No matter how much I try not to, every so often I fall out of love with my work.
The thing that I love and cherish becomes a dreaded chore. I avoid it like a pile of dirty dishes glaring at me out of the corner of my eye as I stealthily slip by.
I’m not proud to admit this either. After all, what I teach on this blog and in Trailblazer is all about working on your own terms and waking up excited about what you get to do.
When I fall out of love with my work it seems like there are so many other interesting things I could be doing. An interesting documentary on Netflix, an audiobook I just downloaded. Even doing the dishes seems more interesting (no matter how much they glare at me).
As Steve Jobs said, when that goes on more than a few days in a row I have to stop and ask myself what’s changed.
What is it about my work that I’ve come to despise? Why am I feeling so much resistance? Is there some way that I need to evolve or shift directions?
Beyond the glorious blast-off
I think there’s a striking difference between when you start out working toward a dream and when it’s actually gotten off the ground; when it’s moved from a nebulous sketch on a folded up napkin, to a fully operating vision that now has a life of its own.
When no one’s watching, it’s easy to stay excited, enthused, engaged. Anything is possible.
When you have an audience, when people have put their faith and trust in you, expectations can asphyxiate the excitement you once had.
It’s harder to take risks when people are watching. It’s hard to stay vulnerable, real, honest. It’s easier to put on a show and act like everything is always amazing.
But inevitably, things change
Sometimes what you thought you loved changed. Sometimes you change.
You put ridiculous expectations on yourself, like:
- I need to get things done, why can’t I just create more? (chug, chug, chug… we’re not machines)
- I should be more excited about this, why can’t I just be automatically on FIRE every time?
- Why can’t I be more gentle with myself? That’s definitely what I should be doing after all.
- I should appreciate people more. Why don’t I appreciate the people I work with? Maybe then I would be more excited.
- I get distracted too easily. This shouldn’t happen. I need to stop it.
- I don’t give this all I really could give it. Why don’t I push harder, why don’t I try harder?
And with this mental gramophone relaying incessantly, how can we expect to love or even like our work?
With all those expectations and pressures, what we once loved turns into a hell we’d rather escape from. Like a lover that continuously nags or berates us, we naturally come to despise them. “Why can’t they just accept us? Why can’t they just let us be?”
If you want to fall back in love with your work (and if you really truly still love it), the first step is to stop being such an asshole.
Extricate all the shoulds. Kill your expectations. Have a funeral for your quotas.
Reconnect with why you actually fell in love with your work in the beginning. What was it that attracted you to your craft?
What made you yearn and pine to get to know it better, to dive deeper, to explore every facet possible?
And rather than expecting yourself to experience that firework display of infatuation that you felt on the first date, sink into a nourishing, beautiful and sustaining love that can be a companion for a life time.
If you want to fall back in love with your work, you need to show up to your relationship differently. We know that we can’t expect to come to our partner or loved ones making ridiculous demands and screaming for things to happen or else. You can’t expect it to work that way with your relationship to your vocation either.
How to fall back in love with your work
Rather than coming to your work with expectations and unreasonable demands, focus on how you can nourish the passion that brought you together. How can you start making deposits so you can start seeing returns?
Here are some suggestions:
- Learn something new about your work. Read a new book on your topic; read several. Attend a conference, meetup or seminar and pretend that you’re connecting with it for the first time.
- Approach your work from a beginner’s mind. Focus on experiencing it with a state of curiosity and exploration. Create a new experiment.
- Mentor others. Connect with a complete novice in your field. Offer to mentor them and soak up some of their enthusiasm and excitement.
- Ask how you can nurture your passion, rather than expecting the flame to be automatically lit.
Be conscious of your expectations. Maybe you’re being unreasonable, or maybe you have the wrong goals.
And remember that the fastest way to kill your passion is by comparing yourself to the accomplishments of others. Stop that, now. Focus on your art, your craft, your vision. The rest will follow.
I’m not perfect, but these are some of the things that help me fall back (and stay) in love with my work. I hope it helps you too.
Over to you: How about you? Do you ever fall out of love with your work? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.