I wrote in my post, One Likely Reason You’re not Satisfied with Your Job, that 70% of Americans report being dissatisfied with their jobs. When we think about the things that we we are thankful for, our jobs are probably the last thing on the list.
For some it might not even make the list. So, how can we be thankful for a job that is perhaps inflexible, demanding, boring, not challenging? How can you be thankful for a job that you hate?
There are bad reasons to be thankful. Research shows that gratitude leads to greater levels of happiness, but that’s not the reason to be grateful for a job you hate. It’s like saying be grateful for breaking your arm, as though the gratitude will make the pain itself go away. It does not make sense. Similarly, being grateful for a job you hate will not magically make it less boring. We’re not masochists seeking pain for pleasure. Some jobs are just plain boring, but our attitude towards that job makes the difference. Gratitude may not make the job less boring, but it can help our outlook on it.
Yes, gratitude brings high levels of “happiness,” but endeavoring to that end simply won’t do. Emotions are fleeting. The reason you should grateful is because, as James 1 states,
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (Jam 1: 2-4)
your current circumstance is producing certain character traits in you that you would otherwise never develop. It’s producing patience. Also, gratitude is a choice, which means it helps you to be in control of the situation, rather than letting it control you. Remember, you are never a victim to your circumstance. You can make choices to better your situation.
So, that’s what I want to talk about today. Here are three ways you can be grateful for a job that you hate.
1. Be Thankful that you have a Job
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Tim 6: 6-8).
Yes, I know… I know! This piece of advice is very cliché. However, as I thought about it over and over again, I could not help but to agree with this statement. Gratitude is most difficult when it is for things in our lives that we don’t like. Anyone can be grateful for a brand new car, or a promotion at work, but it takes a special type of person to be grateful for a lousy job. I’ve had jobs in my life that I dreaded going to in the morning, so I definitely know this feeling.
Keep in mind, however, that being grateful for your job is not the same as pretending that your job is not lousy. I’m not asking you to practice masochism here. As a matter of fact, it is the recognition and the acceptance of the fact that the job is indeed lousy that gives strength to the gratitude. Gratitude is a choice, not a mere emotional reaction. By choosing to be grateful for your job, you will keep yourself from just being a victim to your circumstance. Trust me, I know that practicing gratitude is not always easy. But it is the right attitude to have in order to at least maintain your sanity in the midst of a job that you hate. (Philippians 4:8)
It’s all about perspective. Think of the millions of unemployed Americans who would love to have the paycheck that you get every two weeks. That’s something to be grateful for, right? Find those things that you enjoy doing and ask for opportunities to do them. Not only will you be adding more value to the organization, but you will also find more satisfaction on the job.
For example, if you are a people person but have very little face-to-face interaction with others in your job, is there a younger coworker that you can mentor one-on-one? If you love to speak in front of people, can you ask your boss for opportunities to host training sessions in the company?
Do you see what I’m getting at? The main takeaway is to remember that we do not have to be victims to our circumstances in our jobs, whatever those circumstances are. There will be times in life where you will experience plenty, and other times when you will suffer need. Learn to be grateful and content in whatever lot you find yourself, because that is the most helpful response.
2. Focus on your Circle of Influence at Work
We urge you…that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you (1 Thes 4: 10-11).
In his bestselling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the habit of being proactive. Namely, he discusses the difference between the circle of concern and the circle of influence. See the diagram below.
The circle of concern includes all of the things that we cannot control in our lives. These include the weather, the disposition or our boss at work, the type of colleagues hired to join the organization, and even the leaders that we need to take direction from. Unless you are a hiring manager and have free range to build your own team, chances are you don’t control any of these factors.
The circle of influence, on the other hand, are things in life that we DO control. Such as: our behavior, our response to other people’s actions, what we do with our time, what we read, etc… Covey says that in order to be proactive one must focus their attention on the circle of influence, those things they can control, instead of wasting on the circle of concern. In our society today, the situation is often reversed. We spend so much time worrying about other people’s matters that we fail to simply focus on those areas that we control. This pattern will only drive you crazy at work.
Whatever job you’re in, make a list of those things that you directly or indirectly impact. That’s your circle of influence. Focus on those. Seek to develop them and continue to improve them little by little. Again the more you focus on those areas that you can control, the less anxious and stressed you will be about your situation.
3. Be Thankful that you can ALWAYS Look for Another Job
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Luke 11:9).
In his book Quitter, Jon Acuff talks about how he made the transition from a copywriter to an author. He was in a job that made decent money, but he knew that he wanted to do something different. It took some proactive planning on his part, but he was eventually able to slowly transition out of his copywriter role and now is doing what he loves to do–writing and speaking full time.
The takeaway here is that you can always look for another job. You can learn how to get a promotion, if that helps. The idea that you are stuck or that you are a victim to your situation at work could not be further from the truth. We all have choices to make in life, so don’t be afraid to look for a better situation, if necessary. Sometimes that very first step of looking for another job can be a major morale booster.
And if you have a gap in your skill set, then find ways to fill that gap. Take a class online, attend networking events, and find a mentor you can trust to help guide you. One organization that I highly value is Toastmasters. There you can learn how to develop both communication and leadership skills, which can give you a major boost in your career.
Another thing you can do is to start pursuing a hobby part-time. Perhaps you have always wanted to start your own business. Start investing time into that business part-time until you can build enough replaceable income to do it full-time. That’s what Jon Acuff did.
As I said in the beginning, gratitude is not about pumping yourself up with platitudes in front of a mirror, in hopes that you will magically become more happy. Gratitude is taking stock of your current situation, however bad they might be, and still finding little things here and there to be thankful for. We all have things to be thankful for. After you have done that, find the areas of influence in your role and focus on them. And if you still find yourself unable to enjoy your work, then by all means find something else to do. There’s nothing wrong with that.
– Led by the Book