Are you unhappy at your job?
Do your Sunday night blues last until Friday at 5 pm?Do you have an elaborate fantasy that involves telling your manager off shortly after winning the state lottery?
If you answered yes, then are you reading the right article. I am about to reveal the secret to being happy at work.
Happiness is a topic that gets a lot of discussion. It’s so important that Thomas Jefferson wrote it into the founding fathers’ missive telling (Mad) King George off, declaring that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right.
I agree. It is our right to be happy. But it is also our fault that we aren’t. Why is it our fault? Because what we think makes us happy isn’t what does it all, and by our thinking this way, we make achieving happiness impossible.
Some people can explain better than I. For example, Shawn Achor’s TED talk “The happy secret to better work” is a great way to spend 12 minutes of your day (and not just because you might be watching a video at a job that makes you feel unhappy).
Achor studied the happiness of students at Harvard for several years. One of his friends asked him why he would bother studying happiness at Harvard because, as his friend put it, “What could a Harvard student possibly have to be unhappy about?”
It was in this question from his friend that he discovered the secret to happiness. The question implied that because a student was at Harvard, they should be happy because, well, they were a student at Harvard! In other words, it suggested that your external world is predictive for your long-term happiness.
But it isn’t true. Achor said your external world influenced only 10% of your long-term happiness. Instead, he stated that:
“90% of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by how your brain processes the world. If we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way we affect reality.”
In other words, by changing how you measure happiness and how you define it, you can achieve it.
Many of us are guilty of thinking that our job will make us happy. We are also guilty of thinking if we can just get that promotion, achieve that sales goal, get that brass ring, then we will be happy. I am no different; I thought when I started the world’s first Customer Experience consultancy it would make me happy!
However, when you use these targets as a measurement for happiness, you doom yourself to never being happy. Why? Because the instant we get the promotion, hit the sales goal or grab the brass ring, we move the target. Like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, happiness moves out just a bit further, just a bit out of reach.
Add to it that we tend to focus on the negative as a general rule, and you can see how happiness becomes an elusive concept.
Focusing on the negative doesn’t lead to the right things. It not only makes you feel unhappy, but it can also lead to losing your job. Just ask Nike Executive Sarah Robb O’Hagan.
O’Hagan was fired from her job in the 90s at the music chain Virgin Megastores. Why? She let the unhappiness at a failing company bring her down. Instead of looking for the positive, she dwelled on the negative—of which there was plenty. She admits that she contributed quite a bit to the negativity as well and that she should have been fired for it. She learned from it and moved on to bigger and better positions at Nike, Gatorade, and Equinox. Now, she uses her skills in positive thinking to launch her new startup ExtremeYou.
You might have heard that happiness is found within. I believe in this concept. My mum taught me when I was young that you can’t depend on others to make you happy. It’s too big a burden to place on another person and isn’t good for your relationship.
This concept holds true at work also. One 26-year-old worker complained toAshley Lutz at Business Insider about how her “work spouse” deserted her, and now she was feeling depressed. Lutz shared a story about how she too was abandoned early in her career by a coworker. In both cases, Lutz explains when you depend too much on another person to make you feel happy, you can drive that person away.
So what’s the secret to being happy at work? It’s simple: You have to reframe how you interpret your world.
Or in other words, you have to change your thinking.
I realize that this isn’t the magic solution some of you reading this might have been hoping to find. Perhaps you thought that a new job would fix everything, that the problem was your circumstances rather than your outlook. Or that something or someone else might be the answer. To be fair, that would be rather convenient.
The hard truth is that bad things happen. Bad jobs happen. Work can be challenging and stressful, and you can lose your best work friend without warning. The bad news is that there is plenty to be unhappy about if you look for it. But, the good news is that there is also plenty to be happy about if you look for it, too.
The key to being happy at work is to learn to look for the positive (and appreciate it), to resist the impulse to blame or complain, and to recognize the wins when they happen instead of deferring your celebration until you win bigger at a later date. The secret to happiness is to learn that there is no secret at all. Just a willingness to look at things a different way and see the roses instead of the thorns.
What do you think? Is this the secret to happiness or complete rubbish? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter & Periscope @ColinShaw_CX