Rather than looking at your job as a standalone and complete entity, you could start seeing it as one piece in the puzzle of your life. In that way it may not contribute All The Things you want in your life (or even all the things you want to contribute through work), but maybe just a few.
Say your values are to live passionately, make a meaningful contribution to social change, be challenged and grow as a person, foster great relationships, and be a kind and generous person… If your job isn’t aligned with your passions, doesn’t seem to change anything about the status quo, doesn’t stretch your skills, is mostly done by yourself, and doesn’t allow you to feel that you are kind and generous, it could feel like a complete mismatch to what you care most about. It could feel like you must change your job exactly right now, or your life will lack meaning and you’ll never be able to live in line with your values.
However, if you take the bigger view of your whole life (and work is just one element of that), you might see that your job is providing you a safe and comfortable living space, in which to allow you to have friends and family come and stay (foster great relationships), and your spare income allows you to support several charities (kind and generous). You might realise that your long held dream of trekking through Tasmania, or learning to sing musical theatre, or seeing the great galleries of Europe could become the passion that you invest in (live passionately, be challenged and grow as a person). You realise that by adjusting your finish time at work on a Wednesday by a few hours you are able to go and volunteer program that you’ve always meant to get involved in (social change), or start going to that meditation course you always meant to (be challenged and grow as a person, kind and generous).
Work doesn’t need to be the core of what you offer to the world and what satisfies and interests you, it just needs to be one part. Sure it is a lot of hours of our week and we might hope that it uses our skills and challenges us but… if we are doing all we can to make it interesting OR we just can’t switch jobs right now, it might be time to check whether our non-work time is also fulfilling us. After all it’s a big ask for our day job to singlehandedly provide all the stimulation, all the rewards, all the meaning for our lives.
1.Get your people connection elsewhere – Lonely at work? Jam pack every minute with people time out of work. Join a sporting team. Join a choir. Volunteer in a community kitchen. Staff the front desk at a local gallery or museum. Blog. Participate in groups online. Go to Meetup events or other group outings. Pursue some niche hobby with passionate members who will make you feel like you belong and hug you with their warm wishes and good intentions. Make time to see good friends and really connect.
2. Create your own challenges and rewards – Feeling stuck in a rut at work? Up the challenge factor in your personal life. Set goals for yourself that you have a good chance of meeting within your hobbies e.g. Goals for your community activism, fitness regime, writing, knitting, language learning, live music appreciation etc. Feeling challenged and achieving our goals feels great. If you’re not getting this at work make sure you structure it into your non work hours. Maybe you’ll be so exhausted by all the simulation outside of work you’ll be glad of a measured pace and predictable tasks for a few hours.
3. Dive right in and make your own meaning – Feeling like your job has no meaning? It’s throwing you into an existential spin? You’re not alone, creative people often suffer from crises in meaning, according to Eric Maisel. Create a narrative to give your work meaning or get meaning from another pursuit in your life and make your contribution in a different way. Run a marathon for fundraising. Start a community project. Start volunteering. Lobby on a local issue. Focus on raising healthy happy kids or being a great neighbour or learning ancient languages. Foster your religious or spiritual practice. You must feel like you are making a contribution to the world – if the job you’re in doesn’t do it for you find it somewhere else.*
4. Do what you love in your spare time – If you are someone with multiple interests (a scanner/ multipotentialite/ renaissance soul) who feels like work is ‘getting in the way’ of all the creative dreams you have, START DOING THEM. Yes, that’s right, start doing these things just for fun in your own free time. You don’t need them to be your job, you don’t need a whole week free, and you don’t need someone else’s permission. If it’s language you love – take a language class, if it’s travel, save and book for a holiday, if it’s translating, find a book in the language you want to learn and start translating it (or poems, or a blog post – whatever). For fun! For no reason other that you love it.
5. Create some space for inspiration to strike – if you are both bored AND busy in your job you may be too exhausted to start a fun hobby or take a class. I understand. For years I reduced my working hours every time I got a pay rise, so rather than extra money what I was giving myself was extra time for my own projects. You may not be able to go part time but can you book in an annual leave day and have a long weekend? Can you have some unstructured time to see what ideas and interests rise to the surface?
A great byproduct of this is that as you do more things you love you tend to become more ‘alive’ and enthusiastic in life. It will make you happier in and more tolerant of your day job, and make life better straight away.
And who knows whether you’ll one day find or create a job that uses your current hobby/passions in an industry related to your passions, but that’s not the goal to start with. As Barbara Sher says, if you do what you love you will light up, be nicer to the people around you and have more fun. You can do this now, even in the job you’re in**.
See Also Part A ‘My job is boring what can I do (at work)’.
* If you think you have no passions / interests they may just be buried and need some help to be unearthed. Coaching is a great way to to explore them. ON the other hand…if nothing at all seems to interest you or bring you joy lately, you may be suffering from depression or another medical condition that causes low mood – please speak with your Doctor if you think this might be the case, and or see a trained therapist. Asking for help is awesome and takes guts.
**Assuming it is a ‘good enough job’ that pays the bills and isn’t making you sick.