Yes, even if you hate what you do you can make a few adjustments in your relationship to work and be happier, or at least less unhappy.
First thing is to understand that, for the most part, getting a new job, a new promotion, a new boss, will not make you happier. It might make it nicer for a few weeks, maybe a couple months, but for the most part, if we have a mental habit of seeing things (like work) in a certain way, then we will see that thing in that way, no matter what new “thing” we attach to it.
The real source of happiness comes from how we see and relate to the work we do. Here are a few things I have done, and I have seen people do, to feel happier at work.
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
Yes, every day, take a moment to think about one to three things that you are grateful for, better if it is actually from work, but also feel free to include personal things, actually I encourage you to do so. It’s ok if you can’t really find something from work at the beginning. This practice will create a new pattern in your mind to look for things to be grateful for in every area of your life.
This doesn’t have to be a new notebook you buy, or some elaborated system. Just set an alarm in your phone to remind you to do a one gratitude entry, launch your note app (any phone has one) and write one thing you are grateful for.
I do this in the mornings, right after my wake-up routine, so I start my day with a grateful attitude already. You can do it any time of the day. After writing it take at least 20-30 seconds to feel that gratitude, really. If it’s hard to hold gratitude for that long, you might want to read what you wrote a few times over as you generate the feeling.
2. Ask “Who is benefiting from your work?”
Many times we don’t think about who is really getting benefit from what we do. Sometimes it is also not so obvious. If you look closely you will find someone who is the ultimate beneficiary of your work, then you will find more meaning in your work and in doing so, change your relationship to it.
I used to work in a large media agency and I was having the hardest time enjoying the work. I was asked to produce all kinds videos for new business pitches. I had to deal with the business development team and many layers of corporate bureaucracy. I was frustrated. One day, as I looked at the whole process during a meditation, I realized that the videos I was making were helping the company get new clients, which in turn was allowing the company to hire more people, in an economy (this was back in 2009-10) that was desperate for new jobs. So my relationship with all those videos changed! Suddenly I was not making videos to help the CEO get richer (although he probably was anyway) but I was producing content that was helping create jobs! Wow! What an awesome labor I was doing!
So if you don’t find meaning in your job, take a closer look at the whole process and ask yourself: who is benefiting from this work?
3. Build a Cathedral.
There is a great story, I can’t really find the origin, but I have heard it a few times and read it a few more in some great books. Here it is:
One day a man walked by a construction site, and there were three men working hard. He approached one of the man and asked him: “What are you doing?” The man looked at him a little puzzled and replied: “I am laying brick.” He then went to the second worker and asked again: “What are you doing?” The second man, a little more enthusiastically than the first one replied: “I am building a wall!” So he went on to the third construction worker and asked: “What are you doing?”, and with a large smile in his face, looking up to the sky and with a sense of pride he replied: “I am building a marvelous Cathedral!”
The first time I read this story it blew my mind, and it changed the way I (try to) approach any activity I undertake. I do my best to build cathedrals, regardless of the job I take on.
There is no better way to feel the importance of your work, than realizing that it is part of something bigger, and even if you are just “laying bricks”, they can be part of an amazing cathedral. This is easily accomplished by taking a hard look at what you do and how it fits within your organization. You might realize that what you are doing is actually some of the most important aspect of the whole process. After all, what good is a cathedral without walls?
Even a janitor has the incredibly important job of keeping the environment conducive to creation and work. (side note: next time you see the cleaning staff at your building, take a second to thank them.)
4. Be compassionate to your co-workers.
Many of us have had problems with our co-workers or our bosses. In many instances this is what we think makes our work harder. We don’t realize that these people are also going through their own struggles and problems. When they say or do the things that upset us, we think it’s personal, we think think they are out to get us.
I’d like to invite you to take a moment everyday, before the workday, and think of them as regular beings who have a deep suffering, like something they think they have to protect. Once you realize that their behavior comes from their own misunderstanding of reality and situation, or maybe from their own problems at home or with their bosses, then you will find a ways to not get upset with them.
You might be asking right now (I can almost hear you): “Why do I have to be the one doing that? shouldn’t they fix their own life and leave me alone?” Maybe, but we are talking here about YOU being happier at work, not about others being happier at work. And it is not under your control how they behave, but it is fully under your control how you react to their behaviors.
Try it out, and let me know.
5. Enjoy your Sundays.
The Sunday-evening dread is a thing. I have been there. I have seen it in my wife and in the past in all my past roommates. It’s so common that we accept it as normal. But the truth is that we are extending the disliking of work to even the moments when we are not working.
Instead, enjoy your Sunday fully, present with your time off, with your family and friends, and leave those dreadful feeling for when they are really justified (hint: they never are, if you have done any of the above).
This next weekend, make it a point to not complain or create terrible expectations on Sunday evening. Instead of saying: “the weekend went by so fast!” change the language to “I have been enjoying the weekend so much, and still have a few hours of it left! Let me take advantage of that.” Then see how different and fun Sunday evenings can be.
These five points are not the only way to be happy at work, but are tactics that have worked for me and most of the people I have taught them to.
Do you have any special tactic for being happier at work? Share it with us in the comments below so we can all benefit from your wisdom! Thanks!