It's One of Those Mornings Where You're Not Feeling Very Worky Today. Uh Oh.
It happens. Sometimes you're not feeling it. There are days when the mojo meter runs low. Sometimes you even feel like you're in a funk for months or years. It can impact important life decisions. It happens in the workplace, and it also happens in life’s bigger setting.
Being in a low-motivation state leads us to deliberate whether to stay in a job or not, to stay in a relationship or not, or to adopt a certain lifestyle or not. The ripple effects are big. This feeling is valid. When it happens, do you deal with it from a place of fear or from a place of strength? It's an important reflection.
In another fun and insightful episode, host Lisa Cummings and TyAnn Osborn share their personal and professional take on what it means to be in a funk, and the great ways they can turn that “funky monkey” around, such as acknowledging the feeling and turning to your “spirit guides” for help. All these, along with their common love for Beastie Boys and the song Brass Monkey!
Here's a video version of the interview, and here’s the full transcript of the episode.
Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings. And you know, I'm always telling you, it's hard to find something more energizing than using your natural talents every day at work. Well, something that's just about as energizing is when I get to hang out with my other host here in the room, TyAnn Osborn.
Today, we are going to talk about being in a funk. I saw a meme that said, "not feeling very worky today." Based on the responses, I realized this is pretty much at epidemic levels.
So very often, we go to strengths events, we get invited in to deliver training, and often it's from an inspirational standpoint. It's, oh we want to get to know each other better. We want to communicate better, we want to get to know a new team.
Lisa: Team building...
TyAnn: Very positive. Very fun.
Lisa: And then the reality of the world is we have days when mojo meter is level zero. We have seasons, times, months, weeks, where sometimes you're just in a funk. Once, I had an entire, probably six months of a job where I was in a funk and I was like, “What is wrong with me? I like the people, I like the job, the pay is good. Life is good. Everything on paper sounds so right. What is wrong?"
And almost never do people think, “Well, this would be a great opportunity to use my strengths!” It just doesn't come up for people. But I know that you have ideas for this, and you've talked about them being one of the best things you could do for yourself when you find yourself in a funk or you think someone else might be in a funk.
Step 1: Acknowledge That You’re In A Funk
Lisa: So, if you are going to even begin applying strengths to this concept, what would you start with?
TyAnn: I think that's so true. And like Lisa said, often when we come in, we've done a big team building event, everyone's all jazzed up, this is exciting. And then you go back to your desk, and work happens. Or life happens. And you're like, “Oh, that was fun.”
But meanwhile, Now my customer is upset with me. My kid’s upset with me... My spouse is upset with me... I have to make dinner... Whatever it is, and life just happens.
Or, like she said, sometimes you can't really put your finger on it. And for whatever reason, you're just like, “Oh, I feel like a funky monkey, I don't know why.” That sounds more cute than you might actually be feeling.
Lisa: Sounds like Brass Monkey. Makes me think of Beastie Boys.
TyAnn: ‘Love Beastie Boys. Yes, that's my jam.
TyAnn: So I think it's really easy to use strengths when things are going well.
But I think really a powerful application is when you're not feeling that great. And so what do you do?
So I would say the first thing is, be able to recognize when you are feeling funky. And sometimes we don't want to intellectually allow ourselves to even go there. Or like you said, you feel like:
“I shouldn't be feeling bad about myself. I'm getting paid good money. My thinking skills tell me that does not make sense and therefore, I must force myself to feel great."
Lisa: "You just feel like you're being a baby!"
TyAnn: "You feel like you're being a baby." And again, you might say like, "Oh, this is a first-world problem."
But here's the thing: feelings are valid, because they're your feelings. And if you're feeling funky, you don't have to explain that away to yourself. It's okay. It's okay. And, you know, I mean, nobody can discount your feelings because they're your feelings. It's okay.
So I would say the first thing is just to put that baggage aside for “I shouldn't be feeling this way,” because that's the quickest way to really start some problems internally.
Lisa: Let's break that piece down, like you're saying, Step 1 is to figure out that you're feeling like a funky monkey. And then what actually is it.
