Editor’s Note: This column was written for WRAL TechWire by Pete Ronayne, senior faculty member and portfolio manager, and Andrea Williams, director of population health sector portfolio, of the Center for Creative Leadership.
GREENSBORO – Think back to your first day at your current job. Did you experience anticipation, motivation, longing to make a difference, excitement to meet new people, or maybe even butterflies? Now, think back over the last few months or even weeks? What the heck happened?
Whether your tenure has been only a few months or countless years, the honeymoon phase is likely over, and you may be left wondering about this match. Compounding the wonderment, many of us are reexamining our lives, our values, our work preferences, and ultimately our jobs, in the COVID era. We are well into the period of “the Great Resignation”, or maybe more accurately, “The Great Exhaustion” or “The Great Realignment,” which finds countless employees assessing if their jobs align with the life they want to lead.
This hit close to home for us at the Center for Creative Leadership as our new CEO came on board. We felt palpable excitement, energy, and motivation. That sparked many of us to think about how we could rekindle that flame for ourselves. It’s completely normal to go through phases of falling in and out of love with your job. We all do it. But what if we could bring some intention and keep that flame burning more consistently?
Below are three resilience strategies that will not only recharge your energy reserves, but also serve to keep the spark alive at work.
1. Tap into Meaning
Deriving personal meaning and a sense of purpose from your work is one of the best ways to keep burning bright, instead of burning out. Remember, we spend most of our adult lives doing two things: sleeping and working. Given that, leveraging purpose and meaning at work can have tremendous impact.
Finding meaning and purpose in the face of a major challenge or ongoing stressors can lead to deep satisfaction and strength. What matters most is whether you perceive your work as contributing to something or someone who matters (team, client, customer, community, country, public, self, family).
And the need is clear. A 2013 survey of 12,000 employees across the workforce found 50% lacked meaning and significance at work. The same survey discovered that employees who find meaning in their work are more than three times more likely to stay with their organizations.
Finding meaning at work is personal and can take many forms. One way is to determine your own personal why; the why behind what you do, rather than the job itself. A question to consider is, “what is the ultimate positive impact that your work has on others?” For example, in one study of hospital janitors, rather than focusing on the job of cleaning, the janitors focused on the why behind their jobs—they were part of a team that was healing people. That’s a powerful reframe of a job into meaningful work.
How do you currently tap into and stay connected to your meaning or purpose? How might you encourage your peers and colleagues to do the same?
2. Cultivate Your Work Relationships
You probably have some colleagues at work whom you’re close with, and many more whom you barely know at all. How might you change that?
It takes intention, especially if you’re still working from home. Reach out and have a virtual coffee or an after-work drink and chat with a newer co-worker. Discover more about the person behind the role. What brings them joy in their work? You might select a few of these “deep” questions from the Berkeley Well Being Institute. The point is to get to know someone new and build the connection. Feeling a sense of meaningful connection to those around us fuels happiness, generosity, and inclusion.
And don’t leave out existing work friends! Gallup Research has found the most productive and engaged workers report having a best friend at work. So, connect with a colleague and have fun with a few “deep questions” to further cultivate that enriching relationship.
3. Take Short, Intentional Breaks
One of our favorite concepts at CCL is the notion of “time confetti.” – from Brigid Shulte’s book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, And Play When No One Has The Time. When it comes to carving out space to recharge, it’s all too easy to make the excuse of not having enough time. Perhaps you don’t have 30 or 45 minutes to spare. But most of us do have little pieces of “time confetti” sprinkled throughout our day: six minutes here, four minutes here, ten minutes there.
Consider bringing intention to just a couple of pieces of that time confetti, and use them to do something to recharge yourself. If you’re willing to dedicate 2% of each day (12 minutes, twice) to recharging yourself with the same consistency you do your smartphone, you can significantly enhance your positivity at and about work and simply bring your best self more frequently to all elements of your life.
Small Shifts Can Help You Love Your Job Again
Just like strong and growing personal relationships need intention, attention, and cultivation, so does your relationship with work. With just a little added focus and attention to seeing and highlighting meaning and purpose, connecting more deeply with people, and tending to your own energy, you can rekindle the powerful passion and presence you felt when your relationship with work was exciting and new.