How to Maintain Passion for Your Job

We’ve all been there — you’ve spent a few years in a job, and the shine has started to wear off. It’s a good job, with good coworkers, and you like your work — but the spark is missing. Something’s a little off. You’ve lost your passion for your job.

It’s okay, though — losing passion for your position is something that happens to most people at some point in their career. And the truth is that it doesn’t even mean your job is bad or that you should move on. It just means that you have to think differently about how to approach what’s become a staid routine. We asked people for the ways that they maintain their passion for their job in a recent forum thread, and have compiled some of our favorites below.

Let us know in the comments — what are your best tips for maintaining the passion for your job?

“I work to stay focused on doing my own excellent work, all of the time. I am cautious not to get bogged down by politics or negative attitudes or poor work ethics of my coworkers. I can be the change that I want to see in my office and, if not, I can still do great work. My own self esteem and confidence is enhanced when I do my very best every day.” — Carolyn Ninedorf

“Focus on the good things and just let go of any really nasty bad things. Forgive the ones who have to exercise power, control, or other needs that often result in bad relationships on the job. I worked with a lady once and we butted heads for a long while, then I started valuing her good traits, accepting our differences, laughing at our power struggles and we are best friends now! Different is not always bad in a team setting because a team can learn to rely on the other member’s strengths! I love that lady and a job that was misery became fun and exciting when we let go and accepted each other’s perspectives. She was process orientated to the letter, I am outcome orientated totally and can change horses mid-stream, no problem. It always surprised me when people think I am flighty, not so, just quick to accept new things or change. I love adventure, and new things do not scare me. But some people have a lot of fears concerning change. The strengths we blended made the job flow smoothly and we were happy, happy, happy together for many years after the initial give it up about whose way was better phase let us go forward. Someone has to let go and be approachable in most situations or it becomes a battle and unhealthy. All agencies have their unique personalities and people are all valuable, look for the good and let the rest go. Be nice, not nasty or contentious about little things!”  — Linda Fox

“The most important piece is to stay connected to YOU. And the Unique Contribution that you bring to the world. Passion is not something outside of you, rather it is something that comes from inside. When you focus your attention outside…politics, organizational hiccups, behaviors of others, etc, you disconnect from you and your Gifts and passion dies. Remember, what you focus on grows stronger in your life. What is your attention focused on?” — Martha Austin

“In order to keep my ‘passion’ (or as I like to call it, ‘purpose’) up in my office and my work, I’ve found like-minded people in the office and started to create a NextGen Employee Resource Group. Check out if your office has a Diversity and Inclusion’ish office, and see if creating something similiar would work for you. What are your passions or purpose at your office? What motivates you to work for your agency/office? Find that out for yourself, then seek out others that might share that same purpose. Our NextGen ERG will be a problem-solving and leadership-development group for individuals not only at HQ’s but also in the field. We intend to hack the beaurocracy that is inherent in any office, and seek out like-minded individuals that just want to get things done and make impactful change. Contact me directly if you want more info and best of luck – we’re all doing the same service at the end of the day and it does mean something.” — Steven Ollek

“For ‘renewing or maintaining passion’, I refer people to the ‘Coolidge effec’” (HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/COOLIDGE_EFFECT ), a principle which seems to have broader application than roosters or sex.

How much novelty and excitement do people need to maintain motivation, and interest in, a given activity and work context? Some, I would imagine, are more tenacious and patient than others. We likely all know some people who have been at the same job in the same place for 30+ years, and others who grow restless for other pastures after 18 months. Obviously, there is an age element, since you can’t be a 23 year-old recent grad, and have been at the same job for 20 years. But even for those under 30, some are more easily contented than others, and some demand more daily (or at least weekly) enchantment in their work than others. A recent meta-analysis study (Costanza, et al., 2012) suggests that the much talked-about generational differences tend not to exist, or are minimal at best, so my money is on individual differences mediating rate of passion-loss.

On the other side, we have the degree of frustration experienced within any job. Much like Lazarus & Folkman’s hassles & uplifts scale (as a measure of daily stress), if the enchantments outnumber or otherwise outweigh the frustrations and doldrums, then it becomes easier to maintain interest in the work and what some call “engagement”. If the enchantments are few, far between, and have little sticking power (or long comet tails, if you want to use that metaphor), then motivation and interest will be difficult to maintain.

My wife regularly advises me to ‘Let go of the caring’ (accompanied by a big yoga-like exhale). It’s a cynical comment, but there is a certain degree of wisdom in it, if one reframes work motivation in terms of the frustration-to-enchantment ratio. That is, if one minimizes the frustrations, by caring less, then maybe you can get more mileage out of the enchantments that do exist.

Finally, from another perspective, how much do people work to find what is fascinating or enchanting about what they do, and their organization? How much of the history of the file do they know? To what extent do they take steps to connect to new knowledge that is just outside the perimeter of their file, but connectable to it? We often talk a good game here about ‘innovation’. What can a person do within the context of their job to make it new and fresh and enchanting – to make it a ‘different hen”, in the language of the Grace Coolidge.’ — Mark Hammer

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Juana Williams

Carolyn, you sound like you work in a vacuum. My progress reports depend on the collected data from others. If the data is flawed, which it frequently is, my reports don’t mean much. These progress reports are on people, and due to audit teams, my reports must be written data-based, regardless of what I hear or observe.