Well, if our client base is representative of many more people in corporate, which I think they are, like, if you're feeling wimpy about it, or feeling like you're being a baby, it's easy to want to discard it, push past it pretty quickly, or to not really spend any time going, what is it actually?
Lisa: When I ask people, “What do you think you're really feeling about the situation?” And people will be like, “Well, I'm anxious about it, it's stressing me out.” Those are the two... I think they're the easy words: stressed, anxious.
Lisa: I know you can tell me if you hear others are saying like anything past it.
TyAnn: They're socially acceptable to say. You know, what is not socially acceptable to say? I'm scared.
And usually, if someone's angry about something, almost always fear is underneath that.
And anxiety? Fear is almost always underneath that. And so when you peel it back, you're like —
“What's making you so stressed about that?”
“Well, I'm afraid I'm not going to do a good job.”
"Okay, so what if you don't do a good job?”
And so you can kind of follow this line of thinking.
“Well, if I don't do a good job, I'm gonna get a bad performance review, right?”
“Okay. So what if you get a bad performance review?”
“Well, then you know, I'm not going to get a raise.”
“Okay, so what if you don't get a raise?”
“Well, then, you know, this might happen.”
And we tend to have an irrational fear. And sometimes I call it like the “bag lady” fear — that you're going to end up as a bag lady sort of pushing the shopping cart living under the overpass.
Lisa: This is a real fear.
TyAnn: This is a real fear.
Lisa: I had a situation where I took a wrong job. I took a job that was a bad fit for me.
TyAnn: By the way, this happens all the time. I have also done this.
Lisa: Yes, and you've also written blog entries about "The Case of The Sunday Nights." It's all about burnout that sneaks up on you and steals your mojo at work.
TyAnn: That's right. This happens.
Lisa: Yes, this happens. So when I picked that role, and I thought, “I think that the answer is to leave.” But then there was so much baggage hanging on to the leaving.
So I was in a funk because I got myself stuck in a thought circle. And we actually went through a process, kind of like what you described.
"What is the worst that could happen there? And then what would happen there? And then what would happen there?"
So I just played it out off of quitting.
And what would happen? "Oh, well I just, I would disappoint people because I put them through an interview process. How could I do that to them? They went through this whole thing. They picked me!"
TyAnn: They would be mad at you.
Lisa: Yes! I didn't want to be viewed unfavorably. I didn't want them to be angry with me. But also, I didn't want to be a jerk to them. I thought what if I'm not giving it enough time?
TyAnn: Hmm. What if you're a quitter?
Lisa: What if I'm a quitter? What if I'm a poor decision maker?
TyAnn: You're branded with the scarlet letter that you wear around for the rest of your life.
Lisa: Yeah. I mean, these are things. And then it was...
Okay, and then what? Let's say I quit.
Well, normally, I'm a planner. I think ahead. I think far ahead. I would have been deciding what I am going to do next. And then I would get myself lined up for it. And then I would have it all lined up, and I would have an acceleration lane all planned up. I didn't have any of that. So this would be all new territory. I decided, well, this would be a good time to start a business. Not this business but it was a different one.
But I was like — okay, what if I don't get any customers? What if I have no revenue? What if I…
TyAnn: And now I have to make a business plan. And now that's a huge project.
Lisa: Yeah. And I was like, “Oh, we had just purchased this land that we wanted, that was the forever plan. What if I ruin, what if I single-handedly ruin the forever plan because I took one wrong job?”
TyAnn: Oh, that's a lot of pressure.
Lisa: But you know, even when you go through the worst, when I realized I was really just being a chicken, and that the worst that could happen...you know what we came to when we stayed up really late that night, just talking about, “No, seriously, what is the worst?”
TyAnn: What was it?
Lisa: We were going to live on an RV and be camp hosts in a lovely State Park, and it was like, “Oh, this is okay.”
TyAnn: Which by the way, I have not one but multiple friends who are doing that right now.
Lisa: On purpose?
TyAnn: That is their dream.
