. However, by doing his job and by putting nice pictures on the walls, he thought that he was indeed increasing the comfort of the patients and helping them recover faster.
If you would talk to another orderly from the same hospital, they would probably tell you that they only take away trays and prepare patients for surgery. But there was this man who thought that his job was to take care of patients and help make their recovery more pleasant. As a consequence, he was probably happier with his job and he may indeed have helped patients feel better. This is a great example of the power of mindset and perspective.
How to change your mindset
If you want to love your job, you need to develop a better perspective. And you can do that, no matter what your job is. There are a few factors that make us love our jobs. We are proud to work on something and we find our work meaningful and rewarding when:
- it helps us develop and it challenges us
- it helps others
- it is related to a good cause
If you want to find a better way to think of your work, start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you use your skills at work? Which ones do you use and how often?
- Can you do something to use your skills more often or use more of your skills?
- Are you learning new things? Do you get to develop or acquire new skills at work?
- Do you feel challenged and motivated?
- Which tasks motivate you?
- What part of your job do you enjoy?
- Does your job consist of helping others? How?
- Do you often help your colleagues when they are in difficulty?
- Could you help your clients or colleagues more?
- Does your company have a mission? Is it a mission you believe in?
- What good thing can you accomplish by doing your job?
- What positive change do you create in your office or your community by doing your work?
Start by thinking about these questions. Take a few moments to truly reflect on your work. Ask yourself how you can view your job as something that is good, beneficial and meaningful.
I truly believe that even simple jobs we usually find trivial can be reinterpreted in a better way. Here are some examples:
The people who deliver takeout food do more than that. They enable us to enjoy our evenings while eating delicious food at home.
The people who cut our hair at the salon do more than that. They help us take care of our hair and make us look great and feel beautiful.
The people who clean up the trash on the street do more than that. They clean our streets and make our cities cleaner, nicer and safer.
The people who answer our calls at a call center do more than that. They provide us with the information and assistance we need in a nice and efficient way from the comfort of our homes.
I could go on, but I am sure you get the point. All jobs are important and yours is too. The problem is that sometimes we focus on all the things that are negative or could be better. We complain about the bosses we have, the raises we deserve but never get and the work that never seems to get easier. While focusing on the things that could be better, it’s easy to forget about all the great things about our jobs.
I want to remind you that your work is important. It matters. And you deserve to find a way to enjoy it and be happy to go to work. While no job is perfect, I am sure that you can adjust your mindset and perspective to realize the great things about the work you do. And I would love to hear about how you changed your mindset and started loving your job!
- Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman