It can happen even in the best relationships. You meet a terrific guy, someone you have awesome chemistry with, and before long you’re dating exclusively—maybe even moving in together. He makes you feel loved and supported—and he also makes your toes curl in bed.
Then one day, kind of out of nowhere, you just don’t feel hot for him the way you once did. Nothing about him has changed, but your lust has suddenly left the building.
Well, guess what? That can happen with a great job, too. Maybe you started off loving the work you do and the environment in which you do it. And yet, right now, your toes just aren’t curling anymore.
You have what I call low career libido.
Your first instinct may be to tell yourself that you need to get your butt in gear and find a new job, maybe even a new career. But that may not be necessary. As long as the job provides plenty of opportunities, and you’re not lagging behind where you should be professionally, why not first try to lure the lust back? There are a couple of ways to do it.
First, you need to borrow a trick that can recharge a romantic relationship, one I learned from anthropologist Helen Fisher, PhD, while I was running Cosmo. Dr. Fisher, the author of Anatomy of Love, says that feelings of infatuation are bound to fade around two to three years after the start of a relationship. But fortunately, adding novelty—a.k.a. fresh experiences—to your life together can bring back that wonderful giddiness. It’s really a trick you play on your brain: Novel experiences trigger the production of dopamine, a hormone that makes you feel exhilarated and that mimics what you go through when you’re infatuated.
But who cares why it happens?
Novelty will also help you with your low career libido. Find a tantalizing new challenge at work you can run with. But be careful about doing something that’s simply going to make you more promotable. Those projects are important, but right now what you really need is stimulation. Pick something that excites you on a visceral level, satisfies a yearning, or scratches a curious itch.
A PR guru I know told me recently that at one point in her career she found herself bored to tears with pitching stories, writing press releases, and drafting endless tweets. So she suggested to one of her top clients that she ghostwrite a blog for her on women’s issues. My friend found the topics fascinating and she loved trying a different kind of writing. The new projects rejuvenated her.
But it’s not only your work life you need to make adjustments in. When your career libido is low, you also probably need to add some novelty to your non-working life, too. Because if you’re not, er, aroused in that area, it’s going to wash over into your job.
When I was editor in chief of Redbook, there was a period when my work began to feel like a real drag. Around this time, my family moved next door in Manhattan to a woman who was one of the first female professors of geography in the U.S. She asked me one day if I’d like to go to the Explorers’ Club with her for a lecture on Turkey. My kids were only 6 and 8 then, and it had been about six months since I’d had time to even shave my legs, let alone attend a lecture. But because I knew she might be lonely, I said yes.
Well, that lecture riveted me. It also made me realize that since my kids were born I’d forsaken traveling, and I missed it. That lecture inspired me to start traveling as a family, on mostly offbeat eco trips, and all those experiences helped me like my job again.
Take a look at your non-work life: When was the last time you did something really thrilling? And I don’t mean a pub crawl. Plan adventures; prowl galleries; go to Cirque de Soleil; audition for community theater; take a train to someplace you’ve never been.
And set boundaries between work and play so that you can really savor those adventures. Don’t let your smartphone make you its bitch. Yes, some of the time we have to be on duty, but a lot of that check, check, check stuff is out of habit. As my yoga instructor says, learn to be present.
Do this, and trust me: Your toes will really curl.