TyAnn: Yeah. Like that's the thing.
Lisa: Yeah. And at the time, it was just like, “Well, we had an RV. So we literally wasn't something to purchase. It was just like we take the thing that we have while we lost the house, because remember, I lost the whole dream farm. We lost the farm.
TyAnn: It burned. It burned up overnight.
Lisa: Yeah. I brought it crashing down in flames. And then it was right there.
Lisa: So the answer was there. I'm not saying it made it unscary, but that was a funk breaker. So I know it was a bit of a long story to support your point, but I was in a funk — because I was stuck in a decision.
TyAnn: You were afraid.
TyAnn: It was fear.
TyAnn: But you knew the right thing to do.
Lisa: I guess so.
TyAnn: You wanted to leave.
TyAnn: You were just afraid.
Lisa: But we fire ourselves on that often. I know. I do. And I know that a lot of customers do... And many smaller things because, well, you know, we work with plenty of people who are not in a funk because they're making self-actualizing giant life decisions. That does happen as well.
You know who you are. If you're listening to the show and you stayed after one of the sessions, and we’re like...
TyAnn: Right...which we love by the way.
Lisa: Oh my God, this made me realize...
TyAnn: I made the complete wrong job.
Lisa: But also it happens in the everyday mundane.
TyAnn: Yeah, absolutely.
Identifying The Root Of The Funky Feeling Is Not Magic But A Process
TyAnn: I hear this a lot. And believe me, this is kind of what keeps coaches in business, is working with people who kind of get to even like the 40, 50-plus category who are like:
“You know what? I've worked all this time, and I've sort of made it. I've gotten to wherever it was in the career in the company. I've gotten to whatever level job that I thought was the place I wanted to be, and kind of, is this all there is?”
Or like, “I thought somehow I would be riding my unicorn to work and playing with puppies all day. And you know what? I don't. I don't like it. I don't like what I do... I don't really like who I've become.”
Or, “My kid drew a picture of the family and I'm not in it.” What we've heard from a colleague of ours... Or something else happens.
This is why people have a midlife crisis or a complete breakdown. Talk about a funk. And that's something where you know that there's that little voice whispering in you, of discontent, and you have shoved it down. And you know, when you push that bad boy down, just like feelings, it is like your jack-in-the-box analogy — that thing will shoot out in a very ugly and untimely way.
Lisa: That's true. And you know, it's like, once you've been shoving it down, long enough people know. And you're like, I have the pit in my stomach. I know it's off, but I don't know what is off. I can't put my finger on it.
Lisa: And then boom, Jack in the box jumps out.
TyAnn: Or people feel scared because “I have set up my life now where now I have the big house, or I'm supporting my whole family.” Or I mean, whatever it is. And we kind of make it bigger in our head sometimes.
Lisa: Oh, I had one of those recently in a Strengths session. She said, she called it her "big kid bills." And she was like, “I have the house, I have the car, I have the stuff, I have everything. And I've got my mind all wrapped up in keeping with the Joneses.”
And she's like, “All I want to do is just go buy a Honda Accord and live in a one-bedroom apartment and unravel it all. And I can't even do that.”
TyAnn: So like, “more money, more problems.” And I mean that's why I think there's such a pull right now for downsizing, for minimalism, for “let's chuck it all and go live in that RV and go be the camp host...”
And there's a huge movement for that right now. I mean, even in the design world, there's you know, “Minimalism is in!" Not "Rococo is in.” You know what I mean?
Lisa: Ha! I don't even know what Rococo is.
TyAnn: "The heavily layered look is out!"
So you see this, there's a real pull and desire for that. And so it's real. It's a thing and it's okay to just sit back and think, “I've worked and maybe I've been the one pushing this, and I feel funky. I don’t know if I want this.”
Lisa: Okay, so I'm your client. We've been talking Strengths.
Lisa: I do the CliftonStrengths assessment. I am in fact, in a funk and I did do my assessment. I know my top strengths. I think I'm gonna talk to Ty as my coach. So I'm going to start to open up to the concept and kind of like, talk through what's going on, so I can figure it out because I can't put my thumb on what is making the funky monkey situation happen.
