How to be more enthusiastic about your work

Financial Times

Business people at a meeting. (Comstock Images/Getty Images/Comstock Images)



Everyone knows that enthusiasm boosts performance and that enjoying work can be the beginning of a virtuous circle. But can you become more enthusiastic?

How can I view my work more enthusiastically?

“Look at who ultimately benefits from the work you do,” says Octavius Black, founder of performance consultancy the Mind Gym. “For instance, if you’re an accountant, say, ‘I’m contributing to the trust that allows the business world to function.’ Make that link between what you do and the impact you have. It’s incredibly powerful.”

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Blaire Palmer, managing director of the coaching consultancy Taming Tigers, says people need to differentiate between motivation and inspiration in assessing their career. “Motivation comes from outside, such as the need to earn money. But inspiration comes from finding meaning in your work,” she explains. “You need to find your purpose and what really inspires you, and remember that these things may well have changed since you started.”

Similarly, she says it is important to distinguish between what matters at work and what does not. “People often think that every part of what they do is vitally important, but they should let go of some of the earnestness. Treat work like a marathon, not a sprint. That can make it more enjoyable.”

How much real control do I have?

“Unless you work on a production line, we all have scope to shape our job,” says Ceri Roderick, emeritus partner at business psychologists Pearn Kandola. “People enjoy themselves much more when they’re playing to their strengths, so you need to ask what you are good at and how you can increase the amount of your working time you spend doing it.”

Mr. Black says it is often small changes that make a big difference in how someone sees their job. “Think about what you can do to make your job different in the future. Ask, ‘How can I set myself challenges or aim to be more of the person I want to be?’ It can be as trivial as taking the stairs so you’ll be fitter.”

In large organizations, altering a job can be comparatively easy. “In a big company, there’ll be a niche for you, but you have to be proactive,” says Mr. Roderick. “People assume they’ll be noticed, but you need to let those around know. Finally, look at your relationship with your boss, as this remains the single biggest reason people leave jobs.”

Ms. Palmer suggests focusing on an individual task that you look forward to each day. “It might be finishing a piece of work or lunch with a friend. Reconnect with people and don’t spend all day on e-mail.”

What if I feel stuck?

“Sometimes it’s okay to feel low,” Mr. Black says. “Give yourself a break. If you’re getting nowhere, go and do something fun.”

Mr. Roderick notes that just forcing yourself into action can help. “There’s a lot of inertia. Most people just don’t get up and do it,” he says.

Ms. Palmer says that just assessing the alternatives available can help. “Know you have options. Know you’re choosing your story.”

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