How to Overcome Job Apathy

We have to work. There’s no skirting around it.

Most of us will spend a significant chunk of our time performing a series of tasks that generate enough income to sustain our life. And unless you are one of the 0.0001% who are too rich to work (at which point I’d wonder why you are reading this), you probably fall somewhere between the following upper and lower limits:

You wake up energized to go to work.

You dread the next 8 to 12 hours.

On average you are probably somewhere between the two, not necessarily excited but also not dreading the day.

The good news is that you at least feel something. This feeling, the ebb and flow of the love/hate relationship of our jobs, guides us throughout our careers. If you trust your instinct, this feeling has served you well.

However, there exists a third type of person I failed to mention.

This person doesn’t love or hate their 9 to 5 job, instead they feel nothing. They show up, crunch numbers, and collect their paycheck.

They neither possess nor desire the ability to gauge the trajectory of their career.

Steer clear of these people, they are infected with the worst career cancer known to man: job apathy.

job apathy - guy in tie

What Drives Us?

Each of us has a different source of motivation when it comes to working. Whether it’s the satisfaction of helping others, the comfortable pay, or the family we support, we have a reason for working. No reason is bad.

Everyday we run on this source of energy to get us through the work day. Some people find enough fulfillment in the work that it becomes a renewable source of energy (example: Gary Vaynerchuk).

Over time, our sources of energy change. Maybe we experience family troubles. Maybe helping ungrateful people chips away at our satisfaction. Needless to say, we spend our careers finding the reason to keep moving forward.

That is until we run into the career cancer: apathy.

Apathy latches onto motivation like a tumor. You try to fight it off, but it continues to eat away at what kept you moving forward until there is nothing left but the following  professional burnout symptoms:

  1. Lack of interest in your work
  2. Disregard for success or progress
  3. Poor communication
  4. Cynical attitude
  5. No desire to go “above and beyond” what’s expected

An apathetic person drifts through life. They count down the days until retirement (even if the day is still 40 years away). They’re a pity sight.

But what happens if you’ve been diagnosed? What do you do if one day you wake up and just don’t care about your work anymore? Well there’s an antidote for apathy, but it isn’t easy to administer.

job apathy - women in office

The Antidote for Apathy

Growing up I hated the “cherry” flavored cough syrup. That’s how I imagine my metaphorical apathy antidote tastes.

The antidote for apathy isn’t finding a new job. It isn’t reading a few Tony Robbins books. It’s not even more money.

It’s self-awareness.

We only get one shot at this life. When we realize that there is more to life than just collecting a paycheck, only then can we take action in a new direction. Only then can we overcome apathy.

There are days I’m afraid to push forward on my journey towards self-employment. Sometimes I just want to slide back into my comfortable cubicle and let life pass me by.

But then I think about how I will look back at my life when I am 80. Will I be filled with regret or be proud of the journey?

The only destination apathy leads to is regret.

It’s not easy to accept that going after our dreams is a real option for our life. We are all gifted with a unique set of skills and talents to contribute something to the world. This antidote is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the only way to overcome the cancer that destroys so many journeys.


Like any illness, it’s important to take time to recover. You may feel groggy at first, but soon you’ll regain strength in your legs, arms, and most importantly, your heart.

Then and only then will you be ready to pursue the life you were meant to live.