I didn't always love my day job. I was trained as an accountant and have worked as an IT consultant on and off for the last twenty years. On many occasions, I felt trapped and suffocated and wanted to escape my current situation to discover something more creative, something I might even love. I tried self-employment for a bit, but financially it seemed right to return to IT: it provided me with the best and easiest money.
But over the last two or three years, something strange happened: I found myself enjoying, not simply enduring, my work! I realized that something fundamental had changed at the beginning of this year.
No, I am not writing this to convince you to stay at a miserable job, but to encourage you to be open to learning from your relationship to your work. If you're open to the possibility of change in the future of your work, and your life, you may discover a thing or two (or three, or four) that you might enjoy, and perhaps even love.
Particularly if it is not realistic to walk away from your current job (for financial reasons or otherwise), here are five questions to ask yourself — that I asked myself — to help you rekindle a better relationship with your job, and maybe even help you realize you just might love it.
1. Where and what is the value?
This was the question that brought about my biggest breakthrough. Compared to the uncertainty of being self-employed, I realized that my day job provided me with structure and steady income. To me, there was so much value in that steadiness, not just in the money itself.
My lifestyle (and salary) at work allowed me to feel grounded. That, to me, was immeasurably valuable. Moreover, I could also see the value I brought to my work because I am good at what I do and I take pride in doing my work thoroughly and conscientiously. The meaning of value might surprise you!
2. Are you learning?
Does your job teach you skills that will be useful to your future? Is there a way you can use your day job skills in a different environment that wouldn't suck the life out of you? This could be going part-time or doing the same job in a different company, sector or location.
Or, you may find some of the interpersonal, administrative or organizational skills at work are ones you can use in your personal life. If you allow yourself to be more present at work, even when things get difficult, you can find a wealth of learning opportunities.
3. Can I productively compartmentalize?
Separate what you are good at, and the aspects of your work that give you the most enjoyment, from the parts that make your life unbearable. Is there scope, either at your current employer or somewhere else, to fashion a role from the positive elements? Can you delegate the aspects that you don't like?
4. What would your dream life give you?
What is it that your dream would give you? What about it ignites your spirit? Is there something from your current profession that could feed your spirit in a similar way?
During my work renaissance I realized how creative my day job was. I'm part of a software development team who both build new IT systems and fix problems with the existing ones. It is our creativity and ingenuity which allows us to do this quickly and effectively, particularly when a serious problem occurs.
So be creative in thinking about how your job might be providing you with new and exciting opportunities to be creative and think outside your box. You may not have a paintbrush in hand, but you can surely tap into your creativity in new and different ways.
5. What is your current job lacking?
The answer to this question might be financial, it might be structural, or it might be hard to describe. But one thing you can learn from this question is that you can probably make a change at work, without completely changing your employer or career. Taking action is something you can, and should be, empowered to do. Even small changes can make a huge difference.
Twenty years ago I was working long hours in the City of London and was aching for a more creative life. My life was dominated by producing daily reports, and other developmental work wasn't getting done. I offered to step down from my prestigious reporting role and do the other work on a part-time basis. I love working part-time because it gives the best of both worlds — steady income and office companionship — but leaves time for my own creative and business pursuits.
Your day job doesn't have to be your pride and joy, nor should it be the source of your suffering. You can make your peace with it. Over time, you don't have to feel constantly like you serve your day job — you can have it serve your life.