Everyone wants to be happy at work, yet so few people are on a consistent basis. So what is getting in the way? The impediments to work bliss are numerous, but in my discussions and consulting with professionals, there are five recurrent themes that I have seen.
1. The Unrealistic Work Life Preview
Everyone will tell you that a realistic job preview is generally a good thing — it gets you to see what your job is going to be like before you take it on. But for many of us, our minds conjure up the exact opposite: an unrealistic preview of what our lives at work will be like.
We imagine and fantasize of a job where we have the “right” amount of time to do our jobs, the “right” boss, “nice” colleagues, and “friendly” clients. But fantasy work life and real work life are two entirely different things. And when we begin to expect the real job to be like our fantasies, we set ourselves up for disappointment because we didn’t get the job in our imagination.
Always ask yourself: Am I dissatisfied because of what is or because it isn’t what I wanted?
2. The Ugly Wart of Worry
Suppose that …
The worst thing could happen …
These are all warts of worry that sap our energy and deplete us. Most things never come true. Some do, but there isn’t a thing you can do about it. It is better to remain mindful of where you are right now. To focus on what is and work on that, without imagining calamities and dysfunctions.
Can’t seem to do that? Learn a few relaxation and mindfulness techniques. Phillip Friedman’s book, The Forgiveness Solution, contains a host of these approaches — and they work!
3. The Urge to Compare
There are few things more toxic to happiness than ongoing comparisons — other people, other departments, other organizations, other jobs.
For some, the constant comparisons and a belief that other people and places are better off, is a way of life. It breeds resentment and longing. But it’s easily solved. Whenever you think others have it better, recognize that you cannot simply cherry pick what aspects about them that you’d like — you would have to take everything they’ve got!
Some people have great work lives, but are troubled by terrible home lives, illnesses, and disappointments. Some organizations have great benefits, but less desirable working conditions. Some jobs have far more flexibility, but less desirable colleagues to work with. If you’d like to “switch” lives with someone else, remember that you’d get all of what they have, and so often, that would be a bad deal for you.
4. The Drive to Please
So many of us are always trying to please others, whether it’s the boss or our co-workers. Still, the drive to please others leaves us tired and often jaded. We feel like we are always “on,” and in so doing, rarely get to sit back and ask ourselves what would make us personally happy.
It’s important that each day you do at least one small thing that makes you happy, even if that one thing is to get up from your desk, walk out into the sun for 30 seconds, and go right back to work. Find a way to please yourself!
5. Basking in Boredom
A lack of happiness can occur because of what is and what is not. Too often, there is little excitement in the job. Every day seems like every other day and the job seems like one monotonous list in which you do what you did yesterday.
How can you change it?
It is unlikely that your boss will try to find you new and exciting ways to do your job, so it is incumbent on you to find creative ways to approach your job. Think of new approaches, different strategies, and innovative methods to do what has always been done in the same way. What you likely will find is that you’ll be more energized and happier, and that you will soon have others emulating your techniques.