Mental Health and Work: 4 Ways to Feel More Fulfilled at Work

Patient Expert

According to a 2017 Gallup report, two-thirds of Americans are disengaged or worse at their workplace. Considering the average adult spends 34.4 hours there – with many working much longer hours – we have a recipe for unhappiness and potential depression. When you are disengaged and unhappy where you are spending the majority of your waking day, life gets difficult.

Although we often try to compartmentalize things mentally, it's hard for us to separate our work life from our home life. This means that if we are unhappy, dissatisfied, and frustrated at work, we are likely to become the same way at home. Over time, this leads down a road towards depression and strains relationships. Unhappiness at work leads to unhappiness at home, which leads to further unhappiness at work, etc. It's a vicious cycle.

Three reasons why are we so unsatisfied at work

Most people blame work dissatisfaction or frustration on not being paid enough, but there’s a whole lot more to the equation than that. There are many different reasons why people are unsatisfied at work.

1. People don't see the value in the work that they do.

We don't want to waste our time doing pointless tasks. We want the work that we do to matter. In an email interview with HealthCentral, Emma-Kate Swann, Vice President at Healthy Companies International and co-author of CONSCIOUS: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life, said, “The most common cause for people’s dissatisfaction at work is becoming disconnected from their company’s mission. People need a connection to a higher purpose and want to be connected to something bigger than themselves. Our research has shown that when that’s missing, people are at a much higher risk of being unsatisfied and, even worse, disengaged entirely."

If you don't know what the purpose of your work is, you probably aren't going to like doing it. In fact, if you think about it, every job has a purpose towards the overall goals of a company. If you don't even have the slightest understanding of how your role fits in, it's a guaranteed struggle.

2. Perfectionism steals our joy.

Striving to be perfect seems like it should be a good thing, but it’s not. It’s incredibly harmful to your mental health by wrapping your self-worth up in something that is impossible to achieve. There is not one single person that will ever be perfect. Swann explains, “we’ve actually identified perfectionism as a leading hijacker and impediment to individual success. Most notably, it leads to a loss of perspective, to procrastination, and to disappointment - all of which undermine our confidence and motivation.”

Along with perfectionism is the comparison game. Every person in this world is uniquely different. If you are always comparing yourself to see how you stack up against another co-worker or competitor, you are continually going to knock yourself down. There might be some areas that you excel in and others that you don't. But, if you are always comparing yourself to someone else, it's impossible to find happiness.

3. We don't celebrate the small wins.

In an email interview with HealthCentral, career coach Gia Ganesh explained, “One reason people are unsatisfied at work is that they are failing to see the progress they are making. They focus only on the end result and don’t see the small steps they are taking towards their projects and work. Every small win is a victory that needs to be acknowledged.”

When you feel like you aren't making any progress at work, it is easy to become discouraged and disengaged. When you are solely focused on accomplishing the big goals (that either you or your leader set), it's easy to feel like you aren't making any progress at work.

Four ways to feel more fulfilled at work

Are you ready to get started on taking more pride in your work? You can start by focusing on undoing the things that have been causing you to feel disengaged.

1. Find the value in what you do

Taking pride in your work might start with talking to your manager or supervisor. Ask him or her to help you get a better sense of how your responsibilities factor into the broader goals of the organization. Sometimes just seeing how the mundane tasks that you are doing fit into the bigger picture will help generate a new sense of worth in the work that you are doing.

For me, this means looking at my work as a place of service. The mission of my company is to help people heal emotional pain and discover meeting ideas and power wellness and healthy relationships. Every morning I review this mission and think about my work day.  Doing this allows me to focus on something much more significant than just getting the job done. I focus on the purpose behind the work.

2. Strive for excellence, not perfection

You may want to do an excellent job at work. But that doesn't mean that you have to do a perfect job. Don't get so caught up in trying to make your work so perfect that you delay getting it done at all. Focus on progress, not perfection. Keep moving forward at the task at hand. Work on getting it done well. Then focus on improving it after that, instead of waiting for it to be perfect to call it done.

And, most importantly, stop comparing yourself to other people. As I said before, everyone has their strengths, skills, and abilities. Instead of worrying about how you compare with someone else, start focusing on being the best person that you can be. Do your job to the best of your abilities and don't worry about what someone else is doing.

3. Celebrate the small wins

Start breaking big goals down into smaller tasks.  Breaking goals down into smaller chunks makes them easier to achieve. You can take action on those small steps without being consumed and overwhelmed by the large stuff. As you develop this habit, you'll be able to cross things off your to-do list, which will give you a feeling of accomplishment. Seeing these daily successes will help to build your confidence.

4. Consider changing jobs

If you are trying the solutions I just shared with you and you still feel disengaged at work, you might need a change of job (or career). You may not be in a place that is using your abilities and skills.  Or, your current job might not be something that interests you. If you feel this way, then you might want to try working towards on occupation that you will enjoy.

At the end of the day, remember that you are in control. You have the power to make changes to take pride in your work.

See more helpful articles:

Work-Related Stress: Causes, Signs, and Symptoms

Working Moms: Is It Possible to Have a Work/Life Balance?

Men struggle with work-life balance, too