While Alfred Adler is most widely known for his birth-order theories, his work was founded on the basic belief that we all are searching for a sense of belonging and significance. Family dynamics aside, there is no place where these conscious or unconscious forces are as prevalent as in your place of employment. As you progress in your career within a certain organization, those feelings, at times, may start to fade – until something finally brings them back in full force.
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As in many relationships, the feeling of being taken for granted can easily creep up on you at work. Perhaps your career path at your organization hasn't gone quite as you'd hoped. You know you're valued, but something is missing.
Again, as in all relationships, you need to ask yourself what you're doing to contribute to the issue.
One of my favorite saying is, "Love is not a feeling; it's a behavior." This saying has served me – and perhaps countless other people – well at those unavoidable times in a relationship when you just don't feel "in love." And then one day you wake up and it's back. The mundane and perfunctory have taken their rightful place away from your consciousness while the feelings of significance and belonging have come to the forefront of your being once more.
A wandering eye, professionally speaking, may actually lead you to realize that the grass isn't always greener in someone else's lawn. At first sight, and from a distance, the grass may seem greener. But when you get a little closer, you may realize that your grass is just as green, if not greener – you just need to water the lawn more frequently.
So, what can you do to embrace where you are and focus more on the positives of your role, rather than on what's lacking?
1. Make a Mental List of What Is Going Right
– Do you have autonomy to make decisions?
– Do you like the people you work with?
– Do you have an easy commute? (Everything counts, no matter how small.)
2. At Your Core, Are You Still Basically Happy?
Are you happy with your function, the skills you're utilizing, and the purpose your role serves for the organization? Whatever you're happy with, do more of that. Do the work that is obligatory earlier in the day so that you can get in a zone with the work you're excited to do.
If you're struggling to find joy or pleasure in any of your work, that is a bigger conversation that needs to happen with your boss.
3. What New Things Are You Excited to Learn or Do?
Find a way to incorporate them into your role. If you're enthusiastic about networking and attending events, do more of it! This may help you feel more connected to and inspired by your work. You'll also hopefully make some great contacts.
4. Recognize That Nothing Is Permanent
Experiences are fluid, just like emotions. Focus on something outside of work that motivates you. It could be an exercise plan, learning to cook, or even starting your own small business. See what you can gain from your current situation that allows you to advance in those other areas. Do you have a flexible schedule? Are you so efficient with your work that you have a bit of extra time in your day? In a new role, you may not have the luxury of some small benefits that come with having been in one place for a while.
It's never good to feel like you haven't reached your potential or that your current employer is overlooking many of your talents. But sometimes the answer to greater fulfillment at work is to realize you're in control and that you have to create that fulfillment yourself.
Still not sure if you should stay in your current role or set out on a new adventure? Here's a 10-step guide to a career makeover that might help.
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Michele Mavi is Atrium Staffing's resident career expert.