How to get happier at work
We all experience a wide range of feelings at work. These feelings can change over time. Depending on the situation, you can experience anything from miserable acceptance to enthusiastic enjoyment.
There are times even in the most fulfilling of jobs where we can feel dissatisfied, disheartened or disappointed. It is entirely natural. After all, work is where we spend most of our time and often our best years. We all experience a wide range of feelings at work. These feelings can change over time. Depending on the situation, you can experience anything from miserable acceptance to enthusiastic enjoyment.
Rather than settling for what comes your way, it can be helpful to take time to think about your career. Try considering the bigger picture, not just your most recent work experiences. This means examining your career journey so far, taking in your challenges, low points, learnings, triumphs and achievements. Doing so will equip you to improve your current situation and enable you to explore possible new directions.
In this article, you will learn to empower yourself in your current working situation, consider if a broader change is needed and then begin to plan for your ideal job or dream career.
Living through unsettling times and periods of deep uncertainty can lead to excessive rumination about what is wrong in life. Unchecked, this can result in unhelpful thinking habits such as ‘catastrophising’ when thoughts fly to the worst possible scenarios and get stuck there. Or ‘mind-reading’ when you believe you know what someone is thinking, and you draw potentially wrong conclusions.
Difficulties at work can become disproportionately exaggerated, which can result in self-doubt, loss of confidence and other stress-related outcomes. You might avoid making difficult choices or end up blaming others for the issues you face. Making excuses is a self-preservation mechanism which is understandable when facing harsh situations and difficult decisions. It takes courage to face up to excuse-making. Being self-aware is the first step.
People who enjoy their job are usually good at making a distinction between themselves and the output of their work. Having this perspective creates a healthy detachment that allows for job satisfaction that is independent of circumstances. If you don't maintain this distinction, your happiness will always be dependent on whether things are going 'well'.
It can help to understand what it is you like most about work as well as explore what you most dislike. Think about the following questions and make a list of your answers. This is a straightforward exercise that will help you to understand what you enjoy, and what you don't, in your current work. With the results, you can act to improve your current level of happiness at work and begin to develop the skills you need for a future role. You will also gain a clearer idea of what to look for and what to avoid in future.
Consider these questions, dig deep and avoid self-editing. Be kind to yourself as you do this.
- What has worked well for you – and what has not?
- What is within the scope of your control?
- What could you stop doing?
- What could you do less of?
- What could you do more of?
- What could you continue doing?
- What could you start doing?
- What difference will this make to your daily activities?
Now, what will you do differently to empower yourself in your current work situation? Think about the practical steps you can take to achieve the change that you would like to see. Consider who can provide you with the support you need to perform these steps. For example:
- How can you help your manager get the best from you?
- What might you do to improve working relationships within your team or unit?
- How can you raise your professional profile at work and outside work?
- Who might you ask for feedback about your strengths, capabilities and developmental areas?
- Who are the people that might mentor, support or assist with your career development plans?
- Which of your hobbies or pastimes could be useful to your search for new work?
Taking control of your destiny can be daunting when so much energy goes on dealing with the present. These questions may not be comfortable, but if you do not ask the awkward questions, how will you get to change anything? You can help yourself by recalling past accomplishments and consider the strengths, skills and abilities that enabled you to succeed. The insight gained can then be used in the present to enhance opportunities and deal more effectively with current challenges. It is an enabling approach that allows you to be more resourceful in planning a better future.
Conclude by writing up your answers and any ideas generated. Then set your intention. This is vitally important as your intention is a guide to future action. Sometimes action taken can lead to different and better outcomes in your current workplace, resulting in exciting possibilities that previously seemed beyond your reach. Taking just one small step towards a more positive outcome will motivate and energise you to keep going and plan for a brighter future - whether that is in your current role or elsewhere.
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