A job is something you have to do, not something you have to love. At least, that's what my dad taught me growing up.
I don't believe it for a second (he also taught me to be an independent thinker), but the truth is that while loving your job is something we all strive for, only a few of us really get to experience it. In fact, some 50% of American workers are not engaged by their jobs, and a further 20% are actively disengaged.
That's around 70 million people in the U.S. alone who don’t love what they do, and the obvious answer seems to be to get out there and find a job you'll like better.
Not so fast, peppy.
Believe it or not, rapid-firing your resume to every employer in town isn’t the best reaction (at least, not yet). There are some real benefits to not only staying in a job you don't love, but trying to make the best of it. Here are three huge ones.
1. To Learn More About Yourself
That urge to run from a job you don't want is a powerful, even somatic one. It's right there in your gut every Monday morning; a weight that makes you drag your feet as you walk through those office doors.
Faced with that, it seems clear that you need to explore what else is out there for you and look around for something new, something better. Sounds good, and I'm the last person to discourage exploration, but there's one thing you need to do first.
You need to love the hell you're in.
You can't meaningfully move forward if all you're doing is running from what you don't want. That just leads to hopping from one job to another without any real idea of what you're doing, what you want to be doing, or even who you are.
Now, loving the hell you're in is not the same as resigning yourself to something small, limiting, or meaningless. Those are the choices of a victim (and we both know you're better than that).
This is about taking the time to dig in, learn, and uncover more about yourself.
Instead of simply looking for ways to get out, ponder this: What if this was a test given to you by the universe to see what you’re really made of? How would you respond then?
2. To Practice Choice
If you're in a job you don't love, it's easy to just strike those days off your calendar until the weekend or your next vacation. Time rolls by. You get wound down. You lose your spark. You feel less than.
But consider this: Focus on how much you don't want to do your job, and that becomes your experience. Think about how it's not fair that you don't have a job you love, and that shapes your attitude. Get stuck on all the details around you, and they impact your sense of confidence.
Give them an inch, and your circumstances will take a mile, stripping your life of any joy, passion, or meaningful stimulus. This is how people get lost in their lives, but there's a remarkable opportunity here, too.
The opportunity to not let your circumstances dictate your experience.
Regardless of whether you’re sick of your job, are bored sitting at the same desk every day, or are tired of the same faces, you get to choose how you feel. You get to choose how you perceive your circumstances. You get to choose the richness of your experience of your life.
How would it be if you chose to treat yourself with kindness and patience rather than beating yourself up for ending up somewhere you’d rather not be? What if you chose to explore what really matters to you rather than just resisting what doesn’t? And what if you made a choice to express gratitude for coming this far?
This opportunity to practice choice is golden indeed.
3. To Stop Struggling and Start Engaging
Resisting, fighting, and struggling against your job is really about control. You tell yourself that it's only temporary. You tell yourself that it's not how you want to be spending your time. You keep it at arm’s length so you never have to give yourself to it.
Not only does all this struggling in the pursuit of control keep you remote from your job, but it also separates you from the things that allow you to do great work. And, as I learned at some personal cost, it splits apart and compartmentalizes you.
Rather than throwing yourself in, you keep parts of yourself hidden from your colleagues and practice holding back. You become accustomed to not giving your all.
But the truth is, you don't get to do great work through resisting doing work, just as you don't get to live a great life by resisting living.
Engaging is where great things happen, so put away the oh-so tempting need to retain control, and choose to engage instead. Instead of having lunch by yourself, grab a sandwich with a colleague and be curious as to what’s happening in his or her life. Don’t just sit quietly in your morning meeting wishing it would end already, but look for how you can make someone’s job simpler (or perhaps even raise a smile).
And rather than calling it in and doing the bare minimum, consider what strengths and talents you could apply that just might transform things.
You might be surprised at what happens.