What to Do When You Fall Out of Love With Your Work

What to Do When You Fall Out of Love With Your Work

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, this blog and 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.

And breathe.

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.

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117 Comments on "What to Do When You Fall Out of Love With Your Work"

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Maria
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I really loved your post. My day job is something that I have been struggling with for quite some time. I loved it 6 years ago but its changed so much since then its nothing that I used to do and everything I used to think I wanted, until I got it. Now, I’m trying to turn my views around and love the new part of my job. It’s not terribly easy for me unfortunately.

Lyn Liew
Guest
I have been having a really hard time this year. My boss’ expectations of me grew, but my vision of my portfolio and her’s weren’t in sync. We inevitably fell out along the way and it did not help that she kept making rude comments about the quality of my work (not as good as before), my attitude (she said my engine had not started this year and that I was slow) and the fruits of my labour (not up to standard–how is it that when she gives one autonomy that this is the sort of crap one produces–and she… Read more »
Jenn A
Guest
Just like the seasons, my work follows a cyclical pattern of profound passion to maddening lack-luster motivation. I constantly find myself re-inventing a clever method to “fall back in love” with my work and/or passions. As for me, the usual culprits for “falling out of love with my work” are these: 1. With the onset of my passion, I set off with high expectations and goals, which usually are attained, but then I get buried with busyness brought on with it. 2. Excited attaining my new-found goal, I keep on planning and adding new milestones, making my schedule even busier.… Read more »
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[…] post, “WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FALL OUT OF LOVE WITH YOUR WORK“, by Jonathan Mead, shed some light on this vicious cycle of mine. What really stood out to […]

Denise
Guest

Thank you for sharing! I think we all experience this from time to time and we just keep going. What we really need to do is stop for a moment and assess why we are feeling that way and as you have said not be as hard on ourselves.

Jayna
Guest

When I feel stale, I whip out the old paper and pencil and curl up with music for some reconnecting to just being an artist….then getting to the technical stuff becomes a bit more fun again. Must be that “cycling” of different types of activity that helps to renew :)

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[…] Post you’ll like: What to Do When You Fall Out of Love With Your Work […]

Mugo
Guest

Hard to fall in love again seeing I never was in love the first time round

Heather
Guest

My work is based around a dream I had, but it seems like every time I read it I feel like It Sounds mediocre and has been done before. I will admit that I am my own worst critic and have thought about changing the whole piece but I am so invested in the characters that are already in the original story that I don’t know how to move forward.

Heroin Henry
Guest

Drop out of life…..with bong in hand! To the riff-filled land! That’s the way to do it! With money for nothing and the chicks for free!

Janice Gomez
Guest

What else to say…train back on track. :)
Positivism counts, ‘loving your work’ and ‘loving the idea that you have a work’ are different.

mischa
Guest

I hate my vocation; after 16 years on and off I am burnt out and all I see is the entitlement and stupidity of everyone in this field. Who cares. It isn’t meaningful, it only is business – a way to make money and provide useless gadgets to the masses. And the massess are ungrateful. My family wantst me to continue in the field so it can become a family business but I do not care and the pressure to care, to deliver, to motivate, is too much now. I want to be free.

Frederick
Guest

You speak to truth Jonathan. I’m glad I read that.

Michael
Guest
Hey Jonathan, Man, I’m struggling… against all odds, and with extreme passion, over the course of four years I self-published and directed the illustration work on my first children’s book. I released it in 2,000 and I sold 2,500 copies in a few months through school visits and art festivals. I was on fire with passion for my book and work. I loved it! The creativity, the performing, the selling, the travel… all of it! Before the creation of my books, I had no clear direction in life after straight A’s from Kindergarten-12th grade. I just didn’t know what I… Read more »
Jason - KAC
Guest

Wow, you have a wonderful opportunity to leverage your experience, popularity, and ‘brand’ to launch something new that lights your fire!

Consider ‘pivoting’ and using your talents to serve in another way, or perhaps another audience? You sound very talented, so I believe the world needs more of what you can offer.

Hope an answer is appearing…

Heather
Guest
I know this is an old article but I’m going to leave a comment here any way. I’m struggling financially, the more I put pressure on myself to try to find a way to make money from art the less of it I do and the more I hate doing it. Feeling really lost at the moment, money shouldn’t be the main motivation- it’s killing all the drive and passion I had for art. I don’t know what to do, I’m scared that 10 years down the line I’ll still be in a dead end job earning next to nothing… Read more »
Mathey
Guest
My job has changed…the job I fell in love with is no where to be found. I don’t think I fell out of love with my work which is leadership development. Instead, there is no support of leadership development from the organizational bias…let’s teach those to lead while the organization does not walk the talk. I am very discouraged and disheartened. I am going to try the advice from this site and I will ask myself the questions posed by Steve Jobbs…what changed…and then I am going to find some way to interject quietly my love of leadership.
Cassandra
Guest

‘And remember that the fastest way to kill your passion is by comparing yourself to the accomplishments of others’ – That one line is everything.

Candace Massari
Guest

wow, those “ridiculous expectations” listed, it was like reading my own thoughts! Thanks for the post, this is exactly what I needed to keep pushing forward today, and not throw in the towel :)

Alejandro
Guest

I am a concert pianist. One of the things I absolutely hate about it is being compared to other people that are just as good or almost there. In the past, music was everything to me. Now, it’s more like a competition than anything else. I never practice anymore and refuse to do so if people keep comparing my abilities to those of my colleagues.

