The words “love” and “job” right there, side by side. An unlikely couple. A job is, well, a job. And love? That’s what we reserve for soul-mates and family members. Except we salt our everyday language with it. We love our new shoes, we love our car, our pets, our vacation, and our friends’ photos on Facebook (even when we’re really just tired of their endless selfies).
But are we supposed to love our jobs?
The answer shouted from the electronic hilltops seems to be love it or quit!
And if you don’t? Well, you’re obviously missing out because it’s easy, there are five steps to get you there, two things you need to know, one program that will show you how. etc. etc. These messages, in total, potentially undermine our happiness at work because they ignore one basic truth: nobody loves their job all-the-way-all-the-time.
We’ve gotten used to the idea that when we love something, it’s easy. Even the profiles and stories about people who have sunk their heart and soul into creating a company from scratch or pursuing a lifelong dream tend to have a gloss of “meant to be” applied over the intense work of getting there.
When we read the story, we already know the ending. We know they’ve made millions and are living the dream in their beachside house full of windows that someone else wipes clean each morning. It seems inevitable.
But it wasn’t. They probably didn’t love every moment of the stress, the risk, the uncertainty along the way. But they kept going. It wasn’t love, it was something else.
No matter what you’re devoting your time to, there’s a level of uncertainty. We don’t know what our choices will yield. We don’t know how our story will turn out.
To look at someone else’s polished-for-print story and wonder why we don’t have the same trajectory is to overlook the life we’re living.
What does it mean to love your job?
Sometimes, a day goes like this:
Get to work, find six angry emails in your inbox, meeting 1 falls apart, someone quits, there’s a personnel issue that pops up, two key players on your project are fighting, and the contract you thought had been approved and finalized is sitting on someone else’s desk and you can’t start that project which sinks your entire schedule, and you still have all the work you’d been planning to do this week piling up.
Can you have a day like that and still love your job?
If you’re lucky, you have a job where the satisfaction of doing, learning and growing outweighs the annoyances and friction that are part of any job. Any life, really.
Does the overall satisfaction I get from my job outweigh the minor annoyances?
Are you spending your time on something that matters to you? This is a question that only you can answer. It’s your time and once it’s spent, it’s gone. Are you doing something that makes you feel good about that time? Maybe you love the challenge of the job itself. Maybe the job is the stable way you support your family and maintain some freedom for your personal pursuits when you’re off. Either way, you’re the only one who can judge your satisfaction.
Using someone else’s measure won’t help. So put down that smart phone for a moment and think it over.
What if I really do hate my job?
If you have a job you hate, should you stay? Probably not. When the grinding weight of showing up day after day is wearing you down and sapping your ability to function as a decent human being, you should find something different to do. Your unhappiness is probably having a negative impact on the people around you, not to mention the horrible things it’s doing to you.
But if you’re on the fence, and some days are okay and others aren’t, I think you have a more difficult but potentially more rewarding option: work it out.
Work it out
When your partner is tired of hearing you grumble (or when you’re tired of hearing yourself grumble) it’s time to work it out.
What would boost your satisfaction level at work?
- More of one kind of work?
- Less of another?
- Identifying a road-map for where you want to go?
Are there things you can do for yourself, instead of looking to others to fix them?
- Prioritize your projects
- Work on the important ones first
- Tackle something new – even something outside work can bring you new energy and perspective at work
Are there things you need someone else to open up for you?
- Ask for a new assignment?
- Offer to show you’re ready for a new responsibility?
There is a great deal of satisfaction in doing something instead of suffering though it. By taking thoughtful action, you may be able to turn the job your’e currently in into one that satisfies you.
Making it better for yourself? That’s something to love.