How To Use Mini Habits To Break Free From The “I Hate My Job” Blues

Job Satisfaction

Did you know that two of every three people in North America don’t like their job? Some go as far as to say, “I hate my job,” but stay in it to pay the bills.

According to data from a 2012 survey (pictured), just 35% of us are somewhat satisfied or satisfied with our jobs! Add to that all of the people who are unhappily unemployed, and things look even worse. In addition to this, the Deep Existence poll which asks, “What aspect of life are you LEAST pleased with right now?”, has 109 responses. The #1 response, with 22% of the votes, is Business & Career.

So when a reader asked me for advice about how she could break free from a job that was bringing her down, I knew she wasn’t alone. Here is her verbatim question. My response, and how to break free using Mini Habits, follows.

“How do you address finding the light when buried in the darkness of outside demands, expectations, poor leadership on the job? When I work 7 days a week, I can’t even keep up with my laundry, but my efforts at the job will never be good enough for my superiors. They are not proud or will not be pleased. I really think I am stepping on their toes and they have to keep me knocked down. I do not have the inner belief that would help me to seek out new work, much less have a great interview.

How can I get my mind and spirit out from underneath the cloud that binds me from seeing my values and strengths and practicing them in every day life, regardless of the upper management’s knock downs or outside pressure?

How can I build light and beauty in the midst of the chaos? [Do] any of these questions make sense?

If you can share any thoughts, thanks!”

That is challenging. It sounds like you’re around negative, power-hungry people. For the sake of your happiness, I think you would benefit from a change, because you’re not going to change them. So the first step is to decide that a change needs to happen.

One reason you may be resisting the idea of change is because while your job is draining the life out of you, it’s comfortable too. It’s secure and safe. It’s known. That’s why trying to change is scary – it is an unknown.

Could you find a job if you tried? How long would it take? Would it be an improvement? Nobody knows the answer to those questions, but if you’ve already decided that you’re unhappy with your current spot, which seems to be the case, then you only have one option, right? You owe it to yourself to put yourself in the best position to live the life you want to live. You have to try.

You likely already know this, but then when you think about actually changing, you get overwhelmed (as stated in your message). It would take a lot of extra work, add stress, and you’re already strapped for time and energy. So, if that is your situation, and I think it is, here’s what I recommend.

A Guide For Methodically Breaking Free From A Soul-Killing Work Situation

First, get SUPER clear about what you want in life at all levels. Always seek clarity first, and life gets simpler. See this ultimate life clarity guide, but I’ll also provide examples below. Maybe you already know what you want, but if you haven’t written it down, you need to do that (for so many reasons!).

If you feel your issue is mainly about this job, you can then create the same type of top-down chart for your career. It takes maybe 5 minutes to do this. No excuses!

Three Focus Levels

A focus level “top-down” chart like this can be created for a specific area of your life such as your career.

Life Focus Levels Example

Top level life values: making a difference, loving others, writing, creativity, honesty, health

Intermediate focal points (pick about 3 based on your values): writing, eating well, exercising

Present moment: For the present moment, you’ll now have a clear guide of what matters to you long and intermediate term; it is aligned all the way up to your highest life values. Since you can’t change everything in your life at once, this is not an optional step. You need a limited number of clear, absolute focal points! As for the things not listed on your intermediate focal point list, it doesn’t mean you’ll ignore them or avoid them! All this says is that you’ll DEFINITELY be focusing on these few things. They have priority.

Career Focus Levels Example

Top level career values: being valued/appreciated, opportunities for creativity, reasonable hours, autonomy, making a valuable contribution, working in [your field of expertise], developing [a skill], competent leadership

Intermediate focal points are next, and they depend on how your current job is matching up with the values you listed. If your career values are not matching up well with your current job, then your focal points will be related to switching jobs/careers. If they do match with your current job, then you can focus on improving them further (for example, purposefully developing a skill).

Intermediate focal points (for job change scenario): interview skills, searching for jobs, applying for jobs

Present moment: Now any free time in the present moment has clear career focal points. You know exactly what you need to do, but there’s another problem you mentioned. You don’t believe in yourself. That’s actually ok, and you have a good reason not to believe in yourself – you haven’t done anything yet! Here’s how we can fix that.

How To Respark Your Career With Mini Habits When You’re Completely Discouraged

Doubts and limiting beliefs like this are best changed from the outside in, not the inside out (as most people try). We tend to place emphasis on our thoughts and feelings, but we respond best to action. It’s simply too difficult to convince yourself that “you can do it” when you have absolutely no evidence of that.

This is the practical truth of life – if you haven’t done it or something like it before, you’ve given yourself no reason to have self-confidence. Pep talks are going to feel like a lie even if they aren’t (though with repetition and meaning, they’re not without value). This is then compounded by the fact that your superiors are jerks, who habitually bring you down to prop themselves up. It’s no wonder you feel defeated! But don’t feel bad. It’s fixable.

What you need to do is prove it to yourself, and remove all doubt. If you’ve been reading what I’ve been writing lately, I think you know what’s coming next. Mini Habits! Or in the case of a temporary change like your job, temporary Mini Habits. Mini Habits work exceptionally well, and they’re even more critical if you’re discouraged or low on confidence.

This isn’t an “optional idea” to try. You need to do this to give yourself the best chance to succeed.

When you don’t believe in yourself, you’ve seen exactly what that does to you – it exhausts you, stops you from doing ANYTHING, and of course, leaves you hopeless and sad. Translated: it kills your motivation. When you have no motivation to do something, that means to force yourself to do it is going to require a LOT of willpower (at least a full boatload). Acting against your core beliefs is similar to a weakling trying to bench 250 lbs. This powerful internal resistance comes from your belief that taking action is actually meaningless and fruitless.

