By Jan Bruce
When your energy for your work is on the wane, your whole life can seem like drag. It makes sense -- you spend the majority of your waking hours at that job, so the stress bleeds into non-work hours -- and you may long to up and run away to greener pastures. But don't pack your bags just yet.
The real problem here is likely that you don't feel connected to the meaning and purpose behind what you do day in and day out. This leaves you unfulfilled and, more often than not, stuck in a rut of endless tasks.
One way to address this stress is as pleasurable as it sounds: Make just one aspect of your work life better, more beautiful or more interesting, and you'll gain (or regain) that sense of connection to your job. And that may be the one boost you need so that your work feels a little bit less like work. Here are three ways to start connecting now.
Focus on how you contribute
In truth, you won't ever really feel energized for your work if you can't see the contribution you're making. Your contribution is exactly what it sounds like: what your work brings to the good of your organization, your coworkers, your boss, your country or the world.
Your role might include mundane tasks such as culling sales data or drafting Powerpoint presentations, but they all have a larger purpose -- and if you can focus on the contribution you make, and celebrate that, you can change how you feel when approaching those tasks.
Try this: Ask yourself why you do the work you do. And no, not just, "I'm here for the pay and benefits." Of course you are, but what was the reason you were drawn to this work in the first place? What is your unique contribution there, and what greater good do you serve by doing your work?
This may require a subtle reframe of what you do. For instance, if you work in customer service, you can think about the job as "putting out fires" or "talking to angry people," or you could see it for what it really is: Building, strengthening, maintaining the relationship between your company and its customers, or even as big as your company and the outside world. Your efforts make the difference between losing and keeping a customer, which means your role is critical to the success of the company. That's a pretty powerful thing. Not to mention, you make people who may be upset or frustrated feel heard, and cared for. No small task, that.
Shift how you think about routine tasks
Day after day filled with the same to-do list can wear you down and suck the love out of your work -- but that's usually because you feel forced to do them. The fact is that you always have a choice, and remembering that you're an adult with free will can renew your sense of empowerment at work.
Try this: Reframe the required. You can choose not to complete your weekly report, but chances are, doing so won't get you closer to the raise you want. You can respond with frustration or anger at a last-minute email request at 5 pm, but choosing to respond with composure is more likely to help you -- and get you home faster.
When you frame these things as a choice, you see that it's always up to you, and making the decision that's in your own best interest (and the interest of your loved ones) is the the one that will limit stress and boost resilience. It then becomes a decision you make out of self-love.
Savor past successes and set yourself up for more
Overwhelming work demands can make you forget all the good you've done to date, making you feel like we're only as good as what you produced today. But your worth is also measured by your track record.
By re-engaging with what makes you feel naturally talented and the ways you've been recognized for those talents in the past, you train your brain to look for and respond more opportunity to do those things.
Try this: Remember where you naturally shine. Ask yourself what others have identified as your strengths. Where do you excel and make your colleagues' jobs easier? Perhaps you're an excellent writer and you're called upon for your copyediting skills, or you have a natural knack for soothing upset customers. Take time to celebrate those aspects of yourself by remembering moments in time when your colleagues have taken notice of and benefited from them.
The connected you feel to your contributions and talents and work, the less stress and more motivation you'll feel. And that is a lift for your entire life.