If you hate your job, and you want to not hate your job, you first have to figure out why you hate your job.
This is ridiculously simple logic. But introspection is generally harder than it seems, and it can be near impossible to come up with a legitimate explanation for why you’re miserable at work.
That’s according to Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of multiple books on happiness and habit formation, including, most recently, “Better Than Before.” Rubin stopped by the Business Insider office in April for a Facebook Live interview and shared her best advice on being happier at work: Identify the problem.
“This sounds so obvious,” she told Business Insider. “But I’ve found over and over, it really helps people.”
In other words, there is a really, really good chance that you don’t loathe everything about your job — even though you might think you do.
But maybe your boss is a micromanager. Maybe data entry makes your eyes glaze over. Maybe you travel constantly and don’t get to spend enough time with your family. Keep asking yourself “why?” until you get to that one thing that’s making you feel bad.
Rubin went on:
“You’re walking in the door in the morning and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, you know what? I don’t like this anymore. This is a drag. I don’t want to be here.’
“But there are a lot of reasons that that could be true. And the solutions that you would try in order to fix the situation would be really different depending on what the problem is.”
That fix could be something as major as quitting and finding a new gig — but it could also be something less radical, like telling your boss you’d like to do more of one task and less of another. (Worst-case scenario: They will say you can’t.)
Or, as Rubin suggested, you might want to take a class and learn new skills that would make your job easier.
Rubin’s insights recall something Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans previously told Business Insider: Figure out what you like and don’t like about your job before you quit.
Specifically, Burnett and Evans suggest keeping a “Good Time Journal,” in which you keep a log of your daily activities and how engaged and energised you were while doing them. Then you review the journal to see if you recognise any patterns — as in, every time you meet with your boss, you’re frustrated or every time you’re meeting with clients, you feel great.
The overarching theme here is that the onus is on you to figure out what you like to do at work and how to do more of it. That’s less scary than it sounds.
Here’s Rubin: “Once you actually pinpoint the precise nature of what’s driving you crazy, it’s often a lot easier to fix it than you think.”
Watch the full interview: