Starting at a young age, people ask us what we want to be when we grow up, planting the seed that our career path will become an integral part of our identity and happiness. That is a lot of pressure to put on a job. Of course, we should all strive to find happiness in our careers, but even if you are fortunate enough to have a job you generally like, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every single aspect of it will spark joy. And that’s OK.
But there are ways to boost your happiness so you can better thrive at work. For example, in an article in The New York Times, Marcus Buckingham, co-author of the book Nine Lies About Work, outlined a strategy for pinpointing the parts of your job that make you happy. Basically, it involves individually categorizing your work tasks as things you “love” or “loathe” over the course of a week. “It’s a beautifully simple way to inventory your emotional reactions to the reality of your day or week at work,” Buckingham told the Times. “Understand what it is that lights you up. Understand what you run toward. Understand where you are at your most energetic, your most creative, your most alive, and then volunteer for that more and more and more,” he added.
We asked members of the Thrive Global community to share strategies they use to boost their happiness at work. Here are a few you may want to try:
Tap into feelings of gratitude
“Each morning before I dive into work, I express gratitude for the opportunities and resources that my work provides me. This helps me focus on what matters so I can be both happy and productive.”
—Kandice Cole, life coach, consultant, and writer, Houston, TX
Set a daily intention
“The first thing I do is get grounded and set an intention for the day — mindfulness apps such as Simple Habit and Calm are simple and quick ways to support this. I pick only two to three tasks from my to-do list that are achievable for the day. Long lists can be paralysing if not broken down. So eat the frog first — meaning, do the one thing you’ve been putting off — because getting that out of the way is liberating. Carve out time once a week for pure creativity. Whether it’s design, a documentary, or a gallery trip, step away from your desk and get something to look forward to that lights you up and gets you thinking more laterally.”
—Rachel Ward, director, East Sussex, U.K.
Form positive relationships with colleagues
“At every organization I’ve worked, I’ve made it a priority to cultivate at least one or two close, trust-based relationships. They kept me grounded, helped me grow professionally, provided me with helpful advice when needed, and witnessed both my mistakes and successes. I felt happy during most of my work days because I knew they had my back and I had theirs. Some of those people have become lifelong friends and mentors of mine.”
—Mim Senft, founder, CEO, Blooming Grove, N.Y.
Do a micro-exercise routine
“As a trauma therapist, boosting my own happiness is the key to longevity in this career. A micro-exercise routine in between each session is my personal hidden gem. Planking, using five-pound arm weights and doing eagle or tree poses helps my happiness meter rise back up. A little dark chocolate also helps sometimes!”
—Shannon Thomas, certified trauma therapist, Dallas, TX
Step outside and refresh
“There’s a park located 700 meters away from my office. I use 20 minutes of my lunch break to walk along the park while listening to my favorite podcasts (preferably the fun ones!), and take full, complete breaths. It’s a great way to relax, let off steam, and come back to the office feeling refreshed.”
—Melvin Sanicas, scientist, Zurich, Switzerland
Read your fan mail
“I keep a folder of the emails and messages I receive from people who have thanked me for my help. When I have a tough day, I look through these messages and it reminds me why I do what I do. It re-energizes me and makes it easier to get back to the grind, which feels less like a grind at that point!”
—Teresa Colón, writer and mental health advocate, Mountain House, CA
“Specificity can really go a long way towards boosting your happiness at work — for example, when praising others for an action they took, you:
- Are more credible and memorable
- May be showing them a talent they didn’t know they had
- Bring out their better side during this interaction and beyond
Recognize your top talents so you can cultivate those with complementary talents, then discover a sweet spot of mutual interest to then collectively make smarter, faster decisions together. Plus, you can collectively solve problems faster and seize more opportunities. Those habits boost happiness with and for others.”
—Kare Anderson, speaker and author, Sausalito, CA
Step out of your comfort zone
“I love learning new things and thrive in a fast-paced, challenging environments. However, my job isn’t always so exciting. Sometimes I have to do mundane tasks. The best way to boost my happiness and keep motivated is to deal with the ones I like the least as soon as possible and then look for opportunities to get involved with projects outside my area of expertise. This not only boosts my happiness, but also allows me to gain new skills and make new connections.”
—Marta Ceccato, marketing and business strategist, London, U.K.
Build in some “me time” at the beginning of your day
“I go to work very early — i.e., half an hour before my official start time — and read meaningful articles, watch inspiring videos, or talk to dear ones. During my workday, I always try to walk around the offices and meet my colleagues. If there are any documents or messages that need to be delivered, I prefer to go myself, rather than use an office assistant, call, or send an email. I am a people person, so greeting colleagues and spending a few minutes with them always improves my mood. Like everyone else, I also have tasks which I don’t enjoy at all, but I do them when I’m in an upbeat mood because it makes my work more enjoyable.”
—Thanzeela Anwar, associate HR consultant, Dubai, U.A.E.
“Even though I work for myself, I can’t escape those loathsome tasks. As a one-woman show, the reality is that both the tasks I love and loathe fall squarely one me! So I stay motivated throughout the work day by rewarding myself. Sometimes my reward is a midday break to enjoy a favorite snack or listen to a quick episode of my favorite podcast, especially after doing my least favorite things. When I can, I also complete the work that I enjoy the most at the beginning and end of the work day, so I can both start and finish on a positive note!”
—Shaunda Necole, real estate agent, travel blogger, digital marketing consultant, Las Vegas, NV
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