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Six Ways to Start Loving Your Job

You should enjoy what you do — join the one-third of people that do

Scott Henderson
14 min readSep 7, 2020


Alex felt like she was at a dead-end job. She had been there for almost two years and was worried the job would continue to get worse.

She wanted to enjoy her work but had two problems:

  1. The job was boring
  2. Management was bad

Alex didn’t care all that much anymore and she didn’t have hope of things improving — that frustrated her.

Does this scenario resonate at all with you? It does with the majority of workers in America. It doesn’t have to be this way. People should love (or at least enjoy) what they do for work.

In this article, you will learn about a paradigm shift that can dramatically change how you approach work. Apply the six tips below and transform your job from something you endure to something you enjoy.

If you hate your job and you are thinking about quitting then this article is for you.

Shows like The Office make us laugh because they make light of how tedious and disengaging work often is. Perhaps the lightheartedness about this topic has nudged us to learn to embrace work for what it is — work.

A 2018 study from Gallup suggested that 34% of American workers are engaged at work. That percentage will likely drop because of the type of year 2020 has been.

The Coronavirus transformed the way we live and work. Remote work offers flexibility, autonomy, and independence; however, it has been found to disengage people and lead to turnover.

People who were already hating their job are now even more likely to jump ship.

So what should they do?

A Different Approach

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. — Steve Jobs

Does doing great work lead to loving what you do or does loving what you do lead to great work?

Both perhaps.

But only one of these factors can be completely controlled by you right now. You can dedicate time and energy to do great work

When you strive to do great work you enjoy work more. This take-charge mentality is what psychologists call having an internal locus of control. An internal locus of control is characterized by someone who believes they have control over how their life unfolds.

Exercise your ability to have an internal locus of control by choosing to do great work and by adopting these six tips. When you do so you will find greater meaning and happiness at work.

1. Stop only doing things you’re told

“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”― Thomas A. Edison

This approach to work is a surefire way to miss out on meaningful opportunities. It also nudges individuals to believe false narratives about themselves. (I’m not needed — I’m not smart enough for my job — I don’t add any value to the team or organization — Other people have all the answers.)

The truth is the exact opposite.

  • You are needed.
  • You are capable of doing great work.
  • You can and do add value.
  • No one will ever have every answer to every question.

Sometimes people need reminders that they are intelligent, capable, and fully autonomous to do great work — but colleagues don’t always hand out these reminders, or they are few and far between.

The solution? Remind yourself and move towards action.

Steps for becoming proactive:

  1. Embrace the fact that you have internal authority. You have powerful decision-making power. You have control of your life. You can meaningfully influence anything that falls under your job description — and if someone is keeping you from doing great work, you have the authority to start a conversation with them to ask them to stop/change.
  2. Take personal time to identify the obstacles keeping you from enjoying your work. Go deep and ask yourself why a specific thing is keeping you from being engaged.
  3. After determining what the obstacles are, carve out time to think about them. Strategize and make a plan to address them. That may look like blocking out more personal-working time on your calendar, scheduling a 1:1 with your manager to share what you are discovering, or creating your own meaningful project. As long as your ideas directly support your team’s and organization’s goals you will be rewarded and supported.

Being proactive does require work on your part and that can be hard. Especially when you are used to not needing to be proactive. Start small, celebrate wins, and go find opportunities.

2. Ask more questions

“Question everything” — Albert Einstein

People usually don’t ask questions because they don’t want to be seen as stupid or less capable. What we often forget or don’t expect is —

  • Other people have the same or similar questions.
  • Questions help refine ideas and messaging. When you ask a person a question, you often help them think deeper about the idea or topic.
  • People feel more comfortable around those who ask questions because it makes them feel like they can also ask questions without social consequences.
  • Good questions turn lectures into collaboration.

Sometimes we have a question but we don’t know how to ask it. Or we have a question and the fear of looking dumb overpowers our curiosity.

