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How to Keep Your Head in the Game When Your Heart’s Left the Building

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watching the clock

Having passion for your work makes all the difference in the world.

You wake up looking forward to the day ahead. You give it your all. You take difficulties in stride and face challenges with a “let me at ’em!” attitude. Loving your work makes you one heck of an employee.

Which is all well and good, but what about those of who don’t love our work? Those of us who are just there for the paycheck, who once loved our jobs but have since fallen out of love, who are only hanging around long enough to move onto something else?

If you’re in one of those situations, it can be all too easy to become resentful, apathetic, even hostile—all things that make you a prime nominee for a little talk from HR. No one wants to be let go for poor performance or attitude (especially when you’re already planning your escape), but it can be hard to show up day after day when your heart just isn’t in it.

So while you work on extricating yourself, what do you do to in the meantime keep yourself from becoming a grumpy, disgruntled employee?

Find positives wherever you can

Does your company treat you to free lunch Fridays? Do you have some great inside jokes with your cube-mate? Does the receptionist make the best pot of coffee you’ve ever had?

Look hard for these little pleasures, and grab onto them like life rafts. Enjoy everything (and anything) you possibly can, and try to let the other stuff glance off of you.

Put up your defense shields

Don’t let yourself become Milton from Office Space. Yes, bad bosses and annoying coworkers can get on anyone’s nerves—but when you’re halfway out the door (in your mind), these little frustrations can start to feel unbearable. Don’t let them.

Remind yourself as often as necessary that these things are petty and, most important, temporary. You are not long for this office, so learn to see the humor in how mad these things used to make you, and laugh about them. At the end of the day, what do they really matter?

Remember why you’re doing this (for now)

If you haven’t chucked it all to pursue something else by now, there’s something making you play it safe and stick around till you’ve got somewhere better to go. What is it? Keeping up on your mortgage payments, providing health insurance for your family or paying down your debt so you can afford to be a little less play-it-safe in the future?

Whatever your reason(s), keep them in mind when you start to feel stir-crazy. Someone depends on you to hold down this job—whether it’s a significant other, a family, or just your future self, who would not like to find herself out on the curb before she has a new position lined up.

Think of the future

No, I don’t mean “envision your freedom” (although that can help, too). I mean think of the cold, hard repercussions of your actions today. If you ultimately long for something better than this, being the best employee you can now is the best way to get it.

If you become that sullen, skulking employee who darkens the corner of every conference room, you’re not likely to get a glowing recommendation for your next job. (Or to stay very long at this job, for that matter.) Take the high road, be the bigger man (or woman), and remember that your value as an employee in the future is tied to how well you perform today.

Do not (I repeat: DO NOT) take your work home with you

You’re more likely to survive your 9 to 5 if you have an enjoyable, relaxing life outside your working hours. So do whatever you can to keep your job-related emotions at your job. And fill your evenings and weekends with family, friends and hobbies that will keep you motivated and optimistic.

Keep looking for something else with a vengeance

Even if your search isn’t leading you anywhere at the moment, just the act of actively looking can help you feel better. You know that ultimately, your time in this less-than-ideal situation is limited. You are on your way out, even though you’re not out quite yet.

Take it one day at a time, knowing that this will not stretch on forever.

Kelly Gurnett is Assistant Editor of Brazen Life and runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger extraordinaire here.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527112978 Chimezirim Odimba

    Anyone can deal with any challenge if they learn to treat it as a transition in their lives. That’s why I agree with your points: Think of the future and remember why you are doing it for now. That’s a “transition mindset”. It will get you through most challenges and make them less stressful. Why know “this too shall pass away”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=156741187672272 Cordelia Calls It Quits

      Precisely. One day at a time. Any other perspective just drags you down even more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=216861035002387 Live Love Work

    Another great post, Kelly! I love every tip you’ve shared here and I’ve used them all.

    When I have been in this situation I found it was all too easy to focus on everything I didn’t like about my job- everything that wasn’t working. It’s just as easy to adjust my perspective and choose to look at everything that is going well, what is working, such as the benefits of the job, sharing a morning joke with a co-worker, and the goals this job is helping me achieve.

    No job, even my dream job, is perfect, and many times in my career I’ve found myself in an otherwise perfectly decent job that just isn’t lighting me up at the time. Sometimes this feeling is temporary and when I just stick it out I find that I once again love a job I used to love. Other times I find using tips like you’ve shared here help me stay productive and positive until the next great opportunity comes along.

    Making the best of myself and my career means I make the best of where I am each and every day.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=156741187672272 Cordelia Calls It Quits

      Exactly. I just read a great email from Notes from the Universe this morning (LOVE their daily pep talks!) about the whole “don’t think of the color red” mentality–i.e., someone tells you not to think of the color red, and ta-da! That’s all you CAN think about. The same thing goes with our perspective of our circumstances. If we focus only on what our job DOESN’T do for us and what we DON’T like about it, that’s all we’re going to see.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=658293899 Victoria Boast

    Awesome post, great tips, thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=168636376501710 NZ Muse

    Nice one! It’s all about the bigger picture, IMO (something I touch on here: http://nzmuse.com/2012/04/17/how-to-reclaim-your-work-mojo/).

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=156741187672272 Cordelia Calls It Quits

      My thoughts exactly!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=303874722048 Humor That Works

    Great post. I’d also add: Bring a little bit of what you want to do into your current job. Do you want to be an actor? Add a skit to your next training session. Want to be social media expert? Start a twitter account for your current project. Want to be the Queen of England? Drink tea and where interesting hats to work.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=644047006 Tony Hughes

      no such entity as queen of england. Just sayin’

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=156741187672272 Cordelia Calls It Quits

      That’s an excellent idea! If you want to be a writer, see if you can take over the company newsletter, etc. There are lots of ways you can infuse your own skills into your position if you get creative.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=35602133 Adrienne Sheares MA

    Great post! I will be sure to post to some of the college kids I know.