Bust the Rut: 5 Ways to Reconnect With Your Purpose at Work

If you're feeling burnt out or disconnected to your business, try these 5 strategies to get back on track with the work you love.
March 03, 2014

Are you excited by the challenges at work? Do you feel engaged and inspired by your business? Or does it seem as if you’re on a treadmill, doing the same things and talking to the same people about the same things over and over?

“If you just go through the motions and don't really feel much about it, chances are, you're in a rut,” says Pamela Slim, author of the new book Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together.

We all fall into ruts from time to time. But the challenge is figuring out how to extricate ourselves and reconnect with our sense of passion and meaning. “Ruts happen when we're no longer learning and growing professionally,” says Michele Woodward, an executive coach and career strategist.

If you'd like to counteract the stagnation you may be feeling, here are five ways to make what you do for your business exciting again.

1. Shake up your routine. Getting out of a rut literally begins with rejiggering your schedule, Woodward says. You need to try different things in order to get different results.

“See if you can change the patterns, schedules and rhythms of your day,” Woodward suggests. “Drive to the office via a different route. Change the way you do meetings. Delegate differently. Read a book. Take a class. Take on a different responsibility, project or task. All these strategies are designed to incite your learning and growth, and bring a new sense of zest into your work.”

2. Understand your values. In the day-to-day hubbub, it can be easy to forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. But Slim advises we go back to our first principles.

“Examine your own values, interests and beliefs,” Slim says. “What do you believe? Why do you believe it? Then, examine the purpose of [your business] and see where your values and beliefs intersect. When you see how living your values contributes to the organization, you get re-energized. And if you don't, that could be a sign it's time to pursue other opportunities.”

3. Apply your strengths. Work can feel like drudgery if you’re constantly having to do things you don’t enjoy. Counteract that by employing your strengths, which makes work feel both easier and more fun.

“For instance, if someone knows they're a great mentor, they can boost their sense of purpose by reaching out to a younger person and offering to help with their career,” Woodward says. “Something as simple as that can rejuvenate a strong sense of meaning and purpose.”

4. Take a break. Of course you’ll lose sight of your purpose if you’re constantly operating in heads-down mode. “Take at least a half a day out each month to look at the big picture of your business,” Slim advises. “Examine your strategic priorities, and see how your day-to-day work is serving, or not serving, those priorities.”

And don’t force yourself to work all the time. If you’re feeling burnt out or uninspired, Slim says, “take a few days off. Rest, relax, hang in nature and engage in purely enjoyable activities. Often you're not on the wrong path—you're just tired.”

5. Live your “why” every day. You can’t just binge on meaning a few times a year and expect to feel OK about your work and your business the rest of the time. It’s important to connect with your values as a regular part of your job.

“Make time in each day to do one thing around your ‘Big Why,’” Slim says. “Why are you in this business in the first place? Stay connected to that vision and make time for it, and happiness ensues.”

We all occasionally struggle with motivation and feeling connected to what we do for a living. But with these strategies, you can begin to pull yourself out of that rut and reconnect with the meaning in what you do.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Learn more about her new book, Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press), and follow her on Twitter.

Read more articles on leadership.

Photo: Getty Images