In 1988, a well-known “philosopher” by the name of Bobby McFerrin wisely said, “Don’t worry, be happy!”. And I challenge anyone that was of an age at the time to remember his no. 1 song, NOT to be singing it in their heads right now – in fact I think I can hear you whistling the intro out loud right now!!! (But just in case – here you go)…
I would hope that most of us recognise the importance of being happy both at work and at play. Unfortunately though, all too often the words “happy” and “work” don’t seem to feature in the same sentence unless it’s along the lines of, “I’m so happy that it’s the weekend and work is over for another week” or words to that effect!
Studies all over the world show that happy employees are more productive, successful and motivated. So what can you do to be one ‘these’ employees (rather than one of “THOSE” employees)?
Choose to be Happy – You Are In Charge!
Simple Right? If only… Life, family, finances, romance, neighbours, friends, vehicles, pets, etc, etc, can all get in the way of us being happy. Sometimes through intent, but mostly quite by accident. You see we all get so caught up in “life” in general that sometimes we forget all about being happy and doing things to make us happy.
We all have a right to happiness and so it is up to YOU to CHOOSE to be happy. The power of positive thought is miraculous! So when you get out of bed in the morning, rather than choosing to harp on the lack of sleep you had; the headache that you’ve got; the pile of work that you’re going to head in to, CHOOSE to look outside at the sun shining and thank your lucky stars that you’re alive and in a position to be able to take charge of your destiny and make a difference. (And I’ll bet you, even if it’s only something very, very small, you’ll make a change and feel better).
Love Every Day
Find something that makes you truly happy and do it every day. It might be walking the kids to school or reading your book. We’re all different, but that’s the point – we are all different and it’s not up to me or anyone else to prescribe what will make YOU happy. That’s YOUR job and so stop to think what it is that puts a smile on your face and then make the time to keep on doing it. Go on! You know you want to and you know you’ll feel better for doing so – so what are you waiting for, huh???
Take Charge of Your Personal and Professional Growth
Throughout my management career, I have always been surprised by the number of people that want success to land in their laps. Accusations of “you haven’t developed me” or “you haven’t promoted me” and yet when I have asked, “what have YOU done to develop yourself or earn that promotion” I’ve been met by a blank stare, hunched shoulders and a “you just don’t get it” attitude.
My question to all of you is this: “why is it a manager’s or an organisation’s responsibility to better you as an employee?” Sure, I am all for supporting personal growth and development, but surely as adults we need to take accountability for our own futures? What I mean by this is that I am all for a manager supporting an interested and motivated employee and the manager requesting financial (or ‘time off’) support from the organisation and even assisting with mentoring the person and/or providing exposure to information and opportunity. But what I don’t support is the onus being on the manager/organisation to run around the building looking for people to drop training courses and development opportunities in the laps of!
Take control of your development and if this means that you need to initiate and even pay for the process yourself, then go ahead and do so. The organisation doesn’t “OWE” you anything, but is far more likely to WANT to support someone who is showing initiative, drive and determination rather than one that is waiting for a handout.
Seek And You Shall Find
When was the last time you asked for feedback? Most of us like to know how we are tracking – whether it’s about being patted on the back for a job well done; being slipped an extra couple of $$$ in our pay packets or being told that we’re on track. I liken this to a journey from a place that you know to a place that you have never been before! Sure, you might end up there eventually, but if you can get some direction before you start and then at regular points along the way, you are far more likely to get to your destination on time and in a good mood than if you are stressed out from getting lost and being challenged along the way. You’re also much more likely to be able to go back to the place that you’ve visited the next time without as much guidance…
Requiring feedback can be a bit of a two-edged sword. Managers are generally busy people and depending upon their personal quota of emotional intelligence, they may see you as needy and a nuisance. Again, to assist you with this, an analogy. When you were a child or for those of you that have children of your own – think about how frustrated parents become with children when they pick the most inopportune times to ask for something. Whether that be a play-date with their little mate or to go to the toilet at the restaurant or if it’s to ask why the person on the bus only has one arm or talks funny. Kids are masters of asking the RIGHT question at the WRONG time. Why? Simply because they are learning and testing the boundaries. And without making a few mistakes, they will never learn when the right time is.
Keeping the above analogy in mind, there is generally a wrong time and a BETTER time to ask for feedback. Personally, I never had a problem with one of my team asking me for a moment of my time. By requesting a moment, I was able to either stop there and then if my schedule permitted or alternatively, make a time to stop and provide them with my full attention. What was frustrating was those in the team that were completely oblivious to whatever I was doing and would push in and demand my attention when it was either impractical, inappropriate or downright rude. As with most things in life, try to be considerate and treat others as you would like to be treated and the results are usually that much more positive (and effective)!
Be Aware & Present (Know What’s Happening, When!)
Make a conscious effort to be involved and aware of what is going on around you in your business. Make sure you are up to date with all the goings on and make it your mission to know where to obtain the information that will enable you to be a moving part in a dynamic organisation. Business does not stand still for too long, at least not without falling over, so make sure that you are keeping up with what is happening in and around the business and what is on the horizon.
Side Note: Just make sure you don’t come across as a sticky-beak as no-one likes nosy Parker.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
I don’t know about you, but nothing stresses me more than knowing that I am going to let someone down! My stomach churns, my pulse quickens and I lose (a lot of) sleep! Often we’ve only got ourselves to blame because we find it hard to say “no” when someone asks us to do something. This is an admirable trait in many respects, but it is often not conducive to making us happy in the workplace and often reduces our productivity through stress and procrastination.
