First, the good news; psychologists and scientists have proven over and over again that we can increase our level of happiness in our work life. First we choose it, we own our attitude, then we adapt our behaviors and learn skills. There is a plethora of online assessments and books on the market to help us achieve this outcome. If we choose it and own it.
Second, the better news; why stop with happiness? I would argue that happiness is not a constant state. It is dependent upon external factors and can ebb and flow with circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is a permanent state of mind and attitude. Much research has concluded that joy can be easily obtained by frequently and regularly focusing on gratitude. This website and others have described one exercise, first developed by Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology, which is simply writing down three things that went well before we go to sleep every night. Seligman found that even mildly depressed people became more optimistic after three months of doing this as a daily ritual.
So consider your job and the fact that you will spend about 90,000 hours working during your lifetime. No wonder the book stores are flooded with so many publications aimed at increasing happiness in the workplace. Add to that the fact that we are living in a tough economy where there is less likelihood of finding another job if we are unhappy in our current one. Therefore we need to find the sweet spot, the joy, in our current situation.
That doesn’t mean that we blindly give in to an abusive boss and cynical workgroup but rather search out for the good that exists. That could be relationships with customers or colleagues outside your immediate group of peers. If so, capitalize on those relationships and reflect on the goodness they provide to you, whether it be continuous learning or mutual interests. For example, being miserable in my position a few years ago, I sought out opportunities to spend more time with a particular manager in another business unit. We both loved historical fiction and would regularly meet to discuss our favorite books. Those weekly chats became the highlight of my week. Our relationship became a friendship and I now consider her someone who is in my closest circle of friends.
To that point, studies have shown that women are generally happier at work than men. This may be due to relationships of women extending beyond that of just work. I think of several women, with whom I work, who supported me through the loss of my mother. I was able to share that support when some of them suffered a loss in their lives. I am grateful for them and the happiness they bring to my workplace.