One way to overcome this is to write out your question(s) and try answering them yourself before asking it out loud. You can usually come up with a generic response but keep digging, you might get to one of the following questions, or even a better one.

Confident questions to spark collaboration:

  1. What is the background/context of this idea or proposed solution?
  2. What problem are we trying to solve?
  3. What is the desired outcome?
  4. What specifically can I/we do to support you with this?
  5. What was your main takeaway?
  6. [In response to an explanation] Okay, what else?
  7. Is there anything you want to communicate? or, What would you like to communicate?

The questions above are designed to do two things: (1) create a learning and collaborative environment that will engage you and others, and (2) lessen the anxieties you have about asking questions.

Conversations often benefit from questions like the ones above — you will likely be appreciated for asking them.

The more often you ask questions the easier it will become. Consequently, you will be more engaged at work because you will see how your questioning is meaningfully impacting work.

3. Don’t agree to do everything

“If it’s a clear NO, don’t say YES. If it isn’t a clear YES, it’s a clear NO.” — Greg McKeown

We all know what it is like to have our days be jam-packed with work, only to have 5:00 o’clock roll around and have nothing to show for it.

Conventional wisdom suggests you should say yes to colleagues’ requests so you are viewed as reliable team players who can do it all.

This personality trait is known as agreeableness and it is often thought of as a good thing for employees to have — but every personality trait comes with a unique set of hindrances.

For instance, research suggests agreeable people are often experienced as compassionate, polite, helpful, trusting, and generous.

However, they also have a hard time saying “no”, are conflict avoidant, doubt their own professional ability, and can lead people inefficiently.

Findings also suggest agreeable people are more likely to accept and support the status quo, even if the status quo is something they don’t like.

Does this mean you should start being more disagreeable? Absolutely, especially if you are already very agreeable. Does it mean you should stop being compassionate, polite, and helpful? Not at all.

You can make a conscious effort to land in the middle of this dichotomy, being both agreeable sometimes and disagreeable at other times.

You finding this balance is detrimental to your happiness and satisfaction with work and life because you need to both be a team player and do what is best for you.

Constructive ways to approach the agreeable-disagreeable dichotomy:

  1. Identify what the most essential things in your life and career are — What do you wish to accomplish personally, professionally, physically, etc. in the future? Take five minutes right now to think and write down a list. This clarity is one step towards discovering what you say yes to and what you say no to.
  2. Level-up your self-awareness — The easiest way to do this is with a free big-five personality test. Outcomes on the other four dimensions are helpful too (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and emotional stability) — however, pay attention to how agreeable you are and determine if you want to be more or less agreeable.
  3. Practice getting comfortable with what is unnatural for you — If you are naturally disagreeable, create a routine or a checklist to ensure you practice listening and empathizing with others. If you are naturally agreeable do the same but include steps like asking probing questions, leaning into conflict, and sharing feedback you normally would not share.
  4. Communicate positive interdependence when being disagreeable — Positive interdependence, a term coined by Morton Deutsch (one of the fathers of conflict resolution) is when members of a group share a common end goal and believe it is more beneficial to work together towards a solution. People are more receptive to disagreeableness when they know it is helping them actually get what they want. Don’t hesitate to justify your disagreeableness by stating how both parties can and should get what they want.

Identify what is most important and start saying “no” when you should. As Greg McKeown says, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

You can do it. Life will be more meaningful. Start right now.

4. Stop multitasking

Multitasking =

Agreeableness x Environment x Lack of Planning

If someone can start saying no to unessential things coming at them, they have won one-third of the battle. Creating a conducive environment for effective work and adopting a strategy to effectively plan satisfy the rest.

Research shows again and again that multitasking is an inefficient way to work. This is primarily because the associated switching costs can waste as much as 40% of a multitasker’s time.

Emails, text messages, and phone calls are three major multitasking lures. Additionally, each app on your phone or desktop notification tempts you to stop working and redirect your attention.

You can ignore the notifications for some time but they will eventually get the better of you — and now that many of us are working from home we get to juggle distractions from family, pets, or roommates that draw our focus elsewhere.