You’d be surprised how much respect you can achieve when you politely say “no” to someone. Obviously there is a time and a place and it will always come down to how you handle each specific situation. But don’t be afraid to politely decline an extra workload if you think that you won’t be able to achieve it or equally as importantly – if you think that you’ll only be able to do an average (or below average) job!
Steer Clear of the Water Cooler!
OK. OK. So not all businesses have water coolers that staff stand around bitching about “Mavis in accounts or Derek in the mail room”. But you get the idea!
Avoid putting yourself in situations where the negativity will get the better of you! If “everyone else” is chatting about how crap the organisation is or what a terrible manager ‘blogs’ is, then some (possibly a lot) of the negativity is going to rub off on to you. When you’re up and pumped, you seem to have a natural reflective force field against this sort of chatter, but when you’re not feeling quite so positive about the world, the negativity finds a way to get through and wind its way in to your subconscious. Know how you’re feeling and how you’ll react to this sort of thing and then choose to avoid it or excuse yourself from it. You’ll feel so much better in the long run.
Do NOT Fear Conflict (Creative Abrasion)
Not all conflict is bad! In fact, conflict can be extremely positive and effective so long as it is handled respectfully and with some basic rules of engagement. A term for this that was doing the rounds a little while back was “Creative Abrasion” and there is plenty of info on the internet about what this is, how it works and why it is good for an organisation.
According to Google:
“Creative abrasion is a phrase coined by Jerry Hirshberg, founder and president of Nissan Design International and describes a culture where ideas are productively challenged. A concept that is all too often seen as dangerous by managers and naturally so.” Mar 24, 2015
In my mind, the point that you need to take away from this is that when approached in the right way and often with the benefit of hindsight, conflict is actually an opportunity to grow. If we don’t step out of our comfort zones, we don’t learn and if we don’t learn, we don’t grow. Use conflict to learn and grow and by seeing it as a positive force, you will find that you are happy at work. (Don’t let me have you believe that it makes it any less comfortable though – that is the whole point of learning and growing. Think about the last time you learned to do something. Play golf. Drive a car. Use an iPad. On each of those occasions you would have been “uncomfortable” and it is through this discomfort that you learned something new)!
We all know it, but we’re not all good at doing it! I personally need to make much more of an effort on this front. Do you?
It’s not rocket science. I fit and healthy body lead to a clear and active mind. We are all bombarded on a daily basis with adverts around out health and yet when we’re not feeling good about things, the idea of exercising can be (figuratively) a monstrous mountain to climb. There is no doubt that you’ll fee better by being active and you’re far more likely to be able to smile when you’re feeling good about yourself.
Be Thankful For What You’ve Got
One of the best ways to bring yourself down a notch or three is to start comparing yourself to others: “Blogs has the corner office overlooking the harbour bridge, whilst my crummy little office is dark & dingy” or “Joe’s new top of the range Mercedes Benz is so much shinier than my 12 month old Commodore”.
What so often gets missed here is the fact that (in the egs above): you HAVE an office and that you HAVE a car (that is only 12 months old incidentally). It might not be the corner office or a Mercedes Benz, but hey – what a great problem to have! In real terms, if this is as bad as it’s going to get then celebrate your wins because there are people out there that are unemployed; sick; broke; depressed; going through tough times etc; etc. So by comparison, you are one of the lucky ones. Take the time to reflect on this and don’t think about what you DON’T have, but rather what you DO have. And be grateful – it will completely change your outlook on life and the world in general.
Regularly Ask Yourself, “How Much of This Do I Own?”
All too often “we” get caught up in “stuff” that really doesn’t have anything to do with us, thereby burning emotional energy that could (and should) have been diverted to something far more productive!
Pause. Stop. And ask yourself just how much of this particular problem you actually own. If the answer is nothing (or very little), move on and put your energies in to something that will return you greater results that you can celebrate on completion (see next point).
Who doesn’t love a reward? It doesn’t matter if it’s a glass of wine; a trip to the movies or a family holiday. Whatever floats your boat, as they say. Just make sure that you schedule in a reward relative to the completed task/result and where you can, celebrate it with others. Somehow life tastes so much sweeter when you have someone to share it with.
Listen To Your Instincts
This is a BIGGIE! If your ‘gut’ is telling you that you’re not happy and that you need to get out, then you need to get outta there!!! I realise that I am making a very difficult decision sound easy and when there are mouths to feed and bills to pay, it often comes down to finding that next job before you can move on. So the important part is not actually the moving on, but the DECISION to move on! Once you’ve realised that there is a mismatch and that you’re not happy, the worst thing that you can do is hang around making yourself and more often than not, everyone else, unhappy!
This blog is probably a little more “airy-fairy” than my usual stuff, but it’s funny how often I hear people say how unhappy they are in their current roles and how they just don’t know what to do about it. The toughest part is making a decision and taking control of the situation.
Hopefully the above points will help you think through some of your current dilemmas. And for those of you that are happy, hopefully you’ll recognise some of the things that you’re doing that make you feel good. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and comments and if there’s something in particular that really works for you, please leave a comment below.
And remember: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu. Pick ONE or TWO of the most relevant ideas above, those that really resonate with your values and beliefs. And then focus on making them a reality. From there, you can start working on some of the other suggestions.
Best of luck and if you’re finding work and life a bit of a challenge, I urge you to reach out to someone to ask for help or guidance.