Andy: Emma, how many times have we talked about quitting?

Emma: A lot! So today, let’s talk about staying. You and I have quit plenty of jobs, but we’ve also both stuck around for things that could have made us quit — rough patches, boring patches, long stretches that felt really flat and stagnant.

Andy: It’s pretty similar to being in a long-term relationship. There are times when I’m not feeling the magic, so I have to figure out: is it that I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore? Or is there something I need to add or subtract to get that magic back?

Emma: Totally. For whatever reason, the thing that was fueling you before isn’t fueling you now. Which is completely normal, but can also be alarming because we don’t always predict it. I’ve had that kind of motivation flat-line happen after a months-long slow burn, and I’ve had it happen overnight — either way, one day I just don’t want to go to work anymore.

Andy: Or the things I used to really enjoy no longer have that oomph. It’s like my jet lost an engine and I need to find a new source of “go.”

When I experience engine failure, it’s not that I want to leave. There’s usually a lot of great reasons to stay! I just need to find the new thing that’ll keep me engaged. At one job, it was shifting from the rush of a giant hiring surge to problem solving that suddenly gigantic team’s operations. At another, it was realizing I wasn’t going to leave a lasting editorial legacy, but rather a legacy in the managers I was supporting.

Emma: There’s almost always going to be a little grieving period as we say goodbye to the old thing. It’s sad that it’s gone and we don’t need to pretend that it’s not. Plus, tapping into a new vein of motivation takes time and some mental gymnastics. Eventually something will reveal itself.

Andy: If not, you’ll move on to something new.

Emma: Yes, we always support quitting!

Andy: But for anyone who wants to stay, some of these mental shifts might help. They did for us.

Mental Shifts to Help You Find New Momentum

As with most of the advice we have, strategizing your way to a new source of motivation is way easier when you can loop in another person. Ideally, this person is your curious and supportive boss who cares about your ongoing job satisfaction. If that boss doesn’t exist, shoot us an email. We’d love to work with you.

If you’re in the middle of a tough project

Andy: Renew your spirits by reminding yourself it’s not going to last forever. And then I recommend setting good boundaries for the duration. During a particularly grueling year-long slog several years ago, I got really strict with myself: I left at 6pm, did yoga, baked a new recipe each week. I did not check my email until 9am.

Emma: If a project is particularly bad, it usually has the power to color my perception of the entire job: “It’s messed up I have to do this, how dare they put me in this position.” Finding ways to cope with temporary resentment is an important tool for the tool kit — but keep an eye on it.

Andy: Seriously. If you’re constantly in coping mode, the job may just be bad news.

You’ve run out of quick wins

Andy: In the first years of Groupon, there were a lot of quick wins. So much was so screwed up, and a lot of it my fellow managers and I could fix for our team. It was really empowering — until we fixed all the easy stuff. Then problems got more gnarled, required bigger budgets or additional approval. It felt like a double-whammy: no new wins, and also a lot of hard, long projects that felt like losses.

I was able to find a new jet by simply redefining my mission. I told myself: “It’s not my job to transform everything that’s not working about this place. It’s my job to be honest about what I can and cannot change, about what I’ve tried, and about the results I’ve gotten. I will do my best to remove obstacles and create change — and I’ll be direct about the types of change that aren’t happening.”

Emma: I learned this move from you, Andy! I use it whenever I’m feeling really roadblocked. Can’t impress my new hard-to-please VP? My mantra becomes: “I’m not here to please. I’m going to go forth crushing eggshells.” Struggling to solve my team’s complaints? I remind myself: “All I have to do is listen and tell the truth.” I can reset my purpose and keep propelling forward.

When type of work that thrills you isn’t available

Emma: I was just at a virtual happy hour with a friend who had been grappling with this! She’d spent the majority of her career directing really posh fashion campaigns, but a couple of years ago transitioned to a company that simply didn’t produce that level of editorial work. Back then, she was unsatisfied — it was all temporary, she told me, she would find something better soon. I assumed she would move on in a matter of months.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago and she’s still there. And digging it! Turns out, she really liked her team and had mentally recalibrated her entire motivation from the quality of her portfolio to being an excellent boss to her reports. It’s the first time in a decades-long career she’s prioritized being a manager.

Andy: Just wow. I’m completely inspired, and I also totally get it. Other human beings are a really reliable source of motivation. They’re the index funds of work.

When it feels like there’s nothing left to learn

Emma: I think ahead to my next big move. Back at Reviews, I had been tasked to build a brand new team and consistent flow of work. It was 18 grueling months, and then one day the team had been built and the work was flowing. I remember looking around the office one day and thinking, “Well, I guess this is it for the rest of time.”

Andy: The wind was poof gone from your sails.

Emma: Right? I assumed I was going to be bored forever. But when I imagined the job I was going to have after that one, it helped me see how much more I had to do. No one was going to care about whether or not I had built something — they would care if I’d built something that endured. What did I need to do to prove that? Suddenly, I had a whole new narrative to fulfill, and it felt just as vital as the first one.

If your clear vision gets blurry

Andy: I’ve definitely had this. There was a point in time when Groupon was high-quality editorial with humor and voice promoting one business a day in each city. We were champions of small business and outlandish levels of quality, until suddenly we were writing bulleted lists to sell bike shorts that promised cellulite reduction?

The company was changing and if I wanted to stay, I needed to change, too. While I was pretty foggy about the direction the company was headed, I wasn’t foggy at all about the talents and career goals of the people on my team — including mine. When I focused on that, it renewed my personal job lease.

Emma: Helping people get to where they want to go is a mission that can almost always trump whatever wacky decisions your company is making. Although not gonna lie, I’m pretty curious about those cellulite shorts…