Have you ever asked a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up? Usually they have a long, extensive list of all the professional possibilities just waiting for them when they grow up.
But ask an adult what he or she really wants to do professionally? Well, that’s usually a completely different situation.
Have We Settled for “Boring” in Our Jobs?
In the 25+ years that I’ve worked with clients to help them direct their careers, one of the most challenging issues has been getting them to tell me what they really want to do:
- Some tell me what they’re currently doing – but don’t say it with any type of emotional connection or enthusiasm for the work.
- Some tell me about the desired outcomes of doing “something else” – but never talk about what they’re willing to give in return for those outcomes.
- And some look at me blankly, but honestly say that they just don’t know.
It seems like we’ve forgotten how to dream about a desirable future because of our self-limiting beliefs on what is “possible.”
Yes, I said SELF-LIMITING beliefs. We confuse what is “possible” (which is anything) with what is “probable” (which restricts imagination based on what we believe).
While it is true that our dreams of being a musical prodigy or sports superstar may be improbable, our underlying passion for music or sports remains very real – but often hidden by layers of “real-life” pragmatism.
But being “pragmatic” is often an excuse for denying our dreams. For denying our passions. For denying our potential. And even denying our personal blend of knowledge, skills, abilities, and talents that makes us unique.
Instead of basking in our uniqueness at work, we instead wallow in jobs that neither inspire us nor appeal to our higher level passion and goals. In other words, we settle for jobs that are boring.
And we spend too much time at work to be bored!
Assuming that we average around 40 hours per week in paid employment and have 2 weeks of unpaid vacation time per year, we’ve committed ourselves to working 2,000 hours per year. Let’s also assume that we ideally sleep 8 hours per night; this means that we are awake 5,840 hours each year.
These basic calculations lead to the following conclusions:
On average, we will spend @35% of our waking hours at work — over a 40-year career, that’s 80,000 hours spent on work that doesn’t excite us!
These are conservative calculations. In reality, many of us spend many more hours working at our jobs. This doesn’t include overtime (paid or unpaid, of exempt salaried under FLSA). Nor does it include all those paid vacations that we “never got around to taking.” Nor does it consider that many Baby Boomers’ careers are longer than 40 years (because they want to or need to).
Do you really want to spend this much of your live…being BORED?!
The Dangers of Boredom at Work
Boredom occurs when an activity feels unsatisfying or when some mandatory task does not ignite your interest. It’s not necessarily the result of a bored mindset. Even highly energized workers can become bored when they are not given opportunities to focus that energy on something that is meaningful to them.
Some recent research suggests that boredom can lead to physical ailments:
- Weight gain (eating because we’re bored – and generally food that is not necessarily healthy for us)
- Poor emotional health and depression
- Persistent back pain or a higher level of pain in general (in other words, unhappy emotions increase feelings of physical pain)
Other research has found that a lack of neurological excitement coupled with a subjective psychological state of dissatisfaction is the basis for feelings of boredom. In other words, we are uninspired and dissatisfied with our work.
Boredom makes us feel “stuck” – we’re weary and restless with no direction. It also prevents us from engaging in our innate curiosity by placing boundaries on what we believe is possible. It tells us that “nothing will change…so why bother trying something new?”
Boredom makes us believe that “success” is impossible.
By affecting the individual worker,
boredom can also jeopardize the company’s very survival!
Moving Out of a Boring Job
It is not helpful to believe that every task in a job should be full of excitement. A certain level of mundane tasks can be found in any job. But we don’t have to let the tedium take over our work experience.
If your job has become boring and tedious, you have arrived at an important crossroad: are you going to accept that you have no choice to change a job that is boring OR do are you going to muster the courage to take action toward finding something new, different, and better aligned with your life goals?
My hope is that you take the time to assess your career to date in order to determine if it’s time to make changes in your life.
The first step to moving out of a boring job is to identify what you want. Don’t limit yourself to probabilities at this stage! Instead think back to what gives you enjoyment. Identify those activities in which you are so thoroughly engaged that “time seems to fly by.”
Once you’ve identified these activities, it’s time to search for common themes. Even though you might enjoy what initially seem to be very diverse activities, there is always some underlying action or outcome. By identifying this thread, you have the foundation for creating a career that contains this important element.
For example, I was originally a conservatory voice major. This required me to be comfortable on a stage, able to communicate and engage the audience, and be prepared to do what was necessary in order to be ready to do perform my best onstage – regardless of the amount of time involved. I also liked the creativity blended with a thorough understanding of different musical genres. While much of the background work was autonomous, there was also camaraderie with other musicians as we prepared for a performance.
But above all, I wanted to make people feel something as a result of my performance.
While I no longer have ambitions of being a professional singer, I still have a deep desire to make my clients, students, and keynote attendees feel something by being challenged with new ideas that can improve their lives.
While the “stage” of my career is quite different, the elements that gave me joy as a singer are still present in my role as a leading advocate for the eradication of workplace burnout.
What’s your “common thread” in what gives YOU joy?
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.