You cannot control everything about your environment but you can control some of it—

  • Be thoughtful about what notifications you have on your phone. Only leave on the ones you absolutely need (e.g., calls, texts, calendar reminders, and anything you deem essential).
  • Disable desktop notifications OR use the “do not disturb” function during times of the day you really need to focus. Tell your manager what you’re doing and why so they know how to get ahold of you if needed and can appreciate your extra effort.
  • Communicate your calendar to those you live with so they know when it is most important not to disturb you.
  • Create a workstation that you are happy with away from the kitchen or television. Constant snacking and/or watching something while working distracts enough to not be worth it. Instead, give yourself micro-breaks every 50 minutes to stretch, do some push-ups, use the bathroom, etc. Try to limit your breaks to 10 minutes or less.

Systems for planning and staying focused

When it comes to planning your days/weeks — the system is not as important as the fact that you do it. I have found two systems work really well for me and I toggle between the two.

The first is Brooke Castillo’s “Monday Hour One” approach from The Life Coach School. It looks like this:

  1. The first thing you do on Monday is take out a sheet of paper and make a physical list of everything you have to do that week.
  2. Then pull up your virtual calendar and start to fill it in with the items from your paper. Cross off the items on the paper as you go.
  3. When your list is all crossed off throw away the paper and you’re done.

This approach resonates with me for a few reasons:

  • I get to brain dump at the beginning of the week and don’t need to think about it after I’m done.
  • My wife and I can effectively plan around each other’s schedules while juggling our outings with our daughter well.
  • When I sit down for some hyper-focused time I don’t have to think about what I am going to do. I simply follow my calendar as planned.

[Here is the podcast episode that teaches Monday Hour One.]

The other approach I have used is Donald Miller’s “Productivity Schedule” from StoryBrand. It works best for people who are managing their own time and who need to make progress on large projects.

Its aim is to make you more productive by overcoming procrastination and creating realistic expectations. They say the schedule “forces time to work around your brain rather than your brain to act as a servant of time.”

Here is the link to the two-pager I found online. Read the second page for greater clarification on the document.

I like this system because:

  • It limits my work hours to three projects. I usually only focus on the first and second.
  • The top two boxes on the right-hand side get me future-oriented which motivates me.
  • Writing my life theme every day at the bottom of the page helps me remember what is most important to me.

Again, the system you adopt can be anything you want. What’s most important is you have a system and it works for you.

When your days are structured with an optimal environment and a strategic action plan you will find greater joy in your work.

5. Stop disengaging from meetings

“We are what we repeatedly do.” — Aristotle

If you’re like most people then you often wait for something to become engaging before you engage with it. This is normal.

This is also a major flaw in how we work and live our lives. We repeatedly wait to be engaged. It takes almost zero effort too. Turn on Netflix. Scroll through Instagram. Play Spotify. Browse YouTube. Repeat. The conditioning leaks into other aspects of our lives and causes us to make excuses like:

  • “The manager should have planned a better meeting.”
  • “The facilitator should have asked better questions.”
  • “The presenter should have told more stories.”
  • “My partner should have told me what they were thinking about.”

The list could go on.

I’m not suggesting these things are not true. Comments like these might be justified. What I am saying is comments like these need to be thought of only as comments. Never excuses for not engaging.

We can be annoyed with how something is AND we can still engage. When we engage we take the initiative to create a better experience for ourselves and for those involved.

Strategies to start engaging and become engaged

  • If you’re scared to speak up, identify why by writing down the possibilities, make a plan to navigate your fears, and start small by contributing to the next small meeting you’re a part of.
  • If you’re often distracted by other commitments while in meetings, plan dedicated and protected time during the week to focus on those commitments so you can be present now.
  • If you’re confused about why you were invited to a meeting, write down a list of possible reasons why, you will probably come up with the reason. If needed, have a conversation with your manager or the meeting scheduler so you gain some clarity.
  • If you find yourself not understanding the purpose of the meeting, then politely chime in and ask what exactly the goal of today’s meeting is.

