Apathy … Sooner or Later

Apathy … Sooner or Later

Sooner or later, Apathy strikes!  It may show up in our personal lives, and it may show up in our professional lives.  And, as we know, if we have a personal challenge it can, and most likely will, creep into our professional lives as well.  So, it is important to be self-aware of when you are having these feelings and dig into their root cause. 

By definition, apathy is where we feel a lack of motivation, incentive, and enthusiasm, not just for work, but for many areas in our lives.  Typically, many factors contribute to these feelings, including circumstances and conditions around us.  When we succumb to some of the negative aspects of these circumstances, we tend to lose hope.

Self awareness is key

Here are some root causes of apathy, that may be contributing to your personal feelings:

  • Stress
  • Disappointment
  • Difficulty in reaching personal and/or professional goals
  • Loss of faith in yourself or others

My research shows that if one does not identify the root cause and move through it, apathy can lead to deeper, more destructive feelings like guilt, shame and self-pity.  That is not where we want to go!  Apathy is a temporary state of being – thank goodness!  Apathy does not define who we are, it is just a feeling that we are experiencing right now. 

Here are the steps to take to identify and move through apathy:

1. Journal

Write down your thoughts and feelings about the four areas listed above and ask yourself where they are showing up in your life both personally and professionally.  Dig deep, be honest with yourself.  Get them all out of your head and onto paper. 

2. Review

Review what you have written and identify, clearly, what you are in control of and what you are not in control of regarding the circumstances.  

3. Make a change

Shake things up a bit.  Do small things that change your daily routine.  Drive to work on a different route.  Break out of your regular routine.  Pick up a book, that is not typically the style of book you would typically read.  Take a class on something new (photography, hiking, cooking class, art class, etc.)  Move your furniture around in your home.  Clean out a closet or dresser. 

4. Create the mood

Put yourself in situations that energize you!  What makes you feel happy?  Music, working out, going for a walk, walking the dog, volunteering?  Are there people in your life who make you laugh and lift your spirits?  If so, connect with them.  Mindfully, put yourself in environments that don’t feed your apathy. 

5. Think about what you do have

Attitude of gratitude Write down the things that have made you come alive with excitement and enthusiasm.  List the elements of those situations that specifically fostered positive feelings.  (For example, if it was a work project, you might list that it made you feel valued; it involved creativity; it created collaboration.)

6. Count your blessings

Look for what is positive.  Look at your life right now, what is going right?  How can you connect more to the positive (what is going well) versus the negative?  Circle back to your core values.  What are they?  How are you in alignment with them or have you fallen away from them? Reevaluate your core values and get back in alignment with them.  When we are in alignment with our core values, we feel more fulfilled and happier internally.

7. Set the stage for success

Make your surroundings positive. Sometimes, cluttered and dull surroundings can bring us down with them – everything seems overwhelming and we can’t function well. Make some time to clean up your work space, organize, file, make a to-do list, then spruce up the place with pictures of people or places you love. Getting a handle on our lives and reminding ourselves of what is important can be a real shot in the arm!

8. Take ONE step

“Your journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” When apathy hits us, it can take a lot of energy to just get up and get going!  So, look at the list above and pick one action to take.  Even if it is just for five minutes. Try our beating procrastination tips to help you take that step.

9. Start the change

Change creates the shift.  Change the things you can. Identify what you are in control of reflect on how you want to proceed, be proactive and positive with at least one action every day.  Invite change in small and manageable increments.  As you begin to practice this change, and get more proficient and disciplined, you will feel better about yourself and have more energy and enthusiasm, especially if it has more to do with your natural aptitudes, values and interests.

Making a shift from apathy to engagement is about creating new habits.  Pick something from the list above and get started!  You can also use these exercises in your workplace to encourage growth personally and professionally. 

Leadership Challenge:  What will you do differently today?


“Willpower is the key to success. Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear.”

Dan Millman

“Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things.  First, an idea, which takes the imagination by storm; and second, a definite plan for carrying that idea into practice.” 

Arnold Toynbee

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