Happiness is something everyone is striving for in their everyday lives, but what might be getting in the way of your happiness is actually you.
Pay even a little attention these days and you’ll find there’s an epidemic going around when it comes to our professional lives.
Simply put…a whole lot of us aren’t happy at work. Or we’re not as happy as we could be. Many are downright miserable. And, far too often, we’re a big part of the problem. And we don’t even know it.
Or, at least, we didn’t know it…until today. Because we’re about to get real about how we mess with our own happiness at work, and how to stop.
Embrace the Happiness Ratio
The first problem is that we often fail to even think about whether or not we’re happy at work in the first place (we also do this with our personal lives, by the way). Once we’ve established ourselves for even a short amount of time, we don’t stop for even a second to consider if we’re truly happy…or still happy…in our jobs. We just move through our workdays, noticing that sometimes we don’t sleep well at night, sometimes we snap at colleagues, sometimes we roll our eyes as the emails come rolling in.
To get at this problem, consider the happiness ratio. This quick nugget of wisdom states that we must be happy in every part of our lives a minimum of 70% of the time. This is especially true for our work, which, for most of us, takes up more time in a given week than anything else.
I came to this 70% minimum number after conducting research with plenty of happy and not-so-happy folks. And it’s a fair percentage, right?
So assess where your professional life as a whole falls in the ratio. Then do the same with each component of the work. Notice which areas fall short of 70%. Notice which ones fall very short. It’s time to change them.
Check Yourself on Your Stories
Change, I say? At first the word might feel liberating or energizing…until it doesn’t.
Inherently, change means we’re changing from something we know to something we don’t. And the unknown can be an uncomfortable place. We’re not great at it yet. We might fail. We might look silly. We might not like it. Our bosses might not like it, either.
Whether we’re considering changing a part of our job or the whole thing, change can be so scary that we make up a great story as to why we can’t change it right now. We need to continue our work exactly as it is because reviews are coming up and we need a raise. We can’t talk to our boss because he or she is going through a hard time. We can’t change the job itself because we must have health insurance.
We tell our stories to ourselves and to others with conviction, but in reality they’re excuses to stay stuck. They’re not real. Think about it. Other jobs pay good salaries. Other jobs provide benefits. Our bosses will deal.
Recognize that the unknown is scary…but not scary enough to allow you to stay unhappy in something that takes up the majority of your life.
Embrace the fact that you’re good enough to tackle something different. That you can learn anything. And if you don’t like the new thing, you can keep going as long as it takes to get the happiness you deserve. Check yourself on the bogus, well-crafted stories that allow you to stay firmly mired in your certain-but-unhappy work. Ask those you trust to help you do the same.
Enough with the “Shoulds”!
Another barrier we put up against our own happiness is the sneaky should.
Our shoulds begin right after birth. Often with the best of intentions, our parents and our friends and the media and our communities tell us how things should be. How we should be.
We are told the kinds of jobs we should have. What titles and positions are the best. We’re told we should manage others…or not. That we should be creative…or not. That we should graduate from XYZ school. That we’re not truly successful until we’ve achieved XYZ.
The problem is that we don’t see these shoulds as recommendations. Instead, they are facts. They are statements about what is right and what is wrong.
When the time comes (and it always does) that one of the work shoulds we’ve learned along the way doesn’t serve our happiness, we believe we must do them anyway or else we’re wrong or bad or a failure. We don’t consider that the problem is actually the should itself. That it’s not right for us.
Recognize the many shoulds delivered from others and yourself. They are not facts, so get rid of them. Find new beliefs that work for you and your happiness. Find others who agree.
In the end…
…know this: You deserve to be as happy as possible as often as possible. In fact, you should be, especially during all those many hours you put into your work. Because happiness makes you better at everything you do. It makes you better at being with everyone else around you.
And yes, I said should. I think we can both live with that one.
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