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, 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.

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

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rallyrina
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I absolutely love it! And it couldn’t be more on time for me as well:)

JonathanMead
Guest

 @rallyrina Seems like this has been pretty timely for a lot of people. Maybe this is a recurring theme? ;)

thirdtruck1
Guest

So true, Jonathan. I happened to check my novel’s word-count last night and had to make a double-take at seeing the number 70,000. Reducing my pace to half that of my NaNoWriMo rushes might have slowed my output but meant that I could write fiction every single day for over three months now. That number impresses me more than the word-count. Thanks for the advice!

JonathanMead
Guest

 @thirdtruck1 That’s a huge accomplishment. You should be very proud of yourself.

JayDotThomas
Guest

This is great I really like the idea of mentoring others, in order to pick up on some enthusiasm.

JayDotThomas
Guest

One additional way I fall back in love is to look back in love is to talk to strangers about their dreams. Watching the discovery process helps remind me that I didn’t/don’t have it all figured out and it’s okay. It’s the journey not the destination.
http://www.the90thatmatters.com/

JonathanMead
Guest

 @JayDotThomas That’s a great idea Jay, thanks for that.

rebeccalhunter
Guest

I love how timely this is. Right now, I’m avoiding getting started on a task from my coach and instead spending time surfing Facebook and reading emails… Your advice is great. I realise that I’m putting a lot of pressure and expectation on myself, and I’m actually scared to move forwards in case it doesn’t work out exactly as I’d hoped. But unless I give it a try, I’ll never know!

JonathanMead
Guest

 @rebeccalhunter Yep, and who knows, you may find that things turn out better than you could have expected.

mercurius
Guest

Holding the tension between positivity & focus and being in touch with your feelings when you’re a bit down really resonates. Please do keep up with both your Passion and your Authenticity! Thanks

JonathanMead
Guest

 @mercurius Hey, I do my best. I’m human too though. Thanks for stopping by man.

thelastmanont
Guest

Thank you for this excellent post! I recognize all those “ridiculous expectations” all too well, as I put that burden on myself every day I wake up… I will try to take your suggestions to heart. They sound very wise.

monicaleestudios
Guest

This was timely, this is the first morning when I have woken up with a sense of “What have I gotten myself into?” I am listing the tasks ahead of me and need to find some excitement. Geez, where did I put it? I think I may have left it somewhere! Thanks for the check-in. I just needed a boost this morning to shake it off and keep moving forward!

JonathanMead
Guest

 @monicaleestudios Hahaha, yeah… I need to find that excitement drawer in my house too… :)

sarahwaldin
Guest

Yes – ditto to all of the above – particularly the timing. I can see the expectations I have of myself getting in the way of ‘doing’ stuff that will help me reach my goals and enjoy my work. thanks!

JonathanMead
Guest

 @sarahwaldin Glad that it landed with you Sarah.

ethanwaldman
Guest

Whenever I start beating myself up about not being able to sit down and put in a marathon work session every day, I remember something that Clay Collins wrote in his bio:

“I can get one thing (and I mean ONLY one thing) done per day.”

So whenever I’m down on myself, I remind myself of that. Clay is extremely successful, so if just getting one thing done in a day is good for him, than it’s good enough for me.

monicaleestudios
Guest

 @ethanwaldman Ok, I really like that in theory but he must not be a mother…..

JonathanMead
Guest

 @monicaleestudios  @ethanwaldman I definitely know that Clay is not a mother. :)
 
Also to clarify, I’m pretty sure that Clay means that he focuses on one *type* of thing a day. So one day it’s writing, another it’s marketing, another it’s finances, and so on.

Emilie
Guest

 @JonathanMead @ethanwaldman Funny enough, I think about this quote sometimes too. And I’m all ABOUT doing multiple things. Heh. But the two approaches really aren’t in conflict. I focus on one type of activity in the morning (my “creating time”), get it done and then move on to other types of work. And if I’m unproductive in the afternoon, then I just think back to the work I got done that morning, and tell myself to chill out.

JonathanMead
Guest

 @Emilie  @ethanwaldman Chilling out is probably more effective than all other strategies combined. :)

struggletovictory
Guest

 @JonathanMead  @Emilie  @ethanwaldman
 So true! I forget to just relax. Fortunately, my husband and two boys are great at reminding me.

Sal_Greco
Guest

 @ethanwaldman Hey man!!!  That’s so FREAKING funny you say that.  I do the EXACT same thing.  
 
It always brings me back to clays page.  Especially when its a blog post, because he says… “if its a blog post that day, then its the only thing I can get done”.
 
As long as it’s a small step forward everyday huh…
 
Surfs up,

JennaJoy
Guest
Oh boy. Falling out of love with my work is my bane and struggle! I write about gratitude as a lifestyle choice and sometimes it’s difficult for me to get excited about my topic. I oftentimes notice the irony of not being grateful for my work.    But then I remember that I started my writing journey for myself and not for others. When I sit down with the intent of nurturing myself instead of wowing others, I bring joy to the process again.    You know, aging is scary, but there’s a great bounty in learning life’s lessons. I’m… Read more »
Ameena Falchetto
Guest

I think the important reminder is that work IS exactly that, WORK. It’s not all fun, it can be fun, but not always.
Taking a break is important, reassessing where you are going vs. where you are at helps figure things out too.  It’s like any relationship – you have highs, lows, and blah moments. Sometimes you just need to give it a time-out! 

akaBasilBe
Guest

Thanks so much for the honesty!!!  Having been stuck on the wrong track in the past it was easy to blame the sluggishness on being ” a square peg in a round hole” and then it feels like when you HAVE found your thing it should all be sunshine.  Not so!  Thanks for giving me a reality check!

Tamara_Epps
Guest

Am so glad to read this as it’s something I have battled with a lot lately.  I found that when I stopped worrying about what everyone else was expecting, and focused on the creating, I started loving what I was doing again and this time it feels much more real than the flighty almost ideas I’ve had in the past, as I’m not just thinking about doing, I’m actually doing.

CiaraConlon
Guest

I think no matter how much you love something there will be days when it doesn’t excite you as much as you think it should,  but that is part of the natural cycles of life. There will always be fallow times when the enthusiasm and motivation eludes us. When this happens to me I don’t fight it accept it and chill for a couple of days then I do remind myself of all the reasons why I do what I do and what my goals.

JonathanMead
Guest

 @CiaraConlon I like your approach Ciara. It’s pretty unreasonable for us to feel like we can be absolutely on fire with our goals all the time.

Rebekka_Lien
Guest

I love this!! I have been working on writing my memoir, designing my logos and postcards, but somehow can’t get myself to start. I just don’t feel like it. It’s true that doing laundry does become more interesting! When I went out dancing with my friends, I realize, all work no play makes life boring. Essentially we are not defined by what we do. Sometimes we need to bask in fun and play and not think about the practicalities of life.

JonathanMead
Guest

 @Rebekka_Lien I’ll dance to that. :)

SquarePegKaren
Guest

Perfect advice here: “the first step is to stop being such an asshole.” I love that!
 
I’ve fallen out of love with my work many times (and I’m not fickle) – and only recently found that the fastest & quickest way for me to build passion back in is to talk about what I love (not write, not think; for me it’s got to be TALK)
 
I’m bookmarking this post to come back to when I need ideas for falling back in love (and, of course, for the “stop being such an asshole” reminder!); thanks for this!! 

JonathanMead
Guest

 @SquarePegKaren That’s awesome Karen. I think having some type of weekly or monthly meet up with other people just to talk about the work you’re doing is critical.

struggletovictory
Guest

Happens more than I care to admit. Several “go to” activities help me get back in the groove. My favorites that I usually try first are reading good fiction, running or biking, hanging out at Starbucks, spending time with my husband and sons, and praying and reading my Bible. Just relaxing my mind and letting the thoughts come instead of forcing them is the key.

