Illustrator: Ashley Siebels
At some point, most of us have experienced work that doesn’t work. According to Gallup, about 70% of us are disengaged at our jobs. Boredom, bad bosses, and overly competitive cultures can drain our motivation and frequently trigger a loss of confidence.
As we try harder and harder to fit in, we often find ourselves becoming more frustrated and anxious. I have seen scores of talented, successful people become incapacitated with self-doubt as they question why they just can’t seem to make the impact they were hoping for.
Recognizing the situation and recovering from work misfit requires that you reconnect to a sense of your unique talents. Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various shortcomings, it is important to regain a sense of your innate worth.
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Here are my top five best practices to regain your mojo.
1. Celebrate your accomplishments
Reminding yourself of what you have done can positively affect your attitude. Instead of keeping a to-do list of what must yet be done, try taking a moment at the end of a day to make a brief list of wins.
These accomplishments can be as major as closing a sale or as simple as engaging in a positive interaction with a co-worker. Crafting a list like this can give you a renewed appreciation for the things you’ve been able to achieve for the day, which in turn can produce a little emotional boost.
Keeping an ongoing list of accomplishments is also useful for negotiating with your boss about changes in your work or for updating your resume and talking to potential employers about your successes.
2. Try a growth mindset
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck discusses the power of our beliefs in driving our behavior, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing them can profoundly determine our future life course.
Spending time thinking deeply about the challenges you’re facing in your current role and crafting ideas for small and large changes that are fully within your control can vastly improve your mindset and your ability to see the potential in a difficult situation. It also can help you feel confident in your own ability to be successful despite the difficulties.
In the context of a growth mindset, the setbacks you’re facing with regard to work fit can serve as both motivation and an impetus to make changes that will help.
3. Assemble a home team of trusted partners
During times of self-doubt, it is critical to surround yourself with people who get you, see your strengths and weaknesses, and love and accept you anyway. These supporters are true allies. Create safe havens with people whom you can share your feelings of self-doubt because they will listen, empathize, and remind you of your innate strengths.
Ideally, these are people who serve as your personal cheering squad — they have seen you at your best and can remind you of what that looks like. Ask for what you need from these people — sometimes it will be their advice and counsel, but other times it’s just to listen and be present.
You could also engage a professional coach or counselor. These people are trained to help you objectively understand difficult situations and the feelings they trigger as well as help chart a positive course forward.
4. Get enough sleep
Sleeping poorly ruins your day. The more tired you are, the harder it is to concentrate and the more susceptible you are to feeling depressed and irritable. In turn, this can create a vicious spiral where it is tough to perform at work, and where you become more easily discouraged by challenges and less confident in your results.
5. Reconnect to a favorite pastime
Unhappiness at work often spills over into other parts of our life, causing us to abandon the things in life that give us joy. We may pour our hours into work, neglecting our hobbies and interests.
When I was struggling with misfit at work, my coach Moe (who coauthored the book Fit Matters with me) encouraged me to put some of my energy into an outside activity that I enjoyed. I got involved with a nonprofit organization that was using art to raise awareness of issues impacting women. In that process, I made new friends, learned new skills, and found a sense of purpose that carried over into a more positive attitude during the workday.
When you are struggling at work, you need to take extra care with your health and with the relationships that matter the most to you. Remember that even if you are a misfit at work, you are still worthy as a human being. You still matter in the world and to the people who cherish you, even when your confidence has taken a rough hit.
This article was first published on July 13, 2017.