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Feeling Stuck? 4 Tips for a Fresh Start at the Office in the New Year

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At the start of a new year, many of us consider new beginnings. Now that the holidays have wound down and you’re back to the daily grind, perhaps you're feeling a bit sluggish at the office or bored with your routine.

Instead of trying to jump ship, why not come up with some New Year’s resolutions to reinvent yourself at work? No matter what type of job you have, everyone can benefit from a fresh start.

Annie McKee, author of How to be Happy at Work, says the first thing you can do is recognize that you deserve and have the right to be happy.

“Many of us chose our career paths and our jobs because we have a deep commitment to what we do,” says McKee. “If we find ourselves feeling unhappy, we can be pessimistic and cynical. Once we are in that emotional place our brains don’t work as well. If we don’t feel good about what we are doing, we won’t do as good of a job.”

Read below for some resolutions to help you reinvigorate your work life, helping you to feel happier and more productive.

Remember your purpose

Most of us work in the social-impact space because we believe in the mission. But things don’t change overnight, and if you’re not seeing immediate results of your work, it can be hard to remember why you’re doing what you do.

McKee says that this is when you need to pause, step back, and remember why you got into this type of work in the first place.

“Get back in touch with why you’re in it, and remember what drove you to it,” she suggests.

Here’s how:

  • Take a historical look at your social-impact issue area. Chances are, whatever it is, there has been an improvement over the years. While there’s still a need to fight for change, recognize that improvements have been made and you helped!
  • Connect with colleagues on the front lines. Looking to hear about how your organization makes an impact for individuals? The people working directly with clients will likely have plenty of stories to share and can help you to see the forest through the trees.
  • Find a mentor who exemplifies the mission. See what you can learn from her and ask how she keeps herself going day to day.

Stop complaining and gossiping

One of the fastest ways to get caught up in workplace negativity is to partake in gossip. Unfortunately, complaining and gossiping is all too commonplace in the average workplace. When you’re stressed or feeling unappreciated it is easy to complain to a coworker.

“It’s an outlet but it’s an unhealthy outlet,” says McKee. “It doesn’t make anyone feel any better, it pulls us all down.”

Make a commitment that you are not going to complain or gossip anymore, she suggests. Gossiping is contagious, so by changing your own behavior you could influence other people to be more positive. And if you do hear others spreading negativity, find a way to graciously leave the conversation.

If you’re not getting along with a co-worker and have the urge to gossip or complain, stop and try to focus instead on how you can work together to achieve your organization’s mission. Developing positive relationships at work is key. It doesn’t mean you have to be friends with everyone at the office, but you should find that common thread of humanity that binds you together, McKee says.

Create your own vision

How else can you redirect your energy away from negative habits like gossip? McKee suggests envisioning a hopeful future. Think about how you can make your work exactly what you want it to be.

“Lean into hope and optimism,” McKee says. “Look into the future and paint a vision of it that is better than today. Go beyond [your organization’s mission] and spend the time regularly crafting a personal vision for your own life that is bigger than your job and career.”

So yes, think about how you will succeed at work, and how you are making a difference for your cause. But go beyond that and think about how everything fits into your life together. If you don’t feel like your life is particular well-rounded, visualize a job you love that also leaves you time for family, friends, and other pursuits.

Keep that hope and optimism alive and work toward it.

Pursue growth opportunities

Another great way to reinvigorate your daily life is to make time for professional growth. An easy way to start is to look on Idealist Careers for ideas. We’ve written about all sorts of training opportunities. Check out “Professional Development Trainings for Every Stage in Your Career” or “Want to Keep Learning? Look to your Coworkers for Inspiration.”

Here are some other ideas:

  • Join a local networking group for people in your field. If you can’t find one locally, look online. There are all sorts of groups you can join to get in touch with peers.
  • Does your organization offer time or money for professional development? Are there national conferences or local trainings that interest you? Don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor for time off to focus on professional growth.
  • Take an online course. Organizations like Coursera and EdX let you take online courses from universities across the globe. And the best part is, many are free and all allow you to work at your own pace!

Most importantly, McKee says, look inside yourself. Your happiness and ability to thrive at work depends on you; you're the only one who can improve your circumstances. It’s easy to blame a boss or coworkers, but don’t. Instead, take ownership of your experience.

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About the Author | Samantha Fredrickson has worked in communications and nonprofit advocacy for more than a decade. She has spent much of her career advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations. She has degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno and New York Law School.

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