Hosea
Guest
I fell out of love with my work about 2 or 3 years ago when I was involved in a situation that changed my life, but I never fully let it go, though I tried. I tried doing different things involving it and it kind of helped me get through, but at the end of the day(now at this present moment) I want to be actively working on my craft when before I was wishy-washy and confused. Although I still wake up some mornings doubtful and mad/sad at the fact I didn’t meet MY expectations. Now, I will work on… Read more »
Jason - KAC
Guest

Wow, powerful stuff. Your raw authenticity is refreshing in this post.

It’s good to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, and who it is you’re aiming to serve. It’s great to have personal goals (money, fun, time, security, stability etc.) but what are the goals for your tribe? The ones who will support you on your journey, and whose journey you’re inspiring?

I think it’s great to remind yourself of the legacy you aim to leave behind, and the people you will touch. No amount of netflix / procrastination will ever have you create that.

xess
Guest

I loved it so much. It really has shown me a new ray to work harder all the more. Thanks a lot for helping me in this regard….

elaine page
Guest

here I was sat feeling sorry for myself that I’m struggling to return to work after a period of illness, that the anxiety of it all was too much and how much I no longer love my job when I read that ‘the first step is to stop being such an asshole’, this had me laughing, brought a smile to my face and made me stop and take that deep breath. Your advice is brilliant and just what I needed to give me the kick start I needed. thank you :-)

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[…] Finally, remind yourself that this is what you want and what you have worked hard to achieve. Keeping that in mind will give you the extra push you’ll need every once and a while. Here are a few tips to fall back in love with your job. […]

Bob
Guest

What if you are just burned out? I’m in the legal field for 30 years. I’m to the point where I don’t give a darn about my job anymore. I know that will affect the quality of my work. I’ve been thinking of switching jobs but I’m 62 and looking at retiring at 65. Can’t say retire but may be do something totally different. How do I love my job again until the time comes when I do retire?

Bob
Guest

Good article except for one thing. When people don’t just fall out of love with their jobs its really job burnout and nothing is going to change it. I know I’m there. You may move onto to another company and that may make you feel better. I’ve been in the legal field 30 years as a paralegal and I’ve hit burnout. I have 2 more years to go before I retire from the legal world. I keep telling myself “2 more years and I’m out of here”.

Ajax
Guest
Dear Jonathan, I love my job and because of that, I know I do well in it. In fact, great. I was having the best and most productive years of my life i.e. until my boss changed. My previous boss was appreciative, motivating and someone who always had my back. That made me go all out on my professional front. The working hours were crazy but at the end of the day, the job was satisfying and meaningful. Now, with this new change, I now have a boss who is autocratic, interfering and well, a little to quick in passing… Read more »
CantFocus
Guest
Is it really just pressure? As some one who has proclaimed themselves to be an artist nearly their entire lives, there is one thing I’ve noticed. Not all artists stay with the one medium. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve danced around different create outlets (even writing being one of them). I use to love drawing, both realism and illustration, but I lost my passion for it. I can still draw realism, to me that’s like riding a bike, but illustration? Whenever I go to try, it’s just not as good as when I was younger, not even… Read more »
Gerber Rosales
Guest
Hello, My name is Gerber Rosales, I do work for Warner Bros. I do finance analysis for warner home video. I used to love my job, get involved on everything, hard work and team lead to reach out our goals. I thought I became a key asset for the team and tried to support my thought no matter if what. I used to work up to 20 hrs daily during 3 consecutive days for months. All that effort was never cherished for anyone and at the end not even me… I got seek as consequence and now I work to… Read more »
megara
Guest

This is very helpful.

Martin Dunn
Guest
A friend shared this article with me and man… it just was really needed. I’m a professional comic creator who has worked for nearly a decade climbing the ladder to bigger and better projects. I love my work, I teach comics to people at colleges, workshops, and conventions. I have worked on major ip’s and created a couple dozen series as well as my own studio. I lived and breathed my career… then one day I woke up and it was gone. No drive, no passion, no ideas… I have worked for 7 years with little to no breaks. Always… Read more »
Donna
Guest
I fell out of love with my work when I lost my dog… she came with me every day and was a massive part of what I do. The business was just breaking even, it was mainly a hobby. Now i’m lost and feel like i’m doing it for nothing. I’ve come to see it for what it is, serving under appreciative members that pay as and when they wish and don’t invest in the community aspect of it. needless to say, the fire and motivation is gone, and I need something new but don’t know where to start.
Cedric
Admin
Hey Donna, I am really, really sorry to hear about your dog, this must be an awful moment :( You know, managing a community can be frustrating at times: it isn’t easy to get people to engage, and give something (most people naturally kind of sit and watch), even if you give everything that you have with all your heart. Customers aside: if you still believe in this business’ purpose, if the core idea still makes you feel alive, then I’m sure there are many ways to recover your ass kicking energy, better engage your customers and grow the community… Read more »
Skky
Guest

Thank you for this post, I needed it. It set me free, it’s nice to know you’re not the only going thru these types of changes. It’s not easy for me but you’re advice helped remind me to be easy on myself and take a break. Thank you and thank you all for your advice! ??

Cedric
Admin

Thanks Skky, glad we could help a bit :)
If you’re not sure where to get started on the blog, you can find some of our best articles on our Start Here page:
http://paidtoexist.com/start-here/

Wise72
Guest

Really needed this

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