By Jean Chatzky with Arielle McGowen
April 08, 2009
My college pal Susan, who went through a stretch where she didn't like her job much, had a saying: "That's why they have to pay you. If it was fun, you'd do it for free."
I'd nod and egg her on. We all had bad days. Some of us had bad months or bad years.
After immersing myself in research for my new book, The Difference, I think we were both wrong. They—the employer, the client and the customer—have to pay you because what you're doing is of value. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be fun. Or stimulating. Or energizing. Or satisfying.
In a nutshell, here's what we know: People who are passionate about what they do reach financial comfort and wealth more often than those who are not.
That argues for doing one of two things. Finding your passion and pursuing it. Or becoming passionate about what you're already pursuing.
In a troubled economy like this one, the latter may be easier, but let's start with the former.
Doing What You Love
Step one is to identify those things that "might" be on your list and those things that most definitely are not. Asking yourself these questions can help you figure that out.
1) If money was not an issue, what would you be doing? 2) When you go online or to the library, what do you most like to read about? 3) Think about the last few times you said to yourself: I'd like to do that sometime. What was "that?" 4) What do other people say you do particularly well? 5) What could you do that would bring back the kind of excitement you felt as a kid?
Once you've got a grip on what your passion is, you need to know two things: Can you do it better than it's being done right now, and can you make money doing it?
While you're figuring this out, don't quit your regular job. Instead, work on the new business on the side until you know if it's both grounded in reality and profitable.
Loving What You Do
The alternative to following your bliss is to find passion in the work you're doing now. It's possible.
Amy Wresnieski of the University of Michigan has studied this and found that the difference between a job (which you do for the money) and a calling (which you do for the love of it—and for the money) is not the job itself, but how you feel about the work.
There are doctors and lawyers for whom work is a job and others for whom it is a calling, just like there are teachers and police officers for whom work is a job and others for whom it is a calling.
How do you find the calling in your job?
Try to forge a personal connection with your boss. If you're working for someone you feel is charismatic or inspirational, you're likely to want to perform better in that person's eyes. There's no taking an uncharismatic supervisor and turning him or her into Gandhi. But there is the possibility you haven't gotten to know the person who is managing you, and that person may have leadership characteristics you haven't noticed.
Try to schedule a breakfast meeting. Early morning hours signal your willingness to jump in off the clock. Suggesting lunch may be an indicator that you're looking to kick back in the middle of the day.
Find the autonomy in your work. Autonomy is key to feeling good about the work you do, no matter what kind of work it is. Research has shown you'll be happier at work if you can make your own mark.
Striking out for workplace independence doesn't have to be a battle cry; it can be a whisper and have the same mood-elevating results.
Finally, fake it until you make it. While you're going through this process of trying to find the satisfaction in your work, pretend you feel satisfied. Tell yourself you had a good day. Walk through the corridors with a smile rather than a scowl.
Your positive energy will radiate. If you act like you're having fun, you'll find you are having fun.
I'm not promising you a party. But I can guarantee an improvement.