Oluwo Brian
Guest

Hey Jonathan, absolutely on all points. I had one of those mornings today. Just got up thinking “Why am I doing this again?” Allowing myself to answer that question was really helpful and I went on to have a great day. I love the work because I really love transforming my clients. Whenever I get back to that it re-ignites.

jeffgoins
Guest

Love it. Curiosity is key, IMO.

JonathanMead
Guest

 @jeffgoins Thanks for weighing in Jeff. Really enjoyed the post you wrote on falling back in love with writing. Thanks for the inspiration.

Jason - KAC
Guest

Being curious is most definitely key, then following it up with passionate, purposeful action to pursue your lost love in a fiery fury!

Great article indeed, to both of you. Thanks for the inspiration .

melindatoad
Guest

It’s like you read my mind. Taking a simple online course or talking to another author really does lift me up. Sometimes, it’s just going outside for a walk. Thank you for the encouragement. It’s good to hear you’re not alone!
 
 

JonathanMead
Guest

 @melindatoad Thanks Melinda, glad you enjoyed it.

Paul Jun
Guest

Hit the spot.
 
“Learn something new about your work.” With blogging and writing, there are so many things we can learn and do that can further benefit and strengthen our craft. We learn to intertwine different things and end up arriving creatively in our endeavours.  And definitely mentor others. At my school, there are plenty of students who don’t know how to blog and don’t know its intrinsic purposes. Telling them about how I started and what I did is such an amazing experience.
 
Love this post.

ErickWidman
Guest

Great advice – and I’ve found that positive peer pressure does wonders. When I talk with people who love the same stuff I’m doing, this gives some fresh perspective and extra energy.

JonathanMead
Guest

 @ErickWidman That’s true Erick. I think it’s really important to direct those conversations in the direction of the why too. Sometimes I talk to entrepreneurs and all they want to talk about is tactics, which can be pretty boring after a while. :)

Steve_Rice
Guest

For me it really is about growth.  When I become disenchanted with my work it’s usually because I have become complacent in some area or another.  Or I have forgotten why the work makes me happy to begin with.  Once I remember the power of my work and why I do it, then I can evaluate more effectively whether there’s some way I can grow in order to make the work more exciting and “fresh” to me again.

struggletovictory
Guest

 @Steve_Rice
 Oh my, you hit on something that I had not thought of and should have, how complacency in one area (even a small one) affects all other areas in major ways. There are some basic, core things that I need to be diligent with that if I don’t, other areas – such as writing – slide. Great point!

JonathanMead
Guest

 @struggletovictory  @Steve_Rice Good stuff man. It’s true that we often try to keep our work the same, when we’re always evolving and changing. My work looks radically different than it did three or five years ago.

struggletovictory
Guest

@JonathanMead @struggletovictory @Steve_Rice So right! We need to expext change and not fight it. Actually, let’s embrace it and enjoy the ride.

Hearn_PS
Guest

Yes, it is easy to fall out of love with work, especially blogging. You want accolades, attention, and a huge following, and end up getting 10 hits a week. As a result, your posting habits die down from every day to twice a week, and the enthusiasm wanes. Then you realize after three weeks of this that it isn’t helping, and the only way to improve your blog and your writing is to do it every day, and never give up. 
 
True story — my story.

struggletovictory
Guest

 @Hearn_PS
 “Never give up” is a great motto for all writers. For that matter, who isn’t it a great motto for? Saved my life and my marriage.

rubybatallones
Guest

It’s a recurring thing for me. Some days I wake up excited to go to work, but recently, I’ve been seeing more days when I dread it. Now I’ll revisit why I fell in love in it in the first place and see if I can rekindle the fire from there. :)

struggletovictory
Guest

 @Bubibu
Sounds like being in a good marriage. Need to “rekindle the fire” as much as possible. 

