“Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do”
Jahad-ad-din Rumi (Persian poet 1207-1273)
Remember when you were a little kid and you would dream about who you wanted to BE when you grew up? Just the thought of independently communicating your power at a job where you expressed your talents, strengths and interest…felt, well it felt grown up.
Then you grew up. Keeping the enthusiasm, interest and passion alive for your work can be a challenge. Think about how much time we spend at work. Today, with lean teaming and downsizing, people often spend more than 8 hours a day in the workplace. Why not reconnect with that early enthusiasm that drove you to consider expressing your gifts, your sense of contributing to the world and making a difference?
First, identify your strengths and then find ways to use them and develop them at your job. A previous blog I wrote (October, 2009) directs you to a website: www.authentichappiness.com where you can take a short test (the VIA Strengths Survey) that identifies your top 5 strengths. Consider exploring ways to express those strengths at your job. For example, if “Love of Learning” is a strength of yours, then you might organize a “lunch and learn” for co-workers in the workplace.
A second way that can move you toward happier times in the workplace is to notice how often you give into negative thinking at work. Many times this is fueled by unhappy co-workers. Walking away is one answer to this type scenario… as my colleague Dave Ellis says, “That’s why we have feet.” However, it is harder to walk away when those thoughts stay in your own mind. When you notice those “grumpy” thoughts, instead of entertaining them, consider the alternative of letting them go. The more energy you put into these thoughts, the more you’re apt to go down the negative spiral, which brings your energy down, and your thoughts following. Or, to ask yourself, “What do I want to change about this situation?” Then move into productive action and become a part of the answer instead of continuing the complaint. We know we work best when we are in a good mood, which means shifting those thought towards being grateful, appreciative and glad to be working and contributing.
The next time you find yourself feeling unhappy at work—try asking yourself what is right and good about your work? In my work as a professional coach and psychologist, I have the opportunity to talk to people who are successful by societal standards- having prestige and great paying jobs; as well as people who are working in low-income jobs. Both types of people tell me they are sometimes happy at work and sometimes not – what makes a difference is how they practice being happy where they are. They begin to learn more, grow more and then often find more opportunities coming their way as well. Researchers are learning that, regardless of your work, when you practice positive emotion in the workplace, you increase your problem solving capacities, bring more meaning to your workday and build resiliency- all important factors in developing happiness.
Take away: If you want to be happier at work, start with how you are being at work: exercise your strengths and express more positive emotion in your present job. Perhaps you might find that uplifting and empowering feeling you had once when you dreamed of what you would be when you grew up. Wasn’t happiness a part of that dream?
Fredrickson, B.L. & Losada, M.F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678-686.
Colan, L.J. (2004). Passionate Performance. Dallas, TX: CornerStone Leadership Institute.
Lynn D. Johnson. Happiness: Create the Perfect Job. 2008 – 801.261.1412.