The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
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Inspiration Revisited

Finding Inspiration -
Even When Your Job Isn't Inspiring

Not every job will inspire you.
That doesn't mean you can't be inspired anyway.

Author's Note:  This week I've had conversations with several friends and colleagues who don't love their jobs. They probably wouldn't even say they liked their jobs. They aren't inspired by their company's leadership or the role they play in the organization. The reality is that they aren't alone. This is a significant challenge for so many people. Today, I'm sharing a previously published article as an encore, to help those of you who aren't inspired by your work. I hope you'll find some inspiration here.

Have you ever met someone who is obnoxiously enthusiastic about their job? They're inspired, passionate and happy. Did you want to kick them, just to get them to stop talking? Did you feel, with every word spoken, that you somehow missed the boat on finding your passion or feeling inspired by your work? 

It seems that almost every day we hear someone say, "Follow your passion and success will be yours." People nod their heads in agreement. And then, each person secretly starts to ponder what his or her passion is... and how to "follow" it. Without a doubt, there are people who have a calling. They have a passion so strong and clear, they can't imagine not acting on it as their life's mission. Most of us just don't have that compelling force in our lives.

So what do we do? Accept a life of drudgery at work? Assume we'll never feel inspired by our career choices? Wait to be inspired by someone else's passion, and get on board? 

My thought is that you can find inspiration in almost any job you have. It comes easier with some jobs than others. The key is in knowing that it isn't about your employer. It isn't about your job. It's about you.
How do you find inspiration at work when the nature of your job isn't inspiring?
How do you bring inspiration to your job, when it seems as though your organization does its best to crush it with every decision, action, and behavior?

Inspiration and Satisfaction:  Hand-in-Hand

Over the course of your career, you'll work about 100,000 hours. That assumes you'll work forty hours a week, fifty weeks a year, for fifty years. That's a lot of hours. I think we'd all agree that anything we're going to do for 100,000 hours, we'd probably want to enjoy. We'd want to spend that time wisely and be happy and satisfied along the way. Unfortunately, it doesn't always turn out that way.

We're usually happy the day we get a new job. But often, weeks, months, or years later, we suddenly realize that we're either apathetic or unhappy in our job. We tend to blame it on our employer: "They just don't get it."  Or we point the finger at our manager or our peers: "They don't appreciate me." Sometimes both of those things are true.

There are many things that impact our satisfaction. Our employer, our manager, and our peers all definitely come into play. But one of the biggest impacts on our satisfaction is the degree to which we feel inspired by what we do every day.

The Roper Organization, a national research firm, estimates that more than half of all employees (55%) are "unengaged" at work. Engagement is the degree to which you feel connected to your employer and to your job. It's a measure of whether you're emotionally committed to your work. Engagement may be a fancy word, but it's a simple concept that speaks to your level of inspiration.

It's virtually impossible to be satisfied at work if you're not engaged. We all have the desire to feel some level of inspiration from our work. It may come from knowing that we're great at what we do. It may come from the fact that we know our work benefits other people. The trick is in knowing that we have to find inspiration for ourselves rather than hoping others will provide it to us.

Five Ways To Find Inspiration

Finding inspiration isn't always easy in the workplace. It's challenging when our company's vision, culture, or behavior doesn't inspire us. It's hard when our positions are taken for granted by the organization or our job includes work that's unpleasant. We also tend to struggle if our manager doesn't demonstrate integrity, respect, or appreciation toward us. The good news? We can still be inspired.

One of the greatest opportunities we have as individuals is to find inspiration and satisfaction in the workplace for ourselves. We can create our own inspiration. We can deny others the right to influence it in any way, because it comes from within us. Most of the time, finding inspiration is completely within our control. Here are some ideas on how to cultivate your own inspiration.

1.  Take pleasure in being the best.

There is nothing better than feeling like you're the best... at anything. Even a fairly wretched job becomes more satisfying if you know you're great at it, doing a better job than anyone else. If you remind yourself every day that you're doing your best work, you'll find inspiration. If you strive on a continuous basis to get better at what you already do well, you'll find even more inspiration. Know your strengths, use them in your work, and relish the fact that you're a strong performer. Take pleasure in being the best.

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech to a group of students in Philadelphia. His intent was to inspire them to greatness, in whatever form that took.  Here's an excerpt with my favorite part:

"If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. 
If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are."   Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech to Barratt Junior High School, 1967
Be the best of whatever you are, and you'll be surprised by just how inspired you become in your work.

2.  Forget passion. Focus on purpose.

You'll be told more than once by a well-meaning mentor to follow your passion to job satisfaction. I recommend that you nod your head and then move on. Passion is great, but it doesn't necessarily lead to inspiration or job satisfaction. So feel passion, or don't. Just know that what matters more is understanding your purpose.

Passion in the workplace is a sense of energy and enthusiasm. It's a feeling that can create focus and action. Your purpose in the workplace is what your job is all about. It defines your value, your intended impact, and your true contribution. It's the meaning behind what you do. It's the answer to the question, "Why bother?"

When you understand and connect to your purpose in a particular job, you know without a doubt that you're providing value to someone else. You know how your actions help or hinder other people. You can be proud of your accomplishments and the benefit you're providing to others. The best part is that no one else even has to acknowledge your efforts. You just know. 
Let's consider an example about purpose. I had an executive assistant I worked with for several years named Jeanne. She did an enormous amount of work for me, and many others in the organization during our time together. Jeanne was talented, hard working, and committed. She got stuff done. Her most valuable purpose, however, became clear over time. 
First and foremost, Jeanne brought joy to everyone around her. Her smile and laughter were insanely contagious. She lifted my spirits, and those of so many others, every single day in a highly stressful environment. It was her greatest talent and a big part of her purpose in work and in life. She was inspired in her work because she knew she made a difference. She was great at everything she did, but her value came more from how she did it.
To understand your purpose, you have to stop and think about what you really do, how you do it, and who benefits from your work. You have to consider your talents, beyond just your tasks. It may be the uplift you provide to others in the workplace. It may be the problem solving skills you share so freely with others. It may be the smallest of your responsibilities that has the greatest impact. Once you figure out what you do that creates purpose and meaning, and brings value to others, you can't help but feel inspired at work.

3.  Behave as if inspired.

Do you drag yourself into the office every Monday morning? Do you skip down the halls Friday afternoon, as if it's the last day of school before summer?  We all have weeks where Monday is our worst enemy and Friday is our dearest friend. The challenge comes when this is normal for you. Too many people spend their entire life waiting for the weekend, only finding happiness when they know they won't be working. Workdays become an uninspired chore and burden for them and everyone around them.

You'd be amazed at how small changes in your perspective at work can vastly change your outlook. Remind yourself of your purpose every day. Find joy in the small details of your job. Allow yourself to be intrigued by aspects of your job where you demonstrate your true talents. Embrace your relationships in the workplace; use them to inspire you to a higher level of performance. Demonstrate behaviors that inspire other people.

When you start to behave as if you're inspired by your work, you may just find that before long, you really are inspired. If it seems ridiculous at first, do it anyway. It's actually incredibly powerful. 

4.  Set yourself free from obligations.

We all have obligations in our personal lives that require money. Our homes, furnishings, cars, clothes, toys, and expenses aren't insignificant. Healthcare expenses, education for our children, and care for aging parents are additional challenges many people face. These very real obligations are what cause most of us to work in the first place. 

When our obligations become high, we can sometimes feel trapped by our jobs. We "have" to keep our job, we "have" to get a raise, or we "have" to take on a new role (that we don't really want) because it pays more money.
I wouldn't dream of telling you not to strive for nice things in your life. I also encourage you to enjoy the spoils of your hard work with vacations and other benefits you deserve to enjoy. I just also encourage you to consider this: the more your obligations are in check, the greater your freedom. The greater your freedom, the more inspired you are by your work.  You're free to change jobs if needed. You're able to step away from work you dislike, to focus on work you like. When we're mired in obligations, we feel trapped by our jobs.

