It was Tuesday evening and I was driving home from work. I was overwhelmed and miserable. I tried to cry, but there were no tears.
My life was over. I lost all motivation and excitement for everything.
My life was one boring routine. I was wasting away. Or so I thought.
These were my feelings when I started working my job two years ago. I hated my job. I was bored. I felt as though I wasted five years working on a degree that I didn’t want anymore.
I was miserable, but didn’t have any reason to be. I had a great boss and supportive co-workers. However, the actual work left much to be desired.
Two years later, and I’m still here.
I’m still not fulfilled by my job. I’m a little unhappy. But I cope with my situation.
I’ve changed a lot in two years. I’m more mature. I have a completely different outlook on life.
When I graduated I was selfish. I didn’t want to work hard. I wanted an easy way out. An easy way to make money that would only require a few hours of work per week.
I didn’t have focus or drive. Not like I do today.
How did I overcome that initial resistance? How did I make this job manageable, even sometimes enjoyable? And how have I managed to get more out of life?
That’s what I want to share with you.
If you’re working a job you hate, this article is for you. I’m going to pass on my experience working a job I hated. Maybe you’ll get some value from it.
When you work a job you hate, you think about every other place that you’d rather be.
I was working at a remote audit site an hour from home. I remember looking out the window thinking of where I would rather be.
I wanted to be outside enjoying the warm summer air.
I wanted to be working another job.
I wanted to be researching stocks.
I wanted to be playing basketball.
I was living an imaginary existence. I was living in the past thinking of how things were. I longed for a time machine so I could change the past.
I was stressing about the future and what I wanted to be doing instead what I was doing. I was stressed about how far away and out of reach that future seemed to me.
I was living everywhere except for the present
While staring out that window, I had a moment of clarity. I forced myself to live fully in the moment and not worry about the past or the future.
I realized the mind clouds present moment with thoughts of the past or the future.
“The mind, to ensure that it remains in control, seeks continuously covering up the present moment with past and future, and so, as the vitality and infinite creative potential of Being, which is inseparable from Now, becomes covered up by time, your true nature becomes obscured by the mind. An increasingly heavy burden of time has been accumulating in the human mind.” – Eckhard Tolle, The Power of Now
I can’t go back and change the past. And I can’t run faster towards the future. So why waste brain power and energy thinking about these things?
All I can control is what I do today right now.
How has living presently changed things?
I stress less about the future and I don’t concern myself with the past. I’m happier and enjoy the little things in life.
Living present makes time go faster and makes work go faster.
When I focus on the work on hand, I’m more engaged. As long as I focus on doing one thing right now, time seems moves quicker.
This happens because you get into flow states of focus and concentration. Flow state, also known as “the zone” was coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian psychologist.
In this mental state you perform an activity in which you are fully immersed in “a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
However, you can’t get into flow if you are thinking about the past or the future. As a matter of fact, Jeanne Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi identified six factors that encompass flow states, and number one on their list is “intense and focused concentration on the present moment.”
I find that the work day goes by quicker and I’m more engaged. As a result, I get more out of the day feel prouder about myself. That’s the power of living presently and engaging in one single task at a time.
If you interested about flow, check out Csíkszentmihályi’s Ted Talk on this topic. Also, Steven Kotler recently wrote a great book, The Rise of Superman, which goes in depth on flow, which I highly recommend!
Don’t focus on what you hate doing
When I started working, I thought about was how much I hated my job. I hated being cooped up in an office all day. I hated auditing people. I felt like people hated me.
My life was filled with negativity and bad energy. This brought my mood down, making me extremely pessimistic.
Instead of feeding my brain positive thought patterns, I dwelled on the negative. This made work harder and the job unbearable.
I needed a shift in thinking. So I decided to stop focusing on the negative.
But I didn’t shift into the “positive thinking” mindset. I’ve tried this before and it doesn’t work.
In the past, I would tell myself I was happy, I loved my job and there wasn’t anything else I would rather do. Instead, this actually made me more discontent. I was lying to myself. Telling these lies caused cognitive dissonance.
If you don’t focus on positive thinking, what do you focus on?
I focus on a learning and growth mindset. This can apply to any job. For me, it’s about focusing on learning as much as I can from everyone surrounding me.
My goal is to learn as much on each project I work on. I learn as much as I can from my co-workers and other individuals I come in contact with.
I commit to learning as much as I can and have a mastery outlook with what I do. If you can focus on learning one thing each day from one person around you, your life will become more productive.
If you work in retail, learn as much about your customers as possible. Do you have repeat customers? What do they tend to buy? Do people buy certain things together?
Learn as much as you can about your superiors. How did they get into the position they are in? What skills do they have that you would like to have? What faults do they have that you want to learn from?
Also, learn as much about your company as you can. Figure out why you do things the way you do. Learn about its history. Find out what makes it tick and what makes it successful.
When I shifted away from the “I hate doing…” to “I have to work 8 hours today, so what is one thing I can learn today?” my perspective of work changed. I get more out of each day because I strive to pick up skills that I can apply to other areas of my life, not just work.
Stay busy outside of work.
On that day I was driving home from work, completely miserable, I made a commitment to make the most of my time away from work.
I knew there would be many days where I would make myself miserable and unhappy if I wasn’t working towards something bigger and towards a brighter future for myself.
I started a personal finance blog. I had visions of it growing. I believed I would become the next popular personal finance blogger. But I didn’t. I failed.
I shifted gears and decided to write eBooks about personal finance. I had visions of creating a passive income stream through these books. My goal was to make $10,000 a month from eBooks. But I didn’t. I failed.
Even though I failed in both of these areas, I pursued something that I enjoyed. I pursued activities that I looked forward to at the end of the every day. I lived for the challenge of coming up with blog posts and chapters for books.
I didn’t want to come home every day, plop down in front of the TV and waste away my hours away from work.
I pursued things that interested me. I continue to pursue things that interest me. Without this drive and desire to make the most of my free time, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I lost interest in my personal finance blog and eBooks. But those activities made me a much better writer. Better than I’ve ever been at any point in my life.
I’m pursing an ecommerce business on the side. This is my next project I’m working on to become financially free.
I look forward to this every day. It serves as a reminder that my job is only temporary.
If I knew I had 30 to 40 years left working at my current job I would be miserable. But I’m not, because I know that I won’t be here forever.
I’m constantly reading, listening to podcasts, talking to people, and focusing on improving myself every day. I strive to learn as much about business and entrepreneurship every day.
What if you don’t want to be an entrepreneur? What could you do instead?
Do you like sports? Take it up after work. Join a local rec league. Volunteer to coach your local high school team. Join a gym.
You could also volunteer. Network and meet new people. Join Toastmasters. Research other career opportunities and take the first step to getting out of your current situation.
Be productive and make the most of your time. Work towards something meaningful in your free time if you don’t derive meaning from your job. Give yourself something to look forward to.
Your situation isn’t permanent. You have options and choices in the world. You just might have to stick it out at your current job a little longer.
If you are in a volatile situation, these tips may not work for you. You may need to get out. But if you’re like me and you’re working a job to pay the bills, try out some of the tips above. I don’t know if they will work. But they work for me. Here I am today, happy and excited about the possibilities in my future.