The science of happiness is clear -- sometimes, just a positive state of mind can evoke a new-found sense of joy, even if nothing changes. Skeptics may think it’s more realistic to think the glass is half empty, but happiness researchers will tell you the people who think it is half full are having more fun with the same glass of water.
So, if being happier can be as simple as shifting to a more positive perspective, how can you bring that to your day-to-day job? More often than not, we get caught up in focusing on the details of our job rather than taking the time to take a step back. It’s important to focus on the bigger picture and tie it to your more detailed goals.
There is an old fable about three bricklayers. When asked what they were doing, the first said, “I am laying bricks.” The second said he was building a wall. The third said he was building a magnificent cathedral. This story illustrates the importance of connecting what you are doing every day to your own personal purpose. Once that is clear, you can begin to think about goals that are aligned with your talent. And before you know it, you have transformed your orientation to your job without changing anything other than your perspective.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Most companies have a clear mission. If yours doesn’t, then you may need to do some more work in creating your own. However, take your company’s mission and think about how that connects to your own personal mission. Take, for example, Starbucks’ mission. It is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit -- one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” If you worked at Starbucks, you could easily uncover something about inspiring others in your own life that connects you to the company’s mission. What would that be? Once you identify that, write this down and put it in your office or cubicle, so you are reminded daily why you are where you are.
Some of you may not know your talent. If that is the case, email me. Otherwise, ask yourself, “What work has given you the most joy?” Use that talent creatively to achieve the goals you have been given at work. Take some time to create unique solutions. You may not be aware of how you could be operating differently toward the same goal that would ultimately increase your results and be more rewarding.
Every month, examine what your employer expects you to achieve versus what you personally want to achieve. Create scary, fun goals that get you excited. We optimize our performance by creating a challenge, according to the authors of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing. By strategically creating challenges that are enjoyable but also a little scary, you’re more likely to reach your goals.
If you achieve your goal, reward yourself. Take your team out or do something that you don’t normally do as a gift to yourself or your colleagues. Celebrating successes is part of enjoying the process. We tend to move on to the next goal quickly rather than taking the time to pause, reflect, and celebrate an accomplishment. It’s also worthwhile to think about why it went well, using that conversation as part of the celebration. Track what worked well and how those insights can be used in creating future success.
Pay attention to the actual goals you are setting, and make sure the work involved with achieving them is what you are excited about, not just the accolades or the feeling of accomplishment that will come once it’s done. When you are focused on the process and not the outcome, you will enjoy your work more. Once you achieve your goal, you’ll get a burst of excitement that is fleeting. Getting joy from the process rather than just the outcome extends the amount of time you are actually happy at work.