Happiness at Work – Don’t Lose Sight of What Really Matters
In a world where progress is defined in terms of material gain – a stronger economy, a larger profit, or a better salary – we often sacrifice our own happiness and wellbeing in pursuit of it.
Or we pin our happiness to the acquisition of things – a bigger house, a faster car, or the latest iteration of a smartphone.
There’s nothing wrong with these things. In fact, some of them genuinely make our lives better. But deep down, we all know that the most important things in life cannot be bought. All the bonuses, promotions, and purchases mean very little if we aren’t happy in the first place.
With all this in mind, isn’t it time we started defining progress in terms of happiness?
Today’s International Day of Happiness aims to do just that. Established following a 2012 United Nations resolution, this annual event aims to ‘inspire, mobilise, and advance the global happiness movement.’
Let’s take a look as some of their ideas for promoting this cause, and how we can apply them in the workplace.
Do more of what makes you and others happy
Happiness comes in many forms, but it is rarely something complicated or out of reach. It might be a brisk lunchtime walk on a bright spring day, a cup of tea with a workplace buddy, or seeing someone’s face light up when you recognise their hard work.
Whatever it is that gives you that moment to pause, reflect, and be glad, make sure you do more of it.
Given the amount of time we spend at work, our jobs can have a huge impact on our happiness – whether positively or negatively. Sometimes seemingly small issues can grow into huge problems if we let them fester.
Rather than accepting conditions that make us unhappy, or that block us from doing our best work, we should be looking for ways to make work a more enjoyable place to be. This is a win-win approach – when we enjoy work, we are more engaged and productive.
From an organisational perspective, the best way to make work a happier – and therefore more productive – place is to promote regular, ongoing feedback and discussions between managers and employees.
Of course, to be truly happy in our jobs, we need to be engaged in work that we are passionate about – work that we find meaningful and worthwhile. It is also important that we can be our authentic selves in the workplace, and not some work-version of ourselves.
As Mahatma Gandhi put it: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Collect moments, not things
Our cultural obsession with material success can lead us to define ourselves and other people through the things we own and the money we earn.
When material wealth is our main focus, work can quickly become a means to an end – a way to get those things that we apparently. This makes work extrinsically motivating, but not necessarily intrinsically motivating.
For some of us, this is fine – pay and bonuses provide all the motivation we need. But this isn’t the case for everyone.
Like so many truly valuable things, happiness isn’t always something you can save up for and buy. When you look back at your happiest memories, chances are they involve people, not things. The same goes for our careers.
Opportunities to help others and make a difference in their lives are ultimately more rewarding than more ‘stuff’. These are the things you’ll remember when you leave.
There is always something to be thankful for
Part of the human condition is to always want more, or to focus on things that we don’t yet have.
While the instinct to strive for better is central to our personal growth and development, if we fail to stop and reflect on what we already have, we will never experience true gratitude.
Chances are there are plenty of things in your life to be thankful for – many of which you might take for granted on a daily basis. So next time you feel unsatisfied in your work or life, why not pause, step back, and think of the things in your life that you are grateful for.
The same goes for our careers. We are always striving for more experience, better skills, or a higher position. There can be a sense throughout our work lives that we haven’t quite made it yet, that we haven’t arrived.
While this attitude can drive you on to better things, it can also make you blind to the progress you have already made. It’s always good to look forward, but make sure you take the time to look back once in a while to see how far you’ve come.
The world is changed by your example, not your opinion
We all have different ideas, views, likes and dislikes. This is a good thing, as it leads to a more diverse and dynamic workplace. But opinions aside, what really matters is how you act, and the way you treat others.
To create a better, happier workplace, make sure that you are the kind of employee that you would like to have yourself.
Ask yourself: am I making the workplace an easier place for my colleagues to be, or a more difficult one? Am I treating people the way I would like to be treated?
If you value kindness, honesty and patience in others, make sure you exhibit these qualities yourself.
This is particularly important for managers and business leaders. The old approach of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ is a fast-track to resentment and low morale.
Leading by example, on the other hand, inspires others to follow. If you expect certain standards from your team, make sure you are the one setting them.
Treat everyone kindly – including yourself
Kindness to others should be seen as a baseline expectation for any employee, regardless of their position with the organisation. Reaching a position of power should not be seen as a chance to neglect basic decency and manners towards others.
But what about kindness to ourselves? The flipside of being driven and goal-oriented is that when we miss the mark – and we all do – we are our own worst critics.
With this attitude, we view failure as something catastrophic, rather than an opportunity to learn and grow. This can lead to a fear of failure, which can make us reluctant to take risks. But we need to take risks in order to develop and grow – and we inevitably need to fail from time to time.
If you really want a happy, successful career, remember to be kind to yourself. See the lessons in every failure, and remember that personal and professional development is about progress, not perfection.
Happy International Day of Happiness!