Inspiration is bourn of freedom. Seek freedom outside of work, and you're likely to find greater inspiration within it. If you can't lessen your obligation by choice, at least set yourself free of the burden you associate with it. Don't let yourself feel trapped or inspiration will not be yours.

5.  Commit to the concept of "flow."

One of the most insightful presentations I've seen recently was by Vishen Lakhiani, founder of MindValley. He was presenting to a large crowd, sharing the stage with the Dalai Lama, Richard Branson, and other inspirational speakers.  His topic: how to get into a state of "flow." I share this concept because it's so powerful as you look to find inspiration in your work and in your life.

Here's how the concept of flow works. Your state of flow is determined by looking at two things concurrently:  a) Your level of happiness with where you are today and b) Your vision for the future.  When you go through this exercise, you find yourself in one of four situations.
  • Negative Spiral:  If you are unhappy with where you are today and have no vision for the future, you are in a negative spiral. This is the most challenging of situations. It is almost impossible to find inspiration in your work or in your life.
  • Stress and Anxiety:  If you are unhappy with where you are today, but have a positive vision for your future, you are in a state of stress and anxiety. You know things will get better, but you're unhappy and trapped today. Your inspiration is drawn from what's coming next, which can make it a bit elusive. 
  • Reality Trap:  If you are happy with where you are today, yet have no vision for the future, you are in a bit of a reality trap. This state feels better than other options, but your happiness and satisfaction will fade without a vision for the future.
  • FLOW:  If you are happy with where you are today AND you have a vision for an even better future, you are in a state of flow. Your perspective makes you ripe for success, satisfaction, inspiration and growth. 
One of the keys to finding inspiration at work is directly related to flow. If you can identify things that make you content today, even while envisioning a better future, you will be in state of flow. This state is what allows you feel inspired more than any other factor. Flow is what catapults highly successful people forward in their careers, even if they don't understand the underlying principles that carry them forward.
Flow doesn't necessarily mean you're jumping for joy in your current job. It just means that you can feel contentedness with where you are, while you look to what's next and better for you. The ideas presented in this article are intended to help you get to that state of contentment and inspiration today. You will find flow if you can be the best at what you do, know your purpose and behave in ways that are inspiring and free from thoughts of burden. Finding inspiration in the workplace today is a big part of the journey to being in a state of flow tomorrow.

Bottom Line

Feeling inspired at work has a significantly positive impact on our job satisfaction. Sometimes we're lucky enough to have a company or a manager provide us with inspiration, and fuel our satisfaction at work. More often, it's up to us to find inspiration on our own. The good news is that you can find inspiration in almost any work circumstance. When you do, your job satisfaction will improve almost immediately.

One of the fastest paths to inspiration is to be the best at what you do and take great pleasure in that fact. Inspiration multiplies when you continue to learn and expand your expertise, to be the best at even more over time. Understand the value of your contributions and who benefits from your efforts. The more you connect with your purpose, the more inspired you'll be in your work.

As you go about your day, behave as if you're inspired. You'll be surprised at how it can change your perspective, and lead to true inspiration and satisfaction at work. Embrace whatever level of freedom you can in the workplace. If you feel trapped, inspiration will be elusive. Free yourself from a feeling of obligation and connect to the pleasure in your work rather than the necessity of it.

If you're able to find inspiration and satisfaction in the workplace, all the while envisioning an even better future for yourself, you'll be in a state of flow.  Opportunities will present themselves, you'll have greater choices in your career, and you'll be better positioned for success over time. You'll find great inspiration in today's reality... and tomorrow's potential. 

Choose to be inspired. You may be surprised at just how inspired you become.

More soon,