See why starting small is crucial?

With your three focal points, which are probably going to be the three I listed (interview practice, searching for jobs, applying for jobs, and maybe add networking), you can create related daily Mini Habits. These are daily actions so small that you can’t fail at them. But don’t even think about trying to get motivated to do them. You don’t need to be motivated or even believe that what you’re doing matters at first (this will come with time). All you have to do is force yourself to do these tiny things every single day.

If it were me, I would set the following three Mini Habits (and I would not focus on any other intermediate focal points from my “life” chart, because this appears to be your biggest issue that offers the greatest reward for a successful change).

Three Mini Habits For Discouraged Job Seekers

  1. Interview practice for two minutes. This could be reading an article, practicing interview questions in the mirror, grabbing a friend for a quick mock interview session, etc.
  2. Find one possible replacement job. This might be too big a task if it’s tough to find jobs in your field. You can change it to looking for replacement jobs for 1 or 2 minutes each day, but not sweating it if you don’t find something. (I would create two folders in my bookmarks toolbar and label one JOBS and the other APPLIED and save all of the jobs you like to the JOBS folder and move them to APPLIED when you apply for one).
  3. Start (or just look at) one application. You do NOT have to finish an application, as many applications can take a while, which makes them unsuitable for Mini Habits (nearly all of them will let you save your progress and finish later if you don’t want to finish it right now). If you want to finish the application, you can. Doing something every day matters most, especially with job-seeking, which requires a lot of perseverance.

So when you add up the total time it takes to do all of those tasks, you could finish it in 5-10 minutes. Can you spare 5 minutes? Of course. Can you do this every day? Of course. Are these tasks too small to matter? No, on the contrary, these are the sparks that ignite dying and frustrated souls! I’ve seen it with my own eyes and felt it in my own soul!

You might not feel it for the first few days, but that doesn’t matter – action does. Again, the feelings will come in time. Don’t wait for them. You might only meet the small requirement for a while, but it’s crucial to know and understand that forward progress is nothing but positive for your life. Juxtapose this forward progress against how much progress you’ve made with the typical strategy of thinking big and feeling overwhelmed – that’s brought about minus seven units of progress, right?

[box style=”check”]Note: This strategy applies equally well for entrepreneurship. Set up Mini Habits for each stage of the process of creating a business. This can be done on the side as you work a day job. At first you’d have things like idea generation (3 ideas a day), market research (2 minutes misc research), and emailing one potential partner per day. After that, you could create Mini Habits to help you build a website, develop a winning idea further, and write a business plan. The possibilities are limitless.[/box]

On your current path, in one year from now, you’d have the same job, no prospects, and the same frustrations. But if you ONLY did the minimum requirements of these suggested Mini Habits (5 minutes a day), in one year, you’d have picked out 365 possible new jobs, gained significant insight and practice in the art of interviewing, and learned what job applications look like (haha). That’s with the bare minimum, which takes very little time and effort.

What’s more likely to happen is this: you’ll start your search for jobs just to meet your requirement, and in the coming weeks, you will decide to fill out a couple of applications. You’ll also be learning and practicing for interviews in a small way every day. You’ll get better at saying what you mean and meaning what you say, and your confidence will grow through experience.

Perhaps down the road you’ll get a call back for an interview. And then you’ll realize that you’re not so far away from getting another job after all. You’ll see that this is possible. Your interview skills will have improved to give you a better chance at getting the job too. At some point in this process, possibly early on, your belief in yourself will grow. You won’t be thinking about how impossible it is to change jobs anymore because you’ll be actively doing what people do all the time to change jobs!

That might not happen, of course. There are no guarantees in life, especially with lurking lawyers everywhere. But what this does is give you every opportunity to build a positive snowball of momentum. In any given day, you can decide to look for more than just one job. In any given day, you can choose to fill out a full application. In any given day, you can practice interviewing a little bit longer. And with this combination of daily practicing, daily action sparks that lead to bonus efforts, improvement, and ever increasing job prospects, you’ve got a real chance to break free from this.

I’ve got the weakest willpower in the world, by the way. I can’t even force myself to get up early unless I have an appointment. Update: I now get up early, but it wasn’t because of my strong willpower.

And yet, I’m in tremendous shape, read and write every day, and grew this blog from 440 subscribers after 2 years, to now more than 3,000 in the last three months because of the increase in time and effort I spend writing for Deep Existence and other blogs.

The difference was Mini Habits. This works.

It can work fast too. Merely hours after I shared the Mini Habits concept with the Tiny Buddha community, a man named Simon wrote this comment:

“[…]You put forward a great idea of just focusing on that first bite and not putting the pressure on yourself that you have to finish to whole thing in one go. I applied this approach to launching my Linkedin profile. I had been putting it off for literally years. I thought, lets just upload the photo and before I knew it had written the profile text and launched the site. I have already been contacted by someone I haven’t spoken to in years and I only started work on it about 3 hours ago. I have even done a few push ups tonight too.”

Mini Habits

Get it this December (TBA) for less than $10!

I hope you (and everyone reading this) will buy my upcoming book, Mini Habits (coming December 2013). This is a pretty typical desire for an author, but I desire it for you as much as for me, because this is paradigm-shifting, life-changing material. Mini Habits the book will be an entertaining look at the myriad of reasons this concept works so well. The book will show exactly how to apply this concept to your life, including things such as the proper mindset to have at each stage of Mini Habits, pitfalls to avoid, how many Mini Habits to pursue at once, general implementation and “in the moment” strategies, and how to benefit from knowing the science that supports the Mini Habits concept.


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