You don’t need to change jobs, have an affair, or buy a Ferrari to get the pep back in your step. Yet sometimes, particularly when you’re seeing other people touting how excited they are about their dream job, we can fall into the trap of believing that our job should be exciting, fulfilling, and perfect all the time.
In reality, we all know that any long-term endeavor worth pursuing (marriage, exercise regimens, parenting, and yes, careers) requires us to put in extra mental effort, even when we don’t feel like it. But our annoying human brains crave stimulation and excitement; Too much sameness can zap our energy quickly.
Instead of seeking newness by leaving your spouse or quitting your job (and potentially derailing your life) try to reinspire yourself using these three hacks:
Start where it feels fun.
There are differing schools of thought on how to maximize productivity and tackle your to-do list- Do you do the hardest thing first? What about three small things, to get a quick win? Should you finish the thing you started yesterday or jump to something new?
Personally, I follow the advice I got from Meryl Streep’s husband (albeit indirectly). In an interview with Meryl, a reporter asked her, “Where do you begin when you’re learning a new character? The accent? The mannerisms? The lines?” She told the reporter, that she’d actually adopted a simple philosophy she learned from her husband, who is a sculptor: start where it feels fun (and easy).
Head smack, if it’s good enough for Meryl Streep, it’s good enough for me.
When you’re feeling down in the dumps, instead of looking at your to-do list based on strategic prioritization or urgency. Start where it feels fun! I’ve done this and recommended it to several overwhelmed execs. We’ll all find, the renewed mental energy you get from doing the fun part, enables you to get through the rest.
Don’t do all the heavy lifting alone.
If you’re feeling drained, reach out to your teammates or customers. Ask them what they’re excited about or what new ideas they have. Humans feed off each other’s energy, and if you can’t muster up some enthusiasm for yourself, you can put yourself in an environment where you’re more likely to catch it from someone else.
The inverse of this is also true — and that’s where you need to be careful. The people you surround yourself with can refill your tank. They can also drain it dry. If you’re spending your entire lunch hour lamenting about how bad things are, or listening to others do it, that’s the reality you will eventually create (even if it didn’t start like that).
Make sure you’re not pouring from an empty cup.
If you’re tired, overworked, or not feeling well, the odds of re-inspiring yourself are low. I don’t say that to make you feel hopeless; sometimes all it takes is an adjustment of expectations. If you’re in a challenging season of life or work, I encourage you to release yourself from the expectation that your work is going to be as mentally captivating as it once was. That doesn’t mean it won’t be again, it’s just not right now, and that’s okay. Do your best, reach out for support, and know that the odds are, this too shall pass.
There will be times when the projects that previously filled you with energy bring on yawns, or the team you used to find fascinating now seems a little dull. It’s natural, but you’re not powerless. Having the skills to intentionally re-inspire yourself enables you to navigate the emotional ebbs and flows of a (most of the time) fulfilling career.