Remember what it was like in your twenties? Standing on the first steps of the career ladder barely able to wait to take it all in, to see what comes next and conquer the world. Fast forward a couple of decades to midlife. How are you feeling about work now?
Your answer will probably depend on many things. If you’ve spent your years doing something that you find meaningful while at the same time managing to make ends meet, my guess is that your well of motivation has not yet dried up.
If you, on the other hand, have given decades of your life to an organisation that doesn’t seem to appreciate your input, or if you find yourself tackling pointless duties day in, day out, then you’re probably feeling a little tired of it all by now.
It’s also possible that something that you once upon a time found exciting and interesting, does not make you feel that way anymore. People change.
If you find yourself dissatisfied and lacking enthusiasm for the daily grind, what can you do?
First, ask yourself a few important questions:
What is it that dissatisfies you the most?
Are you tired of your duties and responsibilities? Are the colleagues getting on my nerves? Is the new boss simply unbearable? Something about your working space that rubs you the wrong way around? Do you feel micromanaged? Are your basic values in conflict with those of your employer?
Try to get to the bottom of your dissatisfaction and pinpoint the source for your dwindling motivation.
Is there anything that can be changed at work?
If it’s the colleagues, could you be moved to a different department? If it’s your workspace, how could it be made more suited? If it’s your duties and responsibilities, could you change or alter them? If you just find your job plain meaningless, how could you get that meaning back? Is it time to move on?
Observe your current circumstances as realistically as you can to determine if tweaking and adjusting them would help you restore your motivation.
If it’s not the job, is it you?
As a twenty-something hatter, you can’t think of anything more enjoyable and exciting than making hats—lots and lots of different kinds of hats. A couple of decades and quite a stack of hats later you are tired. Tired of designing them, making them and even looking at them. Not all hatters—or engineers, carpenters, programmers, journalists, farmers or chefs—get bored with their profession, but some do.
Ask yourself if you are you one of them and whether you think it might be time you did something else.
How are you? Is everything ok?
If it’s not the job, could you be tired in general? Or even exhausted or burned out? Has something happened in your life that has caused your mood to drop? Could you be depressed?
Try to have a friendly chat with yourself—and a mental health professional, if you can—to establish whether it is your mental wellbeing that is declining and taking its toll.
After a few tough Q&A sessions with yourself, you will have hopefully managed to gain a better understanding of what it is that is stealing your motivation. What needs to be done next, will, of course, depend largely on the answers that you came up with.
Suggested reading: Midlife Crisis – Causes, Symptoms and Coping
Job crafting is one of today’s buzz words. It is defined as the steps that employees take to redesign their own jobs in ways that can foster job satisfaction, engagement, resilience and thriving at work.
So, if you think the source of your dissatisfaction is the job itself or the circumstances at work, you could give crafting a go:
You could see if it’d be possible for you to take on more, fewer or different tasks. You could change the way you interact with your colleagues. You could think of a new way of perceiving your tasks—finding a way to see why your contribution is important. Instead of telling yourself, for instance, that you “mop hospital floors” for a living, you can think yourself as someone who makes the hospital a clean, safe and pleasant space for patients and other employees.
What will you
do when you grow up become next?
From early childhood onwards we’re asked time and time again: “What will you want to be when you grow up?” Today, we know that no longer such a thing exists as a single career working for a single employer from day one until you retire. Or if it does, it’s soon becoming extinct.
I don’t know about you but I think it’s a bit of a relief. We don’t have to become a certain something and then stick with that all our lives. If selling cars or managing a restaurant or running an IT department (enter job here) no longer gives you joy, could you think of trying something entirely different?
Exhaustion, burnout and mental health issues
Been feeling physically and emotionally exhausted lately? Finding that nothing that used to bring you joy no longer does? Having trouble sleeping or concentrating? Feeling increasingly detached, cynical or angry?
All the above-mentioned symptoms could mean that you’re heading for a burnout. The first step is to become aware of it—and then to do something about it.
Yes, it’s just that easy, isn’t it? Just do something about it. Of course it’s not. Many of us midlifers find ourselves in a classic sandwich situation where on the one hand we still have children at home that we need looking after (even if they think they don’t), and on the other hand, our parents are getting older and might need our help, too.
And I’ve not yet mentioned work!
Many things, indeed, are beyond our control— mean and/or unskilled bosses and colleagues, duties that simply have to be tackled, illnesses, accidents and other life’s unexpected surprises.
But fortunately, we are not entirely at the mercy of other people and circumstances. We do have a will and there are ways to ease our daily load:
- Unplug: That’s right, you don’t have to watch “one more” episode of your favourite show or see (again) if anything interesting has popped up in your Facebook feed.
- Sleep: Burnout can make it harder for you to sleep, but if you can sleep, SLEEP! It will make you feel more positive and it will improve your memory. And no, 6 hours is not enough for most.
- Stay physically active: What type of exercise do you prefer? If you don’t know, try to experiment and find out. The more you like what you do, the more likely you are to stick with it, be it walking, weight lifting, yoga, aerobics, swimming, running etc.
- Connect: Not all are—nor have to be—social butterflies. But a complete lack of human connection is not good for anyone. According to recent research, cited by the New York Times, social separation wreaks havoc with our lives in many ways, from disrupting our sleep patterns and weakening our immune systems, to raising the levels of our stress hormones and accelerating cognitive decline.