The Mindful Life™ Blog

What to do When You’ve Lost Your Passion at Work

You can let your work inspire you or you can let it take you down.

This was what my wise yoga teacher said the other day, and it got me thinking about how true it is. In the last decade of teaching mindfulness, stress-resiliency and engagement at work, I’ve found that it doesn’t matter if you’re the secretary or the CEO, your work can inspire you or you can let it take you down.

According to 2016 Gallup Surveys, over 70% of workers are not engaged at work.

If you’re feeling less than inspired at work, apparently, you are not alone. But a shift in perspective about how you view your weekly meal ticket, can help move the needle from disengaged to engaged. Amy Wrzesniewski, of Yale School of Management, has identified 3 different mindsets that most workers fall into:

Job Mindset

The person with the job mindset is usually at work to punch the clock and cash their check. They tend to be not that happy at work, find little meaning in their tasks and are usually scanning the help wanted ads.

Career Mindset

In the career mindset, you’re working towards bigger goals and are motivated by advancement, pay and/or prestige. Work satisfaction and happiness vary greatly within this sector. Careerists tend to vacillate between wondering if they’re being treated fairly or scanning the horizon for something better.

Calling Mindset

In a calling mindset, a person has a substantial intrinsic motivation to do their job. The process of doing the work is a positive end in and of itself. They generally feel good about what they’re doing. They give more and get more from their work. They tend to be much happier and more fulfilled than their career and job mindset counterparts.

Before you stereotype various professions into specific mindset categories, read this …

“I work here because I love helping sick people. My job is to make them comfortable and happy, to create and maintain a clean and safe atmosphere where patients can concentrate on getting better. When you help patients recover in any way, you give them hope … when people see my joy and my happiness, they feel better. This is my building, these are my patients, this is my family. This is the most rewarding experience of my life.”
–Candice Billops

At first glance, you might think that Candice Billops is a doctor or a nurse. She’s actually a member of the custodian crew. She sees her impact as being substantial and integral to the organization. Her work is her calling.

What To Do When You’ve Lost Your Passion …

I shared these mindsets with a friend of mine who has been an environmental engineer for nearly 20 years. Somewhere between raising a family, paying a mortgage, dealing with budget cuts and fighting traffic, his passion for the environment became more of a grind than a calling. His blase attitude was not only affecting his own engagement at work, it wasn’t exactly inspiring to the people who worked for him, either.

He decided to make a change. He started by telling his employees how much he appreciated them. He shared that he valued them not only as members of his team, but also as stewards of the environment. He reiterated how much of a difference they were making (even on the days when it felt like it was two steps forward, one step back).

His team members were floored and flattered. A younger guy confessed that he was mostly overwhelmed by all of the menial paperwork he had to do. He had chosen his fledgling career in order to make a difference and instead just felt like he was pushing paper around. The meeting changed how he viewed his tasks and took them from being stressful to impactful.

Saving lives or saving the earth, you might be thinking that finding meaning in your work is industry specific, but it’s not.

In a comprehensive analysis of more than 200,000 employees across all industries, researchers found that seeing your work as meaningful was not at all dependent upon what profession you had chosen. It was, however, dependent upon having a prosocial belief and motivation that your work has a positive impact on others.

Your mission might be as ambitious as curing cancer or as casual as pouring a coffee for a harried customer. Maybe you’re saving the world or maybe you’re making someone’s day. Your work can have meaning either way.

I’ll be the first to say that my work is not filled with rainbows and unicorns on a daily basis. Tech challenges can turn me into a disgruntled employee, faster than I can wrestle with my router. But when I reflect on why I started this company in the first place (and put a few of my best stress tools to the test), I can remember that my work inspires me and not let the little or big stressors take me down.


Kristen Race, Ph.D.
and the Mindful Life Team

back to top