When we suffer unhappiness in our careers usually the first point of blame is our company, boss or co-workers. Don’t get me wrong, they can all be culprits. But in order to fix a negative situation, it’s best to look within first.
Understanding who you are is necessary in understanding how to find happiness at work.
Let’s say you love ripe, juicy cherries. Now imagine going on a diet where you have to eliminate those delicious suckers. While you may power through if you’re seeing results, you won’t be able to live this way long term because, well, you’ll always love cherries. Unless you leave this diet in order to find a cherries-only diet (not likely), you’re going to have to find a way to simultaneously prioritize the diet and your love of cherries.
So the question is, is it possible for your job to contribute to your happiness instead of sabotaging it? I say yes!
Here are 3 things you can do to be happy amidst a world of miserable workers.
1. Prioritize Your Stress Busters.
What are those things that make you instantly feel better? Maybe it’s eating lunch in the park, stepping out for a cappuccino with a co-worker, or making it to yoga before your AM meeting. While these may be easy to identify, the key is in prioritizing and holding a consistent spot for them on your calendar.
Many of us put less value on the activities that don’t give us an obvious yield. We compare that lunch in the park to what we could get done if we shoveled our salad in at our desk while responding to emails.
The reality is that stress busters allow for us to tackle our work with more vigor and energy.
And although the ROI isn’t as measurable, the result of alleviating stress allows for more engagement in our work. Ignoring them can lead to resentment.
Right now, make time on your calendar for 4 stress busting activities, at least one a week. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
2. Know Your Prime Time
Is it just me or is the information around sleep and success confusing? One minute we’re hearing that 8 hours is necessary to function at our peak. The next we read about super successful people bragging on their 4 hours of sleep like Jack Dorsey, Twitter founder and Square CEO, and Marissa Mayer, CEO of Google.
There may not be an exact formula for sleep to high-quality functioning, so let’s look at it from a different angle.
Instead of figuring out how much sleep you need to function at your best, it’s easier to understand your chronotype, or your unique circadian rhythm.
According to the article “Social Jet Lag” in the NY Times, scientists suggest that our sleep and rise preferences are genetic. These studies show “further evidence that the urge to stay up late or to rise early is not a lifestyle choice but resides in our DNA.”
What does this have to do with finding happiness in our jobs? Well, it means when we identify when we’re most energetic and do our best work, we can optimize that time. For example, if you’re a late chronotype, aka a vampire, it’s best to tackle difficult, energy-consuming tasks in the evening. The same goes for the early bird chronotypes.
The idea here is not to fight your natural sleep and energy habits but to maximize them.
Talk to your boss and frame it in a way that’ll make her care.
Instead of saying, “I just realized I’m a night person so it’d be great if I can come in at 10am and stay a bit later to get my work done” (because who cares!?), try “I do my best work after work hours when I feel energized and focused. I’d like to try out a flexible schedule for the next 30 days where I come in at 10am and work from home in the evenings. I feel the quality of my work will improve exponentially from this small change.”
The key is in how you position your request.
It’s easy to get swept up in the tidal wave of a corporate career, especially when you’re successful. The best way to stay grounded is to check-in with yourself every few months. Just as you would if you owned a company, this critical step ensures you’re moving in the direction of your ultimate goal.
In my work with clients I often ask “What do you want to be known for?” or “What legacy do you want to leave behind?” Often times the response is something grand like “I want to have a made a difference,” or “I want to have done work I’m proud of.”
When looking at the work you’re doing today, it’s important to compare that against the legacy you want to leave.
Are the 40, 60, 80 hours you’re contributing to your job each week moving you toward that ultimate goal? I’m not trying to be dramatic, but waiting until later to do work that’s purposeful and impactful is a fool’s game.
I’m not suggesting you leave your job, move to Honduras and build wells (unless that’s your dream). But there are ways to structure your work to ensure you’re inching your way toward the big goals you want for your life.
Your work can still have an impact even on a smaller scale and it can be just as satisfying.
The right time to have this check in with yourself is now.
It’s time to take a sledgehammer to the compartments that separate the different areas of your life. When you make choices that serve the whole of who you are – understanding how to eliminate stress, when you do your best work and what you want to leave in your wake – the results are astonishing.
Living deliberately can make all the difference in how satisfied we are with our work. Take a cue from Pharrell Williams, now’s the time to be happy!
If you’ve been there yourself and have some advice on finding happiness at work, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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