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How to Survive When You Hate Your Job

Call me King Midas ‘cause everything I touched was turning into gold!

I was having my best week of the month (maybe the whole year) at the small publishing house I used to work at in Chicago.

In the span of 5 short days, I received huge praise from our biggest client for the work I did on their newsletter, was offered a promotion to transfer to the marketing department, and received a job offer from our biggest rival publisher.

But would you believe that 2 months before this particular week, I had thought this was the worst job in the world?

It’s true! It was so bad that I was getting sick every morning on my way to the office and having panic attacks every few days.

So what changed? How did the job I hate become the one I love?

Most of my clients have some kind of issue with their jobs, and a few even swear to me that their jobs are slowly killing them.

I can believe it!

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can survive—and even thrive!—when you hate your job. I won’t say it’s an easy fix, but most people are surprised by how much power they actually wield at their 9-to-5 jobs.

Here’s how you can survive when you hate your job.

You Gotta Get Your Shift Together

At the risk of sounding like a new-age, hippie-dippie coach, most of your frustration with your job is coming from within you.

SAY WHAT???

You’re probably thinking, “Hold up, Sage! It’s not me. It’s my boss who’s secretly the devil. Or it’s my coworker who undermines me. Or it’s the work that makes me question my life’s purpose or even puts me in unethical situations.”

Yikes! All those things would make any job a nightmare. But I’m telling the truth when I say the real nightmare starts in your own mind.

It happens so slowly that you might not even realize how jaded you’re getting until months later when you’re up to your neck in resentment.

When you first have a problem at your job (because everyone does sooner or later), how you react to that issue will determine how you feel about your job down the line.

Let’s say your manager criticizes your work during a department meeting. You have several choices:

  1. Feel embarrassed and stew about how much you suck later in your cubicle. You might even complain about your boss to a coworker during your lunch break.
  2. Make a note of the incident and start documenting all the times you feel wronged at the office. No one knows why you seem pissed off every day, and your “shit list” continues to grow.
  3. Ask a question to clarify exactly what your manager was expecting…and then realize you misunderstood the project from the beginning. You make a note to ask more questions upfront for the next assignment.
  4. Set up a private meeting with your manager, apologize for misunderstanding about the assignment, ask for more feedback, take notes about how you can improve, and leave the meeting feeling like you’re both on the same page and there are no hard feelings.

As your coach, I’d suggest options 3 or 4. It’s easy to take offense when someone criticizes our work but—newsflash!—we’re not perfect, and it’s the responsibility of our superiors to make sure assignments are being competed correctly.

Hey, you might start nit-picking people’s work too if (or when) you become a manager.

The way you stop hating your job is to shift your mindset.

That means taking a step back from the emotions you’re feeling in the moment about a certain situation, and instead actively choosing your thoughts and how you want to feel.

You must stop being reactive and become proactive.

Your Assignment

This week, let’s play a little game. No, not the one where you steal all the red staplers, pee in the coffee machine, and throw your laptop out the window.

Instead, I want you to “play pretend” and imagine that your current job is the BEST job in the entire world. Seriously, imagine you have never felt so fulfilled and appreciated.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Get out your journal and answer the following questions. It’s time do some aspiration writing.

If my current position were the best job in the world:

  • How would I feel when I wake up in the morning?
  • What would I choose to wear?
  • What would I eat for breakfast?
  • What things or activities would I include as part of my morning routine?
  • How would I feel on my commute and what would I be doing?
  • How would I walk into the building and what would I be feeling?
  • Who would I talk to in the morning before I sit at my desk?
  • What would I do to prepare myself for the perfect workday?
  • How would I check my email, answer the phone, conduct myself during meetings?
  • Would I listen to music during the day? If so, what kind?
  • How would I greet people who come to my office?
  • How would I talk to my manager, my assistant, the kitchen staff, or anyone else?
  • How often would I take breaks and what would I do on my breaks?
  • How would I plan my day? Would I plan tomorrow’s tasks before I leave?
  • What time would I leave the office?
  • Would I bring work home, check email, or think about my job later at night?
  • What would be on my mind as I go to sleep?

I know that’s a lot to think about, but I encourage you to give yourself a decent amount of time to journal your thoughts. Really go deep! How exactly would you feel if this were the perfect job?

Once you have an idea about what would be different and how YOU would behave differently, it’s time for you to take responsibility for your happiness and change whatever you have control over.

Before you get out of bed tomorrow, THINK about how you would feel if you were heading off to your dream job. Spend at least a minute basking in those good feelings before you pull back the covers and stand up.

Do those positive things during your morning routine and commute that you wrote about.

  • Listen to happy music!
  • Wear your favorite shoes!
  • Eat the breakfast that gives you energy!

It won’t be an overnight change, but you’ll notice a shift in your attitude and the way you feel at the end of your work day.

And I’m betting the chip on your shoulder won’t feel as heavy.

Keep up your game of make-believe until you don’t have to consciously think about it anymore: ie, your happiness is on autopilot. This might take a few weeks, months, or even longer.

Watch what happens during that time. You’ll notice how other people treat you differently and how things that used to upset you don’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

You might even find new opportunities…like a new job…seem to appear out of nowhere. It happened for me, and I’ve seen it happen for several of my clients.

Have you ever had a job from hell?

In the comments below, share your best tips for shifting your mindset or finding a new job.

6 Comments

  1. Tracy on February 20, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    I am definitely not very happy with my current job. I will try to put your tips into practice to see how it helps.

    Tracy @ Sunny Days and Starry Nights



    • Sage Grayson on February 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Good luck, Tracy! 🙂



  2. Sarah @ Long Island Nerd on February 18, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Once again I feel like you are writing directly for me 🙂 You are absolutely correct that changing your mindset will change how you feel at your job and about yourself. I realized a long time ago that I can only change myself… how I view my job, how I allow other people to affect my moods and emotions at work, how I view my own self worth based on my success (or lack of success?). I have spent years internalizing what happens at work when I could have spent that time learning even more and applying my skills elsewhere.

    While I know that the job I have now will never be my dream job, I also know that I can work harder to make my days there a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling. Excellent advice as always 🙂



    • Sage Grayson on February 19, 2014 at 10:22 am

      I used to struggle a lot with wanting other people to change or blaming my unhappiness on my job or outside factors. When I took ownership of my happiness, I realized that I was more in control than I thought. I’m certain you’ll find your dream job someday, Sarah!



  3. Jennifer Kennedy on February 18, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Sage, as soon as I read the newsletter title, I had to jump right over here!

    I REALLY hate to admit it to myself, but you’re spot on about it being a mindset. My mom was super good at being proactive at a job she disliked. Guess she didn’t pass that down to me. I wouldn’t describe my job as a job from hell, but one that’s unfulfilling. Yesterday, I spent all day taking screenshots. One thing I know should have done by now (and still can do) is asked for more responsibility so that I feel I’m making a real contribution and feeling more challenged.

    I’ve also tried shifting mindsets by learning something new. I try to learn one new thing at the job each week. That may be a different technique to edit videos, a new training technique, or even how to be a better project manager. This has helped tremendously as I’m building skills and am more excited about work! Thanks for the encouraging words (aka keeping it real)!!



    • Sage Grayson on February 19, 2014 at 10:25 am

      I love that idea! Making a point to learn something new every week is a great way to keep your job interesting. I’m glad you’re feeling more excited about your work. I know from experience that day jobs can be really frustrating at times, but there are little things we can do to make them more bearable…even fun! 🙂