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AT THE OFFICE: Looking for prescription to regain passion for job

Question: I have a good job in my field, doing meaningful work. I'm appreciated and rewarded, so there are no real problems, but I feel very detached and unengaged. Is this a warning sign? What should I do?...

Question: I have a good job in my field, doing meaningful work. I'm appreciated and rewarded, so there are no real problems, but I feel very detached and unengaged. Is this a warning sign? What should I do?

Answer: Careers have normal ebbs and flows, but consider whether this goes beyond that and explore ways to re-engage.

The inner game

Relax. Take a deep breath. No need to panic or worry. Let the chatter in your mind about what's going on slip away so that you can make a calm and realistic evaluation.

What patterns do you see when you consider your situation? Some people aren't at ease unless they have something to fret about. Is that you? Look at your whole life -- does your disengagement extend beyond work to relationships, hobbies or your spiritual practice?

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Keep an eye on yourself at work, noticing when you feel engaged and when you've checked out. Try keeping a journal of your observations and examine them for patterns.

Look backward, remembering why you chose your field and what you find meaningful in your work. Consider it with fresh eyes as an outsider might see it.

Make a list of your contributions. Just as important, list the ways that your work contributes to you. Bring to mind experiences that have been deeply energizing and rewarding, and re-experience them, noting the details that make them noteworthy.

Using these insights, envision your ideal work. How different is it from your current situation? To what extent do circumstances outside your control affect your feelings about work? Understanding the gap between "what is" and "what you wish for" will help guide your actions.

Finally, I'm wondering if you're just tired. You work day in and day out in a high-stress, high-demand profession. How do you get recharged? Make sure you're taking care of yourself physically and emotionally. If you haven't had one recently, get a good physical. Care for yourself like you do your patients.

The outer game

Suppose that you decide that your feelings are an early warning of need for change. How much change do you want? Or need? Do a reality check. Sometimes acknowledging that we aren't 100 percent satisfied can take off some pressure so that profound change isn't needed.

You may be yearning for growth. In the busy professional world, growth and development can get squeezed out. Yet few things are more energizing than learning useful new information or acquiring new skills.

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Giving back is another great way to reconnect with your passion.

Younger doctors may benefit from your mentoring, and you may find that you get more than you give. If circumstances permit, consider programs that send doctors to help in under-served communities locally or across the globe for short periods of time. Find ways to mix it up a bit so that you can have a taste of new and different that fits the amount of change you're seeking.

The last word

Look at the big picture to check the fit of what you're doing, and fine-tune and refresh it to become re-engaged at work.

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