15 Dynamic Ways to be Happier at Work
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If you feel like a square peg in a round hole, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In fact a government survey found that almost 60% of people said they regretted their career choice and would choose a different career if they could start again.
The good news is that there is plenty you can do to change your situation, whether it’s adjusting your work life balance, training or moving to a new career altogether.
Here are some ideas ranging from simple tactics that are easily to implement - to steps that may require some serious thinking and introspection.
1. Avoid the negative spiral
When work is frustrating it’s easy to become resentful and fall into a mindset where you think "I hate these people. I don’t want to be here.” A more constructive approach is to think of yourself as a dispassionate observer: “What’s going on here? How interesting...”
This allows you to sidestep the emotion of the situation and think proactively about what you can do to make changes.
2. Avoid negative self talk by training ‘happiness triggers’
Try to shift away from negative self talk and replace it with positive thinking and positive affirmations. The minute you start reinforcing a negative, your mind actually works with it. You think “Oh, he’s watching me; he thinks I’m bound to drop all of these papers. Oh no, I’ve dropped them.”
Don’t create a negative self image that you can’t shift. Instead train yourself to create your own happiness ‘triggers’.
Look at your hand and choose a place that nobody else touches in normal work contact – maybe the third knuckle of your left hand. Now think of a truly lovely moment you have experienced in your life. Start going into that memory and try to evoke what you were feeling, seeing and hearing. If there was a taste involved make it really delicious. If someone else was involved keep them smiling. Make the vision as vivid as you can and while doing so touch the spot on your hand that you have chosen.
With repeated practice you will develop a personal ‘happiness trigger’ and you can simply press your knuckle to recall that feeling and sidestep negative emotions when in a difficult or challenging situation.
3. Talk to your employer about flexibility
Flexitime is on the rise and allows people to vary the start and finish time of their day, provided they work certain core hours. This can mean missing peak hour traffic or spending some extra time with the kids before they go to school.
If starting an hour later or working from home one day a week would improve things, ask for it. Put your request in writing and spell out how it will benefit you as well as the positive impact it will have on the business.
4. Better Manage Your Time
For many people, much of the stress they feel comes from being disorganized and/or procrastinating. Learn to set realistic goals and deadlines, and then stick to them. You'll find that not only are you less stressed, but your work will also be better. If you need extra help try talking to your employer about a time management course.
5. Take time out
Take some time out to go to the gym at lunchtime, or go for a walk in a local park. Recent research has shown that just five minutes a day in a ‘green space’ can have a dramatic effect on mood. A break will make you more productive and prevent that 3 o’clock slump.
6. Work to you strengths
What are the five qualities or signature strengths that matter to you most? Here are some possibilities:
Patience, Confidence, Empathy, Humour, Creativity, Optimism, Energy, Practicality, Daring, Honesty, Openness, Generosity.
Choose work that lets you use the qualities you value, every day. If honesty is top of the list, for example, there is no point in working for an unscrupulous loan shark. You’ll feel you are betraying your integrity and lose respect for yourself.
Are you patient, and good at conveying information? Perhaps a career in teaching, science or journalism would suit you.
Are you practical with a technical bent? You could try engineering, construction or manufacturing.
Are you ethical and socially aware? Perhaps the law, policing, charitable work, politics or social work would appeal.
The important thing is to have a ‘big idea’ about yourself and make sure it fits with what you are doing. Identify your own big idea and you are on your way to happier working life.
7. Choose a happy profession
It doesn’t really matter what kind of work you do so long as you feel it is important in some way. Hairdressing topped a recent survey as having the happiest workers. Next came the clergy, chefs, beauticians, plumbers and mechanics. By contrast, social workers, architects, civil servants and estate agents came at the bottom of the table.
It is well know that the most important elements in what makes for a happy job are personal control and relationships – clearly hairdressers get lots of both these factors. Lawyers on the other hand can suffer from the adversarial and aggressive nature of their job. Although highly paid they are more likely to divorce, retire early or leave the profession altogether.
8. Turn a stalled career into a calling
It’s often not feasible to simply ‘up and leave’ or find another job. In these cases use your signature strengths at work to ‘recraft’ what you do on a daily basis. Enjoying the state of flow on the job can transform it from a chore into a pleasure. For example, a kitchen worker can decide to be a food artist and make each dish as beautiful as possible. Or a nurse, worn down by changing beds can take an interest in patients’ families involving them in the process of recovery and using this to boost the morale of the patients.
With the right attitude any job can become a calling and without it any calling can become a job. Try thinking about what you can bring to your job or to the people around you.
9. Learn how to say no
One of the greatest challenges to managing your time can be recognising that you don’t have to agree to everything. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to please your colleagues or boss and taking on more than you can handle.
Use your priority criteria to identify requests that simply aren't worth your time. Often saying no to one thing opens the door to saying yes to something else. That can mean anything from cleaning your desk to getting a good night’s sleep.
Next: Leave Work At Work
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