If everything is going well, (you are not scared, distracted, confused, and the purpose is clear) then make sure you are taking notes and asking questions (see section 2).

Don’t wait to be engaged with. If you do, you will likely never feel engaged at work. “We are what we repeatedly do.” Do the engaging. You don’t need to be an extrovert — You are able.

6. Stop avoiding feedback

“In the absence of feedback, people will fill in the blanks with a negative. They will assume you don’t care about them or don’t like them.“ — Pat Summit

Feedback is hard to give and difficult to receive. It can quickly go from one person trying to help another and turn into two offended people who are now less enthused about working together.

If you’re not receiving regular feedback it is likely because your colleagues don’t know how to approach you with it in a way so they can avoid the tension or awkwardness.

Why should you want their feedback?

  • You will have a more accurate understanding of your work and the impact you’re having on others. This informs your personal development and enables you to work more effectively.
  • This understanding dissolves negative narratives you were consciously or unconsciously believing about yourself, your work, and your impact on others. Consequently helping you focus your energy on your primary tasks and away from worrying about things like what others think about you.
  • The feedback interaction you will have with colleagues will strengthen your relationships. Stronger relationships foster a greater sense of belonging at work.

We need feedback so we can learn and grow, and the more often we seek feedback the more natural the conversations and subsequent growth become.

How to start seeking feedback effectively

You need to build boundaries for the conversation. This helps your colleague feel safe because they assume if they operate within your boundaries everything should go well.

These boundaries are —

First, stray away from using the word feedback. Instead, use the word advice. In this article, you can read about how asking for advice, not feedback, elicits more helpful input from those you ask.

Feedback is more attached to evaluation. Advice is more attached to friendly concern. In school, teachers/professors gave you feedback on your papers but respected friends gave you advice on what to do.

Second, tell the person what kind of feedback you want. “I want to get better at creating xyz reports.”

Third, ensure them you want them to share their subjective experience. They are professionals when it comes to their experience so it is easier for them to speak about it.

Fourth, make the task small and unintimidating. “What is one small thing...”

This all comes together in three simple sentences.

“I need your advice. I want to __________. Based on your experience with me, what is one small thing you think I could do or change to __________?”

It might look like this —

Hey manager, I need your advice. I want to get better at creating monthly spending reports. Based on your experience with me, what is one small thing you think I could do or change to create better reports?

That is the easy part of asking for feedback. The hard part is not ruining the experience as you hear the feedback.

The two biggest mistakes people make when receiving feedback is —

  1. Not asking questions to ensure they understand the feedback.
  2. Discounting the feedback by arguing or justifying past behavior.

Giving feedback (or advice) is a hard thing for someone to do. When we don’t listen and when we argue about it, we unintentionally communicate a few things:

  • The other person’s subjective experience is less important to us than our ego.
  • We’re insecure.
  • We don’t really want to learn.
  • We are difficult to work with.

The feedback you receive may not be very accurate — but maybe it is! You will never fully understand unless you ask questions about what they are saying.

The truth might hurt for a little bit, but it will also set you free — free of the burden to try and hide your weaknesses, and free of the fear of being imperfect.

We all have weaknesses and we are all imperfect.

Instead of avoiding feedback, seek it out. Get real input and data to inform the stories you are telling yourself about work and make changes to your behavior so your stories have happy endings.

To wrap it up

Remember Alex in the short example at the beginning? We all have felt like her at one point or another.

We have had colleagues we don’t get along with and roles we don’t enjoy. We have all wanted to quit. It’s common, so don’t get down on yourself and know you can do something about it.

If you don’t apply these six tips and develop a greater internal locus of control, your circumstances will hardly change — regardless of you being at your current job or a new one.

If you do exercise your internal locus of control with these six tips, you will realize you have the power to take any job from something you endure to something you can enjoy and look forward to.

Good luck.

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