November 17, 2008

Being happy at work

Frequently, many people are dissatisfied with their jobs or careers. Often people feel lost and helpless in these situations. Over the summer, I was one of these people. I took quite a bit of time thinking about the things that were bothering me and figuring out how and when I feel successful. With quite a bit of reflection (and emotion), I wrote this post.

I would never pretend that I went from incredible disappointment to sheer happiness after going through the following process, but I can honestly say that I am a much happier person today.

I am not really one for giving lists or steps to success. I don't like how preachy they usually come off. I tend to believe that every person resolves issues differently, and in fact, I typically encourage everyone to find their own way. Instinct and intuition often help people solve their problems.

But anyway, instead of telling you how to fix this type of problem, I will tell you the critical things that I needed to do, and hopefully it may help.
  • Remind yourself: Life is not fair. In fact, there is no such thing as fair. So stop the “pity me” mind set. You are not entitled to anything. (This means focus on what is directly in front of you, not what may be beyond the horizon.)
  • Listen to yourself. Write down what makes you happy and what you enjoy throughout your day. Similarly also note what really bothers and discourages you.
  • Step back and figure out how you got to where you are. How did it happen? Can you right the ship?
  • Make a plan of attack. Decide what you need to do help maximize your happy moments and minimize the others.
That was it...nothing earth shattering. After looking at this list, I have to admit that it seems pretty obvious, but it was much harder for me to actually do than it may seem on the surface. Being caught up in the moment and having significant emotional involvement made those four actions a difficult and time-consuming process for me.

The biggest change that I have made so far is the amount of importance that I put on my work and professional betterment. Previously, I believed that "a job was just a job" or a that it was just a "means to an end" and "wasn't that important to me." Sadly, I was lying to myself. Once I realized that being in bad mood for at least 30 mins after work became part of my daily routine, I knew how much of an impact my job was having on my life and how important it was to me personally.

Today, I understand the importance of my job and career in my life and have given it a much higher priority than I ever have before. Previously, I always gave reasons made up excuses of why I couldn't do the things that I wanted to do. I would say things like "I don't have enough free time," or "I have too many commitments already." Now, I allocate time to put towards my goals and do my best to meet the rest of my commitments after that is done. This priority adjustment reminds me of a concept proposed by Robert Kiyosaki in the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. He says (I'll paraphrase here):
If you want to save a certain amount of money per month, you need to pay yourself first before paying for anything else, including bills. If what you are doing is important enough to you, you will figure out how to make it work.
I haven't implemented that concept with money yet, but I have done so with my time and it has been dead on.

Additional reading:

The book 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller was suggested to me by a coworker. It didn't really hit home for me since it talks a lot about changing jobs, but was an interesting read. I can see it being useful for those completely lost professionally. I will warn that it has a religious tone. It's not obnoxious, but may be more than expected if not forewarned.

Here is an insightful post from Seth Godin that contradicts the 48 Days book a bit. It emphasizes doing what you love, even if not as a job or career, but just because you love it.

Once you do start doing what you love, remember it will be (and should be) hard.

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