Freeing the Resilient Self When You’re Apathetic at Work

We’ve all been there. A strong case of the “blahs” at work. Staring at a laptop, looking for inspiration to begin a new project or assignment. Your previous, more spirited self would have been curious and excited to get started. You would have been the first to set up a quick chat with the team about hashing out a game plan. A more seasoned version of you now browses aimlessly through folders on the hard-drive in the hopes of stumbling upon a prompt to free up the stagnation. It happens. 

The mundane moments of life are part of the daily grind; however, what if they don’t easily dissipate? What if you find yourself in the proverbial rut, even when you get handed an interesting project? You might be bored with things at the moment. Same people, office, and commute…same old, same old. At times, we all need to devise ways to tap into our resilient selves.

Consistent boredom emerges from a number of things, such as lack of stimulation and general dissatisfaction.  Apathy (lack of interest) is boredom’s sibling. Not only are you bored with your circumstances, but you don’t really care about doing the best job possible. Nothing really interests you about your tasks at the moment. Because you are bored and apathetic, you find yourself flooded with negativity. You easily envision negative (rather than positive) actions of team members that can occur, based on how you interpreted previous experiences.  You say to yourself, “Oh great. Melanie’s going to take credit for my work on this one too.” Or, “This will just be another case of Dave not listening to my advice and doing whatever he wants anyway.”

When we experience the blues, we can draw upon organic resilience (some of us have this more ingrained than others, but it can be strengthened) to adapt and bounce back to our best selves. Resilience is our inner strength, part nature and part nurture.  Here are a few options for freeing up your hardier self.

Gravitate to the Unfamiliar.  Escaping the doldrums requires you to get curious. About something. Accepting the status quo breeds boredom. If nothing in your immediate surroundings floats your boat, alter your reality. Read a couple of magazines on topics that are somewhat unfamiliar, yet potentially interesting. Love to eat, but can’t cook? Go to a bookstore and browse through the cookbooks. Pick up inspirations to incorporate into your daily life. You may find that making a well-received, seafood stew with unfamiliar ingredients such as anise and clam juice prompts you to connect with your work projects in more interesting ways.  Soon you find yourself demonstrating process maps to improve work flow on your team projects.  While you may not be applauded, you’ve taken a step to learn new skills and possibly improve the quality of tasking for others. 

Get Outside of Yourself.  Beating the blahs means you have to step away from your current state. Change up your routine. Go for a 30-minute walk at lunchtime.  Notice the street scenes, the clothes people wear, the smells in the air. Always have coffee at 9 am? Switch to tea every other day (as uncomfortable as that may be, if you are a coffee purist!) Normally silent during office meetings?  Purposefully jot down a comment or question to ask during the next meeting.  If you’re a “thinker,” you may tend to have your head in the sand when you walk down the hallway.  Make a point to keep your head up so you can make eye contact and smile at others in the elevator or breakroom. Some of these actions may seem uncomfortable or even silly, but they may be enough to break up the monotony and get things swinging for you again.

Make Time for Playing.  Take a few minutes out of your workday for “fun.”  Read a joke book, or a short story for the sheer enjoyment of it. While you may not be able to put your toes in a sandbox (also recommended), you may able to sketch or doodle a bit each day.  Read the cartoons in the paper- laughter and humor are incompatible with boredom.  Making this a habit may be enough to unclog the pipes and get the juices flowing again.

Commit to Move Through It.  Resilient people are optimistic and negative events are viewed as temporary. In other words, don’t dwell on the notion that Dave seemingly didn’t appreciate your contributions on the last project- view this as an opportunity for a more favorable outcome.  Ultimately, we just have to plow through and expect some adversity as a natural part of the process. Something more interesting and challenging will eventually come around- your experience tells you that it always does. 


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