Sunday, March 23rd, 2008
Working happy is not a mystery. You know that when you are using your superpowers at work, you work happier. The tricky part of working happy is enjoying all aspects of a job – from the mundane to the exciting. Every job has its pitfalls. You may love interacting with the people at work, but struggle with the customers or vice versa. Whatever your job entails, it’s up to you to extract as much joy from it as possible.
We think that we will work happier if we have more money or an understanding boss. They will help, but they aren’t the most important things that make us feel happier at work. In this article I will discuss the five most important techniques that you need to maximize your work happiness.
To begin I must preface that we all have the ability to increase our enjoyment of work with a little dedication and change of perspective. These ideas are meant to be used on a daily basis. The more you actively use them, the more your work enjoyment will increase. Let’s begin with the most important one…
#1 Working in the Moment
Whether you are an administrative assistant or the CEO, the only joy that you can extract from work is in the present moment. The past can be appreciated, but only in the present moment and the future is just guess work. Yes, a well thought out plan can bring us joy, but it is only in the present moment that this joy can be experienced. Most of us don’t appreciate the present working moment because we’re too caught up in what we want the project to be or we’re complaining about something that happened yesterday.
There is a Chinese proverb that goes like this…
A meditation master of the highest rank was sitting at his patio table sipping tea and reading the paper. A disciple noticed his teacher and interrupted his morning routine.
“Excuse me. I’m sorry to bother you, but since I’ve been here you always tell me to focus on what I am doing and nothing else. You said when walking, walk; when eating, eat.”
The master knew what the student implied and replied, “Yes I did and I was right. When drinking tea, drink the tea. When reading the paper, read the paper. When drinking tea and reading the paper, drink the tea and read the paper.”
We can type an email and enjoy the process. We can also enjoy combinations of things, such as the sound of the phone ringing as we finish a sentence within the email. The key to working in the moment is to relax while you are accomplishing your tasks. There is no need to rush because rushing usually causes mistakes. It’s up to you to figure out what your most pressing need is and how it should be addressed. Is the phone call more important than the email? If the email is more important then finish and call the person back after you are done. Rushing to get that sentence out so you can answer the phone will most likely crude up the sentence and cause you to answer the phone in a frenetic state. When you understand your choices, you can pick which task is most important and do it completely. When the meditation master took a sip of tea he focused on that sip then went back to reading. If you can’t shut your door and ignore all disturbances, then you can be in that moment when answering the phone, then you can focus back on the email.
You can try to eliminate all distractions like the phone, email and your boss (for you bosses that’s the client or customer), but I don’t think this will help your working enjoyment. When you’re interrupted by a phone call that you must answer, try using the distraction as a way to go deeper and enjoy the work. Answer the phone and totally be there in the conversation then allow that distraction to boomerang you back into a deeper focus to help you finish your project.
#2 Take Nothing Personally
This is a great life lesson and not just for work. It’s vital to doing a good job and staying motivated. When a person takes someone’s words, personally then the emotional swings are grand and tough to control.
We sometimes take comments or actions personally because we fail to see the big picture. The work environment is a whole system of complex and emotional experiences. We can allow every little thing to bother us or we can choose to view the experience from a myriad of angles.
If someone calls you stupid, do you feel stupid? We all have insecurities and when someone denigrates our intellect we fall for it almost every time. We take a look at ourselves and recall something stupid that we said or did and it reinforces that person’s comments.
We all have stupid moments throughout the week or even a day, but if we step back and look at the whole picture we can see some really smart choices too. We know that we aren’t stupid. We are all smart, weird, funny and awkward at some time or another. I still say weird things that just pop out of my mouth. I’m trying to be funny, but it comes across as awkward. I know that my words make up a small part of my character, so if I say something stupid, it doesn’t wreck my day.
I’ve survived many attacks, wise cracks, and down right dirty comments by seeing the person’s remarks as a take on how they view themselves.
Whatever comment hits that soft spot, you can let it eat away at your thoughts or you can take a different angle and feel compassion for that person. If they feel that an attack on you will make them feel better about themselves then it’s not you that has the problem. It’s them.
You have the ability to turn any personal remark into a moment that might initially hurt, but that gives you an understanding of the person who says such mean things. When we let other people bring us down we allow them to dictate how we feel. Use those comments as a way to make yourself emotionally stronger. Sometimes co-workers never get out of the high school mentality and it’s up to you to rise above it by getting a little perspective that keeps you working happy.
#3 Emotional Intelligence Encourages Happiness
In the previous example “Take Nothing Personally” you can use your emotional intelligence (EQ) to become a stronger person who is capable of learning from a situation instead of letting it drag you down. There will always be events that will frustrate, anger, and sadden us, but it’s what we do with these feelings when they first enter our consciousness that truly matters. Have you ever been in a situation where your job is grinding on your last nerve and you want to quit?
I think we’ve all been there. What most likely happened is you used your EQ to calm your emotions and gain some perspective on the situation. You didn’t allow one instance to wreck your career.
Developing your EQ is probably not your favorite past time, but it’s necessary to make your work life more enjoyable. You can keep falling into the same traps over and over again and create the same emotional roller coaster, or you can watch, learn and adjust.
When you become aware of your emotional habits, you can cut them off at the beginning with a simple redirection. I was always frustrated by co-workers who wouldn’t listen to my ideas. I believed that my idea would have helped the company, but my voice fell on deaf ears. After two years I finally began to see the pattern. That’s the vital first step: seeing the pattern and working with it.
The first time I began working with my frustration was during a staff meeting. I proposed an idea and it was quickly dismissed. I felt the onset of frustration creeping in. My inner dialogue attacked these people with a vengeance, cursing and berating their intelligence. Why didn’t they understand what I was saying? They are dumber than I thought. And the dialogue continued until my anger rose so much that I knew I would either snap or have to storm out of the room, either of which would be unprofessional. I would only make my co-workers feel like they were right in dismissing my comments. I needed a new approach.
The meeting continued and I walked out of the room. I calmed myself, went to the bathroom, grabbed a bottle of water and headed back into the meeting. When I went back in I tried a different technique. When the time was right I stood up and told my coworkers my idea. Everyone was shocked by my bravado and they stopped and listened. Some liked the idea while others didn’t, but at least I was heard.
You can try other techniques that help give you their attention, like creating a Photoshop image to express your idea or buying donuts and attaching a note to each one. You must be creative when working with your emotions.
When you notice similar situations causing anger or other difficult emotions then acknowledge your feelings and redirect yourself to a more emotionally stable response. You always have options when dealing with your emotions. Try a few different techniques to see what works best and I know that if you keep trying, you’ll find a great way of dealing with your emotional turbulence.
#4 Engage and Succeed
Feeling connected to your work is fundamental to working happy. Individuals who are engaged with their work care about the outcome. They may want to make a sale or write a great report because they want to succeed. Some people have this ingrained within their working soul.
We’ve all seen people who live and breathe their job, but there needs to be a work/life balance, otherwise the stress becomes too much to handle. Workaholics become consumed by their work and can’t stop thinking about it. That’s why I’m using the word “engaged” instead of obsessive.
An engaged employee cares about the outcome, but possesses emotional stability to not let it take over his or her life. Most of my corporate coworkers have fallen on the dispassionate side because they don’t feel like they are appreciated. When someone doesn’t feel like their work matters, it’s difficult to engage in performing quality work.
I taught at a school that educated mentally challenged kids. They rarely showed appreciation for all the hard work that went into each lesson plan. They even went so far as to curse and strike at a teacher when they would encourage them. My co-workers and I were still engaged because we understood that our students couldn’t show the same emotions that emotionally stable kids could. The teachers found angles that kept them interested in doing a good job. They read into the child’s response because they were trained to understand the emotional roller coaster these kids were on. If a child threw a tantrum because I was pushing them a little too hard, I would take it as a sign that I was helping them. I understood that frustration meant they were trying to solve the problem. Some of the days weren’t easy and I felt like walking out of the building on many occasions, but I knew that they needed me.
You can learn to stay engaged at your job even when your manager doesn’t show an appreciative response. You just need to read into the sign that you are given. But if the signs keep pointing at anger and frustration then there is only so much you should have to put up with. Certain people are not meant to work together and if that means that you must find a new job, then so be it.
If you are willing to stick through some tough times because you know your manager means well but he just doesn’t know how to deal with his emotions, then you may be rewarded because you’ve stayed engaged and helped the company succeed. If not, then revisit the paragraph above and find a job that will engage your talents and reward you appropriately.
#5 Relax and Enjoy
A job should not feel like you are sitting in a cage with an angry ostrich. Your work should be enjoyable on many levels. No matter what happens you should always be able to step back for ten seconds and appreciate the nuances of your job.
I used to be a nervous worker. I thought that if I stayed anxious I would be ready to tackle any difficult situation. My stomach would always be upset and I thought it was the food that I ate. I never realized that I should relax and enjoy myself.
Whenever I would get all worked up over an email or a project, I taught myself to take a few seconds to breathe into my belly and find one thing that was enjoyable about the situation. Whether I was in a meeting or talking to a vendor on the phone, I would settle myself and feel the situation that I was in. This goes back to rule number one. Working in the present moment makes work more enjoyable. The second part is this step here: Give yourself a theme to work with that allows you to direct your thoughts toward enjoying work instead of worrying about the outcome of whatever you’re working on.
You can use this step when you’re in the middle of a meeting and you’re worried about sales for the quarter or working on a project with a deadline. Just give your thoughts a chance to see the fun in the work and not what the future will bring.
Working Happy Top 5 Review
- When you are working in the moment you are experiencing life in the now.
- Taking nothing personally will help you keep everyone in your working life in perspective.
- Emotional intelligence wins because you are working smart instead of allowing your thoughts and emotions to dictate your actions.
- Engage in your work and you will succeed. If your managers and co-workers don’t give you the respect you need, then go to a different company where they will appreciate your hard work.
- Relax and enjoy the work that you are doing because it’s so much easier on your health and happiness when you look for the joy.
You have the ability to change your life by applying these five techniques to your working life. I would suggest to start with just one because if you try installing too many ideas at the same time you’ll overload your system. Try working in the moment next month and concentrate on making it become a habit, then move on to step two the following month and so on. When you work happy, your life is easier to enjoy.