I was on the floor in my home office. Loose sheets of paper inked with thoughts revolving around professional dissatisfaction surrounded me. Page after page, I unloaded what had been building up inside. I felt that I was spending so much of my time and energy doing things I didn’t think mattered and yet the demands on me and my lean team continued to grow. Urgent matters often got in the way of making any sort of dent on the things that really counted. And there was so much attention on reporting the numbers that it began to seem as if checking on the results became more important than getting the real work done.
There must be something better. There has to be something I could be contributing to that’s more meaningful than this…
I knew a better reality existed because I’ve met people who love their jobs. I knew because… I used to be one of those people too.
I had to make a decision
On one hand I thought that the best thing to do was leave. If it didn’t work out, we had enough money in the bank to fund the necessities for at least a couple of years. Most importantly, I’m resilient enough to figure something else out and try again.
On the other hand, I figured I could tough it out until the end of the assignment, in hopes that the next would be better.
The choice I elected ended up being neither. Someone said something to me that made choices #1 and 2 unnecessary.
The 3rd choice
I was in a ballroom behind hundreds of people sitting between me and the conference’s guest speaker.
If you’re not fired up about your job, it’s YOUR fault!
I crossed my arms but her real talk busted through my guard. I got out of my seat and started pacing in the back of the room—something I often do when I need to think about something.
If I’m not fired up about my job, it’s my fault. If it’s 100% because of me, that means it’s also 100% within my control.
She made an impact on me. As I headed home, I reflected on what I could do to reignite the fire. These are the conclusions I decided to act on in the end:
- Deliver my responsibilities by doing less of what I suck at and more of what I’m good at. It’s surprising how much of the minutiae you can drop without anyone noticing. Then, you can spend more of your time doing what counts.
- Give my job a higher meaning. For me, my job is where I learn and teach ways to become a better leader. It’s also what affords me the lifestyle my wife and I enjoy.
- Own my boundaries—if you don’t there’s no one to blame but you when they’re crossed. People aren’t mind readers.
What was the result?
Well, I’m not going to humbly brag too much, but things are going really well. The months that followed have been some of the best of my career. Our results have steadily gotten better, I feel like I’m making a difference that surpasses the short term company goals, and I took back control of how much of my life I’m spending on my work.
All of this was possible without changing my responsibilities, my team, or my boss.
My point is that choices #1 and #2 are attractive, but I hope you take the time to do the inner work first. You might be surprised that your job satisfaction has more to do with you than the job itself. And if the 3rd choice doesn’t work out, by all means, do what you need to do.
Regardless of what you choose, good luck on your next move.