Lisa: So what do you do, like if you're in a corporate office, you know, most of our customers are, and they're like living through the funk, and they've acknowledged the funk isn't gonna go away in a one conversation sort of thing. This isn't a magic dust...
TyAnn: And I wish it was. I would charge a lot more.
Lisa: No kidding!
Poof! Life is amazing!
TyAnn: For $20,000, I will solve your funkiness!
Lisa: 1 hour!
Yeah, sadly, a little bit more of a process.
Lisa: So I know like in one podcast episode, we can't end it and say, “And here…”
TyAnn: Here's your 30-second easy answer.
Lisa: It will be jerky if I'm like, “Go pay Ty $20,000 so she can get you the answer.” That's not the most fun.
TyAnn: But there are some things you can do, for sure.
So getting a coach is a great one. But what else, like what actions can people take away when they're living through the funk, they're in the middle of it, and they're getting to the other side?
Look To A Coach Or Your Strengths Report As Your Spirit Guide
TyAnn: So one thing you said, getting a coach.
So I would say absolutely. I'm a huge fan of that, not just because I'm a coach, but because I believe it works. So if your company supports that, awesome!
But if they don't, see if you can reach out to a trusted person, because often when you're in it, it can be really hard to see. You know what I mean?
So it can be helpful to have spirit guides — somebody to walk beside you on that. So that's a) if you can, you know, put your hand up, and that takes being a little bit vulnerable. But it's okay to just say, “You know what, I gotta get some help here."
Because there's no prize for doing that hard and by yourself. Just a little clue to life here.
And something too that when you can pull out your Strengths — and again, I realized when you're feeling funky, you might not be thinking Strengths, I mean, that might not be it — but I encourage you, like reach back in your desk and pull up that report. And there's going to be a piece in there about Brings & Needs, that I really like.
And you know, often when you first read it, you kind of blow through some of that. But oftentimes, when we're feeling funky, it's because we have a need that's not being met.
And each one of our strengths themes has a really specific thing that we need in order to feel fulfilled in that way.
And so almost invariably, when I find myself in a funk, I can go back and like literally put my finger on the thing that I am not getting.
And it is illuminating to be able to give language or a word to, “Oh my gosh, I thought it was just me. I am not getting this. This is what I need.”
And life isn't about putting your needs on a shelf and doing it, again, the hard way. You are at your best and the world needs the best of you, not the most mediocre funky version of you. That's not helpful to anyone. Does that make sense?
Lisa: Yeah, absolutely. And if they have the full 34 report, the version that you get the lesser themes at the bottom, you might look at the bottom 5 to 7. And you might notice, if you don't think of these as weaknesses, you think of these as potential energy drainers. Well, you look at that list. And you might think, “Oh right, look at that one. It's number 33 of 34. And I'm using that all day, every day. It's taking a lot of me to give it.”
Lisa: Because you can be totally competent in those areas. By the way, if you're new to Strengths, it can be at the bottom of your list in the stack rank of 34. You can get competent, you can do the thing, but it's sucking it all out of you and you're empty by giving it.
Lisa: And it can really make you feel funky if you're having to do that over time.
TyAnn: Absolutely. And you know, Gallup’s got these engagement metrics that we talk about with our clients. And you know, the data shows that people who are able to use their strengths during the day — six times as likely to be engaged, three times as likely to have a better quality of life.
And as I tell my clients, this doesn't mean I only get to work on fun stuff all day long, that really, you know, it is the Ty land. That's not life.
But what the research behind this shows is that something in my day brings me energy. And because it does, it lifts me up enough so that then I can get through that noise and deal with some of that stuff that might be pulling on my themes that are at the bottom of my stack. Does that make sense?
Lisa: Yeah. So gas in the tank. It gets you back up there so you can get through the day doing things that you're paid to do even if you don't like those things.
TyAnn: That's just it. Because sometimes clients are like, “Oh, well, this means I don't have to do those other parts of my job I don't like.”