littlewing1959
Guest

This is a great post and very timely. I feel so guilty when I’m in the middle of writing a book and I lose interest in plot and character. I get that “grass is greener” mindset and start plotting and scheming on my next book. It’s especially difficult these days. It’s reassuring to know I’m not alone, and I’ll do my best to focus…

fillmycup12
Guest

Thanks for your’ real’ post! Very refreshing. Typically becoming burnt out with your work is inevitable when tasks become monotonous or challenges turn into daily responsibilities. your open & precise take with the slow
appreciation is motivating. The minor details are what hit home the most for myself.
impressive. You resisted opting for bells and whistles pproachtional speaker

taylorjacobson
Guest
I think it’s okay to take a break. Sometimes even a weeklong break can do wonders. If you’re exhausted, then go sit on the beach and relax and eat for a week. Do a meditation retreat if that’s your style. Or just address that urge that you aren’t addressing, say, to go sailing, with a week-long sailing trip. If you have to do a little pre-work to make it feasible, it’s worth it. To pick up the theme of relationships that has been running through these comments — absence makes the heart grow fonder. All things human are cyclical, not… Read more »
struggletovictory
Guest

 @taylorjacobson
 Taking a break is such an effective way to recharge and renew yourself. I have to make myself get out of the house, or I will really get dragged down just from being alone so much. The idea for creating cycles for ourselves is intriguing. I’ll have to think about that one some more.

JonathanMead
Guest

 @struggletovictory  @taylorjacobson If I don’t go on a hike at least once a week I start to lose my sanity. I agree with what you’re saying here Taylor.

KyleWilliams
Guest

Yeah, comparison is the ultimate killjoy.
 
I find that I tend to overwhelm myself with expectations and the anxiety causes me to procrastinate because I feel like I’d rather be doing something else. Usually something fun that doesn’t involve work or effort like watching a movie or playing a video game. Sometimes I beat myself up afterwards for not being the “mad scientist” that is constantly absorbed in his work.
 
It’s a vicious cycle, but I’m trying to let go and just “do.”

Jon_p
Guest

I do that, overthink everythin to the point your head explodes an you just leave it all and find something else to do, like watch telly.

MahaMonkey
Guest

It can be difficult to fall in love with ‘work’ of any kind. Hopefully most of us are living our passion. If you are, and it feels like work… Find reasons to fall in love with your passion again. What do you love about it? What good does it do for others? 
 
Looking at the bigger picture helps you engage in something more important than just your inner doldrums. Let the bigger picture infuse your efforts with renewed vigor and excitement!

struggletovictory
Guest

@MahaMonkey Living me dream doesn’t feel like work at all, and I love it! (Well, most of the time… I hate the technical side of it.) The bigger picture is absolutely the driving force.

Jon_Mills
Guest
Oh I do all the bloody time lol.. for me its called ADD :) I have a short span of interest in anything. My one love really is movies.  I enjoy copywriting and marketing but my focus this year is to work more on movie script writing and novels.   I always remember John Carlton say when he approached copywriting. ” I get angry with it” meaning he really didn’t want to do it and it pissed him off, but sometimes you just have to put the music on and get er done ;) I literally go through a ritual,… Read more »
Bubibu
Guest

 @Jon_Mills I think ADD’s my case too. I lose attention and I find myself in the middle of unnecessary things before I realize I haven’t done what I needed to do. It’s a cycle in my case. Sometimes I really have to give in to distractions so I could get them out of the way.

Phil Drolet
Guest

Hey Jonathan, AWESOME post man. This is so true… and probably something a lot of driven people go through at some stage. I’ve been working on monetizing my site for the last few weeks and it’s been a huge shift in focus, and all of the sudden the whole thing felt like work. I want to make it feel like play again, while moving keeping one eye ahead on the path. So I followed your advice and emailed a young guy I know about becoming his “blogging coach”, with the intention of reconnecting with my true love of blogging. 

nochnoch
Guest

sometimes when writing becomes an obligation, i don’t love it anymore, and my creativity feels drained. i have to take a break for a few days, even a week at times, to come back to it with, as you say, a fresh mind
Noch Noch

erinmgiles
Guest

So timely, after a big move + my big not for profit project blogging, and tweeting for my own business, has became pretty lifeless. Glad to know I’m not the only one!

ko0ty
Guest

I’m a designer and when I start getting burnt out or get blocked I’ll take a break (which I think are vital).. but I’ll get back into it later by getting inspired by other designers. I have a folder in Google Reader called “Galleries” where I subscribed to a bunch of CSS galleries and such and I’ll just scroll down for a dose of inspiration. Always works!

