4 Questions to Ask If You Are Not Happy at Work

In order to get out of career burn out, you must first acknowledge that you are stuck and that you can, and want to, change it.

We’ve all been there at one time or another. Not happy at work. You hate getting up and getting ready for something that you despise doing. It isn’t fun, it isn’t enjoyable, the money isn’t good enough, or any other combination of what is making you so miserable. Then you get in the car (or on the train) and scoff at the people on the talk shows who talk about how much they love their job. You despise phrases like “discover your calling”. But don’t worry, most everyone has experienced a head in hands moment. There is hope though. It can be overcome and conquered. You can experience joy in your vocation.

Think about this quote from Benjamin Disraeli, also featured in my personal favorite The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightengale, “I have brought myself by long meditation to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and that nothing can resist a will which will stake even existence upon its fulfillment.”

I want you to understand that there is no force that will reach in and pull you out of your lull. There are powers that can get you out, but none will force you. In order to get out of career burn out, you must first acknowledge that you are stuck and that you can, and want to, change it. You can beat it, you just need a lamp in your dark room or a map in your forest. Pick your metaphor.

The first way to get out of this slump is to get a larger, zoomed out perspective of your life and get to the core issue of what has you here. So ask yourself these questions and spend some time reflecting on the answers. The result will surprise you. I recommend even writing them down and spending some time journalling about your thoughts. It may be a few pages or you jotting down some mind-mapped visuals on a napkin at Starbucks.

The following questions will help you start the journey out of burn out.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

Did you have one thing? Multiple things? What made you want to be that thing? Did you have a family member, neighbor or television hero that inspired you? What sort of things did you do to indulge your love as a child? Re-explore this part of yourself. Try to change the lens you use to look at your life, back to the lens you had as a child. If your child-self could give you advice, fill in the blank to what that might be.

What is the greatest accomplishment in your life?

Before you think of the most significant moment of your life, think of the word accomplishment, something achieved, set your mind to and eventually accomplished. Now figure out why that accomplishment was so major to hold such an esteemed title in your life. You accomplish things every single day, what made this one so important to you? Figure out the particular elements that made this so important to you. Think about the kind of people you were with, the environment you were in, what took up most of your time back then, etc.

What is your favorite thing to do with your time right now?

Imagine it’s Friday morning. You check your email. The weekend plans have cancelled. You now have the freedom to set your destiny for two and a half days. The world is your oyster. This conveniently happened the day after your extremely favorable tax return came in the mail (yeah, this one had a comma in it.) Now reschedule your life. What do you do? You may schedule coffee with a friend, order a pizza, turn on the XStation, or pack up a weekend bag and get the heck out of town. Make a list of a few possibilities, either on your napkin or in your head.

If you could get paid for any hobby you’ve ever had in your life, what would it be?

It doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is. As a kid, I loved deductive logic puzzles. It would be a ridiculous career, sitting around, working through the $3 gas station logic puzzles for no other purpose than solving them. But that’s what it would be. Yours may be equally as ridiculous, but that’s okay.


Now, take a look through your answers. Find the correlating effort between these items. What elements make up each activity you listed? Find those parallels.

This process may take a few minutes, or a few days. Don’t worry. It will be helpful and revealing regardless. Now take those parallels and put them next to your job description (if you are an entrepreneur and you haven’t written one yet, hop on Google and do that first.) Figure out how to focus your mind on the things you are responsible for now which you have loved throughout your life. Do you have the power to change anything in your current job to make your responsibilities align with these passions? Rediscovering your career will reinvigorate your life!

(If you can not draw any parallels to your life’s passions and your current job, it is definitely time to start looking around at other options for your vocation. I’ll write and article on this soon.)