What? You Hate Your Job? Here are Tips on How to Make it Better.

When I was a teenager, my first job was with the League of Conservation Voters and I canvassed neighborhoods asking people to sign petitions and give the organization money.

I was 14.

I sucked. I couldn’t even knock on people’s doors with confidence. And when I asked them for money? I apologized in the middle of the ask. My hand would shake holding the petition.

Let’s just say that I’m not a natural salesperson. Most people donated out of pity. That’s how sad I was.

That job was hell for me. Work wasn’t joyful. Though I believed in the cause, it wasn’t meaningful. All of it was pure stress. Constant stress.

Tangent: I moved on to be the salad girl at Wendy’s for a weekend before I got in a fight with the management over whether the old lettuce should be shoved to the bottom of the bin on the buffet or the new lettuce should.  I ended up being the pretzel girl at the Mall of New Hampshire.

I went from horrible canvasser to argumentative employee to Pretzel Girl.

Pretzel Girl.

People actually started calling me that.

As adults especially, work makes up so much of our lives and our identities. When we hate what we do at work, that hate and stress often leaks over to other things, including our self-esteem and self-image.

For some of us though, work is part of how we want to be, how we want to express ourselves in this world and we love it. We get as excited about going to work as we do about meeting our friends, or getting to pet a dog, or exploring a new book or show.

Is that you? Do you love work? Do you hate work? Do you bounce between those emotional peaks?

Not all of us can quit our jobs like I did when I was 14.

But what we can do is look at the associations we have with work. When I say, “work,” what do you think of? Write the words down if you have a second, or just kind of hold them in your mind.

A lot of people think:

  • Stress.
  • Hell.
  • Necessary.
  • Money.
  • Health Insurance.
  • Adulting

And so on. If those negative words are your associations with work, that’s because you’ve had negative experiences that you associate with work and they’ve become a part of the internalized story of your life, part of you. A lot of those associations start in your childhood.

  • How did you parents talk and think about work?
  • Can you remember your first job?
  • Did you like your first job?
  • Were people proud of their jobs in your family?
  • Did they run away to their jobs?

Last week we talked on the podcast and blog about stakeholders who shape your feelings of success and failure. That’s true about work, too.

Tips on How to Free Yourself of Negative Associations

Be Aware.

That’s the first thing. When you aren’t aware of how your experiences have shaped your associations, those associations become truths to you.

Realize That How You Associate With Work Doesn’t Have to Be Truth.

When you start deconstructing and challenging the truths in your brain, you start to take power over those stories.

Avoid Confirmation Bias.

When you believe really hard in a way of thinking such as “Writing is so hard and to do it one must be miserable,” every little moment becomes twisted into a moment that supports (confirms) that belief. Every rejection. Every time you have to figure out a plot twist. Every millisecond of writer’s block becomes not an opportunity to grow and make your work even better (rejections), an opportunity to use the logical fun puzzling part of your brain (plot twists), or an opportunity to pause and dream and think (writer’s block), but instead part of the construct that your brain has created that writing is miserable and hard.

Challenge Your Story.

When you realize that your negative associations with work are a self-fulfilling prophecy, you can start to change the narrative that you live by. What are the constructs and mental models that you’ve always thought about work? Do you think it is joyous and fulfilling? Do you think it is hard and evil and stressful? Why?

Think About Polarities.

A lot of us think that you can’t have fun and be productive. Are you one of those people? Why do you think that? I’m the president of my local Rotary club this year and all I hear is that it’s a huge investment of time and energy and how hard it must be. It isn’t. It isn’t hard at all. Club members make constant jokes about how glad I’ll be when my year is over because it’s so tough. I tell them over and over that it isn’t hard. It’s easy. But they refuse to believe that narrative. It’s a useful position, a needed position, so therefore it can’t possibly be fun. And it can’t be for them because that’s the narrative they’ve created. According to them, fun and productive can’t be in the same action.

Blog Break

It’s a big holiday week here and so I’m going to be taking a bit of a blog break for the next two weeks. There will be a podcast tomorrow and next Tuesday, but other than that? It’s a little time for my brain to recharge and rest. Thank you for understanding and I hope you found this post helpful!



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