FireflyMedia
Guest

I love all of your ideas for reconnecting with your work. That’s such a great point. It’s always good to read a book, watch someone you admire on a YouTube Video, or even take a little coffee and sunshine break! 

DArlandoFortune
Guest

I fell out of love with my work years ago. So, I started looking for a new love. Since, I left that first love I have found more and more passionate relationships with the work that chose me and not the work that others chose for me. Great post, sir, with beautiful metaphors to explain your techniques. I had to carry on with them in this response.

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[…] from Illuminated Mind has some great advice for those times when you’ve fallen out of love with your […]

futuregraphics
Guest

Having not been to your site in a while (my bad), this post was just what I needed!! I’m happily reading along and then I get to “the first step is to stop being such an asshole” and I just burst out laughing!! After a particularly challenging week that had me questioning my craft among other things, that was perfect. Thank-you!

serenityretreat
Guest

I mostly do that ‘if I worked as hard as I could I’d be REALLY successful, rather than just ticking over’ thing.  But then I forget that ticking over is very very fine with me, and that the voice in my head is the tune of  my conditioning rather than my heart.  I loved this post.  I love what I do, and sometimes I don’t.   I’m glad I’m not the only one and I love your ideas for reconnecting.  Ta x

jaxbees
Guest

Great post! I do love what I do and feel very fortunate to have a job I like but I also fall for the ridiculous expetations thing and that definitely dampens my enthusiasm for what I do. Where I annoy myself the most is if I get close to finishing what I’d planned, I quickly add, either mentally or physically to my list, something else that I might just manage to squeeze in if I work like an idiot. Will try to be more mindful of this…!

antistatusquo
Guest

Thanks for this post. I’ve needed something like this to kick me back into loving my job. Hopefully it will work!!

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[…] This article was originally published online at http://paidtoexist.rabbithatch.com/2012/03/06/work-love/. We have reposted this article here for those members of the coaching and/or holistic community who […]

bcoelho2000
Guest

Thank you for sharing this with us. I was needing this. Specially in times when we must do what is necessary, to build something that will enable us to do what we’re meant to do.

Lehua
Guest
Hey Jonathan! I definitely feel like I was meant to see this right now… fate has brought me here for sure. :) I thought I was a bit alone in feeling like work just gets boring to me… even if it’s a job I was passionate about when I first got it. I started to get scared, like maybe I’m too ADHD when it comes to finding something I love to do, that I can actually DO for the rest of my life. I want to find that. It’s why I joined Trailblazer in the first place a few months… Read more »
Matthew Shields
Guest

Articles like this one right here is what attracted me to PTE and keep me coming back. There is some brutal honesty about entrepreneurship, and while I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who got tired of pursuing my dreams once in awhile, its hard to find others that get down to this level of personal drama and realism, especially when they are pushing their products or services for self-help/starting your own business…

Scott Stephens
Guest

Amazing! Thank you so much! The tip on mentoring others is what does it most for me. I never realized that I get so excited teaching others until I read this. Sheesh. Thanks for the tips, and for acknowledging that everyone falls out of love with their work of passion somtimes.

Diogenes
Guest
Why I fell out of love: 1. My ex-wife: I know, everyone blames their ex for everything that went wrong. I won’t go into details, just believe me, one bad financial decision after another. Her idea of managing finances was to sit in my office and ask me how much I had in my account. When I told her she said something like, “…that should do it.” After a few years of this I felt like there was no point to working because I would never catch up. How can you love something that has no point to it? 2.… Read more »
Katie
Guest

So transparent. So practical. Thank you!

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