I'm like, “Yeah, no, it's still work.”
Now if 100% of your job you don't like, that's not something. But there needs to be something every day that kind of fills your tank, and then you can get through that other stuff. But I think that's where you can start to kind of put some analysis around the funk and then say, “Oh, my gosh, I didn't realize 75% of my job is doing that thing that takes so much energy. I can do it because I'm smart, I'm competent, I mean, I got to this point, I can do it. I just don't want it to take so much of my energy."
And then, "Frankly, I don't even have enough energy left to do the things that do excite me." Which then, that becomes sad, you know.
I don't even have enough energy to play the drums. Or, I found this happening with me. I love to read, that's kind of my thing. I found if I get in a funk, I'll stop reading. And that's when I've noticed that, man something's really wrong with me. Because I love to read. So if I don't have enough energy to read...
Lisa: Okay, you know, we're into these analog tools in the list, this would be a good list like, "Can you remember back to times when you were in a funk and what might the signs be?”
And some things like that. You stop reading. I might skip my drum practice for the day I notice. I let myself get a little disorganized, like if my trash starts to overflow because I'm Mrs. Cleanly, I'm Mrs. Tidy is basically me, so I noticed... Oh, if a couple of little signs, like my fingernails are very chipped and my trash is overflowing and I'm playing Tetris waiting for it to fall out — I know, I'm not in my normal game.
TyAnn: Isn't that interesting?
TyAnn: So kind of know that about yourself, like what are these little signs, little guideposts along the way so that you can pay attention to those before you get to sort of the edge of the cliff, and you've fallen off.
Unleash Your Best You, The World Needs It
Lisa: Okay, this is good.
So we have to-dos for them. Okay, we've got lists to make...
- What are your early warning signs guideposts?
- Raise your hand if you're feeling funky and see if you can get a spirit guide to help you out.
- And if you need a coach Ty, is really amazing.
One thing I love about your style in this regard is, well, depth, obviously. You get corporate, you get people's busy lives, but you're both empathetic and tough at the same time — not empathy in the Gallup sense of the word, but like, you feel the person for how they need to be seen and heard and appreciated in the moment.
But then you can also tell the truth. You're not afraid of...
TyAnn: I definitely have huge compassion for people because — especially with the clients we work with — I've been there.
You know, we've had these jobs. I have had the job where I felt like I had to be on 24/7. I've had the ex-pat job where I literally felt like I was on 24/7 because I had a whole job on the other side of the world, and just when that job was ending, the US was coming online. I've had the job where I got 300 emails a day. I've had the job where you go into the Ops review, and you have to prepare a 75-page deck that you get yelled at about. I mean, we've lived this, right?
TyAnn: I've been in a place where you get promoted to a position that you're like, “I don't want this. I don't want my boss's job. I don't want any of these jobs.”
Lisa: “Why did I do this?”
TyAnn: “Why did I do this?” But you know what, I've also had things that are great. And I'm just saying, life can be awesome. And you have tremendous and powerful skills. And we just want to harness those so that we can unleash the best of you in the world — because that's what the world needs.
Lisa: Yeah. Okay, that is a perfect end to this. One thing I am going to put in the show notes for you is a link to... it's https://leadthroughstrengths.com/negative. And that is, there's a page of positive emotions and there's a page of negative emotions. It's literally a list of emotions. It's like an inventory of words. These are really helpful to pinpoint what's going on beyond "feeling stressed."
And so if one of your takeaways is coaching — great, bring on Ty.
If you are more like, “Hey, I just need to DIY this right now, and I'm going to go back to the very beginning of this episode and do that thing where I'm trying to figure out beyond saying I'm stressed or anxious, what's going on with me with this funk... That list, it just gives you a whole different set of words to say —
"Oh, yeah, I think I'm just angry about this thing that got switched up on me at work. And I've just had the bee in my bonnet for a while, using an old saying, and now that put me into a funk.”
So that will be a good resource as well, if you have trouble naming it.
