When working with people who are unhappily employed, many times they come to a point where they say “I guess I should just be grateful I have a job.”

Absolutely! It is healthy to be grateful for what we have.  Having income, structure to our days and participating in the world of work are things to be thankful for.  My concern with this statement is that there is a hopeless feeling underneath, a feeling that the person is giving up on ever experiencing job satisfaction.

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The desire for different/better work can coexist with gratitude for what is true in the present.  What helps move us out of hopelessness and into motivation is having something specific that we really want. As Mark Manson so beautifully inquires in his article, The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself Today,  “What’s more interesting to me is what pain do you want? What are you willing to struggle for?”  If there is something you want enough to sacrifice other things to obtain it, then you have a gold mine of energy and resourcefulness. Let’s try to connect what you want in the future to what you are doing now through this exercise:

What do you want?  Write a statement about what you want to have – it can be totally new and different from what you have now, or more of what already exists.  Don’t forget the “so I can…” and “I will feel…”  Get specific!

  • Example:  I want to make more money so I can pay off debt.  When I pay off my debt, I will feel freer and more peaceful.
  • Example:  I want to have flexibility with my work hours so I can attend my children’s school events.  If I have that, I will feel more ease and in line with my value of spending more time with family.
  • Example:  I want to have a job in the health care industry and do meaningful work.  When I do that, I will feel more fulfilled and will be happier waking up each morning and going to work.

What are you grateful for about your current work that supports this? Now write what you appreciate about what you have now that helps make what you want possible.  Check to ensure you can genuinely get behind this feeling of gratitude.  Forcing yourself will not help access the gold mine of motivation and inspiration.  

  • Example: I am grateful that I make enough money to stay out of further debt, which helps me feel like I am on solid ground in the present.
  • Example:  I am grateful I can use vacation time to attend my children’s events so this value is met.
  • Example: I am thankful I am gaining transferable skills in this job that will help me make a shift to health care.

Keep your lists of what you want and what you are grateful for someplace where you can see them. It is natural to sometimes get lost in what isn’t working.  If you can make the connection from where you are to where you would like to be, that thread can pull you through.