It’s easy to get stuck in our roles. This happens to everyone: leaders and their subordinates. What I mean by stuck is that feeling of having lost our passion, when each day just bleeds into the next. We have the same conversations with the same people, and go through the same motions over and over. We are Pig Pen from The Peanuts cartoon, trapped in a swirling cloud of boredom and malaise. We feel dissatisfied and now have habituated to what was once new and exciting.
If you’re feeling like this right now, here are a few reminders to keep you sane:
- Everything is impermanent
Yes, everything comes and goes. I can be bored one minute, and completely inspired and on top of the world loving my work within the next five minutes. It is helpful to approach our emotional experience with a sense of balance to avoid getting too caught up in what it all means or taking action that may not be that helpful. Knowing the truth–that good feelings and less-than-savory ones will come and go and there is nothing we need to do about it most of the time–is very helpful. You will find greater levels of appreciation for the moments of joy and you will find greater peace knowing that the less than ideal experiences will not last.
- Know That You Don’t Control Anything (except your intentions and motivations)
This is a big one for all of us leaders. With access to power, it’s easy to believe that we can control the causes and conditions of our lives, that we can make things happen. We don’t and we can’t. We can, however, get clarity about our motivations and intentions, and do our best to cultivate the conditions for the possibility of something amazing to occur.
The movement of positive psychology helped solidify some of the age-old practices such as gratitude and appreciation, and the Buddhist tradition has popularized metta (loving-kindness), which are all ways to cultivate positive emotion. When we do these practices, we open our perspective and feelings in a new way. It may not change our direct circumstances, but it does allow us to shift our relationship to them. Thus, we can take simple actions to foster a better world for ourselves and others. Outside of that, we can simply return to knowing that nothing is permanent.
- Find the Part You Love and Do More Of It
When I ask leaders how they would rank their current job satisfaction on a scale from 0-10, it is fairly common that the answer is above zero. (Zero being that they find no satisfaction whatsoever.) When it comes to job satisfaction, most people focus on how they can get to a 10, only to feel like they are just giving themselves more to do. And some believe that experiencing a 10 is impossible. But the key to job satisfaction is to ask how you got above zero in the first place. For example, “How did I get to a 3? What made my ranking not a zero?”
Do more of what adds to that satisfaction. This is likely a place that you are using one of your signature strengths. When you are doing that thing or being that way, you are inspired and enjoy your work and your life a bit more. If you find that you are more alive at work after leading a meeting, then lead more meetings. If you find that you are more alive after organizing the monthly financials and creating amazing spreadsheets, then do more of that.
Now, you may be thinking, “Yeah, but don’t I need to get rid of the things that are killing my joy?” Possibly, if you can. If you can cultivate better conditions for yourself wisely, then by all means, have at it.
Nevertheless, in our roles we all have moments when we have to pay attention to details that may not be that enlivening. That’s ok. Do your best not to spend too much time on those things. And if you’re the business owner, you should absolutely stop whatever isn’t bringing you joy and hire the right people to support you. As the owner, you have that ability; it’s ridiculous to waste it. The cost associated with hiring the right person to support you will never outweigh the cost to your aliveness caused by doing things that you don’t enjoy doing.
Bringing our passion back into our work is a process of seeing how we get ourselves stuck, and what we can do to move back into flow and ease. Take a moment to see as clearly as you can, and then choose from there. We can then confidently step away from that swirling cloud that only Pig Pen can carry so skillfully. Leave that job to him.