And remember Ty’s wisdom, I will call it, which is — you don't have to look at these emotions and name these emotions so that you can go tell your boss you're feeling it. This is actually you just doing it so you can understand what is making the funk. Right?
TyAnn: Yeah, absolutely. And it could be, I mean, I've seen this before, you could be mad because you're not getting recognized, you know. You're mad, you worked on that project and somebody else got the credit for it. You know, all these things. And you might think, “I can't say that out loud, because that sounds really petty.” You know, then someone's going to be like...
But that's a valid feeling. That's totally valid.
So I love that lists can help spark that for you. So write that stuff down so you can help in your mind...just get kind of granular on what specifically is it that's causing the funk. Because once we know, and we can drill into that, then we can help start building bridges to get over the funk.
Lisa: Yeah. And you layer that with what you described about going back through your report and reading the needs. And if you have the full report, looking at the very bottom, so you might see something that is a soul sucker for you that you didn't know.
You have a pretty good inventory either of, “Oh, I've got my early warning signs”, or, “Ooh, I've figured out what might have spurred this.” Like that moment where you didn't get recognized, maybe you're annoyed for about 30 seconds, and then you're like, “Yeah, but I'm a grown-up so I'm over it.” And then you move on — but you didn't get over it.
Lisa: You just told yourself you did.
TyAnn: Right. Or maybe that's like the 5th time that that's happened in this job, and it's just like, it's like your bee in your bonnet. It doesn't go away. It's there. And then every time that happens again, it's just that confirmation that's like see, this is in here.
And maybe one of your themes is Significance, and maybe yours needs to be recognized. And so that's a really good starting point to think... What's going on here? How can I put more Venn in this diagram than these things that are totally opposite? So I think that's just a great place to start.
Lisa: It is.
And speaking of starts, we're stopping. [Laughs] So even though we're at the end of the episode, you know we always talk about how using your strengths will make you a stronger performer. And in this time, if you're listening to this, if you are in one of those moments where you are in a funk, don't forget that your strengths do strengthen your performance. Because, I think to Ty's point, it is not the first thing that comes to mind. But if you're experiencing the funk right now and you're feeling like the brass monkey-funky monkey, get over to your CliftonStrengths report and get in reflecton mode! Is that what you would call it?
TyAnn: Yeah. You’re reflecting. Yeah, go back and dig into those Brings & Needs, and I think you'll find some wisdom there.
Lisa: All right. With that, we will see you next time. Bye for now.
Additional Resources To Help You Further Get Out Of The Funk
Lisa mentioned how being in a funk is largely linked to being “stressed” and “anxious,” based on her experience discussing the situation with her clients. Listen to her as she explains how having a bad day, a person/team who frustrates you, and an environment where you feel mismatched might bring out the shadow side of your strengths in What Do Strengths Look Like Under Stress? Here you will learn how to reframe them from bad to better.
Or listen to Lisa’s grandma Venetta as she shares 5 career lessons. In one of the lessons, she encourages listeners to simply step back, get some perspective and look for the good in things even when stressed at work and feeling overwhelmed. The rest of her shared nuggets are just as golden!
Funky moments, whether major or minor ones, are all part of life, as the path towards our goals is not always straight and smooth. Our episode on How To Start Living Your Best Life with Lisa and Strother Gaines will inspire you to embrace situations that can throw you off your path yet lead you to reroute or arrange new ones.
All this points to the importance of anchoring on your CliftonStrengths talent themes in life.
See you in the next episode with Lisa and TyAnn.
Carmie is a professional writer and editor at Lead Through Strengths. Having spent 8 happy years with a nonprofit child organization as a storyteller and sponsorship relations team manager, she continues collaborating with others across the globe for the joy of human development and connection. Her days are powered by coffee, curiosities, cameras (film and digital), music, notebooks, and a cat. Where books are home, she’s home. She calls her Top 5 StrengthsFinder Talents “CLIPS” (Connectedness, Learner, Intellection, Positivity, and Strategic)–you know, those tiny objects that hold connected things together. She’d like to think she’s one.