4 Steps for Firefighters to Extinguish the On the Job Funk

As firefighters, we have an opportunity to work in one of the most rewarding careers imaginable. Some of us fantasized about joining the fire service from the time we were little kids; others of us took meandering paths to get here and may even be surprised we made it. But we’re all in this happy place that is the fire service.

But it’s easy to forget that, and to find ourselves in a funk. I’m sure you’ve seen it within your organization and even yourself. That’s OK — it’s normal.  When we sense our motivation waning, simple changes can help refocus us on why we’re here and enhance our sense of fulfillment.

  1. Change the way you work.The fire service is built on routines, and we need them to ensure operations continue efficiently and safely. But you can still make small changes. Maybe you start working out on the job instead of after your shift. Or introduce different rotations for chores, cleaning and cooking. Training is a great place to try out new tools and technologies and practice new drills. There’s no shortage of ideas out there — try a few and see whether they change your outlook.
  2. Push yourself. Sometimes boredom or dissatisfaction in your job is a sign you’re ready for the next step on the career ladder. Consider taking a promotional exam or moving to another division or bureau. If those opportunities aren’t available right now, ask your boss about taking on extra projects. You might be surprised how a challenge can motivate you.
  3. Take care of yourself. When you feel good about yourself, it’s easier to feel good about everything else. Do you need to lose a few pounds? Get those endorphins fired up and start exercising. Get plenty of rest. Sleep deprivation, eating poorly and not getting the right amount of exercise are downright dangerous. Renew yourself and you just might feel renewed in your job!
  4. Look at the positives.  When you find yourself focusing on the parts of the job you don’t like, try to write down several things about it that are positive. Make that a habit — taking a few minutes each day to think about why you like being in public safety. It’s important not to approach this exercise defensively. You’re not building a pros-and-cons list. If you find yourself thinking “OK, I love that my schedule gives me lots of freedom … BUT I really wish I made more money!” then you’re doing it wrong. The idea is to foster gratitude. And you can have gratitude for your job even if you ultimately decide that you need to move on to something else.

Although it doesn’t always seem like it, being positive is a choice. When you walk into 31 Flavors, you get to choose the flavor that will bring you the most delight. Being positive is easy as choosing chocolate or vanilla!  I hope these steps help you extinguish the on the job funk.

About Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as fire chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif.