Couldn’t make it to the 2017 SHRM Annual Conference? Here’s the full video of my session – Creating Real Employee Engagement Without Spending a Dime – for you to catch up with!
Couldn’t make it to the 2017 SHRM Annual Conference? Here’s the full video of my session – Creating Real Employee Engagement Without Spending a Dime – for you to catch up with!
Being mindful at work helps you reduce your stress, be more creative, communicate more effectively, focus with greater clarity, gain greater resilience, and experience greater overall well-being.
All great things, right? The thing about mindfulness is that it may sound simple…but that doesn’t make it easy. When you first start experimenting with being mindful at work, it requires a mental shift away from the way you’ve been doing things for years, even decades! Think of what happens when we try to develop more positive habits – you make mistakes. You slip up. You revert back to the old way of doing things. And so most people try and make mistakes and then they give up, because the old way of doing things may not be the best way, but it’s your comfort zone.
None of this is meant to scare you away – I offer it so you go into this list with your eyes wide open. You will be imperfect at this…and that’s ok. One of my favorite mindful phrases is this:
So as you get started with this, don’t worry so much about doing it perfectly. If you make a mistake, let it go and decide to begin again without beating yourself up.
What follows is 20 ways to work mindfulness into your day at work. You don’t have to do all of them. Just pick a few that resonate with you and try them out. And then come back when you’re ready to pick out a few more.
The world is a perfect place. It’s not perfect in that you get everything you want the minute you want it…but it is perfect in that you receive exactly what you should based on your contributions to the situation. We all love to take responsibility when we receive good things…we deserve them, right!…but we don’t like to take responsibility when bath things happen to us. Those are other peoples’ fault.
When you begin working with mindfulness, you’re making a decision to take responsibility for all parts of your experience, because if you don’t do that you can’t change it! You’ll always be at the whim of others. So start there. You’re responsible for everything you’re experiencing now, have experienced in the past, and will experience.
Feeling resistant to that idea? That’s only because you’re judging yourself because of the mistakes you’ve made that have led to a less than perfect outcome. But understand that the only mistakes we ever really make are the ones we don’t learn from. Judging yourself does you no good – it only holds you back. Instead, detach from the situation, zoom out and look at it almost as if you’re outside of it. There’s no judgement there. There’s just learning and growth.
When you say the word “mindfulness”, people often think of meditation. And certainly, a meditation practice can support your mindfulness goals. If you want to start meditating, there are lots of great free meditations out there on places like Spotify and YouTube.
However, you don’t need to commit to meditation to gain the benefits of a few deep breaths in any stressful situation you find yourself in. Our breath is absolutely critical to our overall well-being. Think about it: We can go weeks without food. We can go days without water. We can’t go more than a few minutes about taking in breath!
Whenever you’re feeling stressed out, take a few minutes to take 3-5 really deep breaths. You can do this anywhere, even in the middle of a meeting! Just put both your feet flat on the floor, don’t cross your arms or legs, and make sure your back is straight. Then breathe in really deeply into your nose, so strongly you almost want to snore (don’t do that in a meeting!). Feel the breath going down your throat, through your lungs, all the way into your belly. Hold it for a moment or two and then release. That’s all there is to it!
Do this a few times and you’ll feel your body start to release and your stress levels will go down almost instantly. Then you’ll be able to look at the situation with more clarity.
Your work life and your personal life are not separate – they blend together in almost every way. So if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and have a horrible morning, do you think you’re going to go in and have a great day at work? No, probably not. And your morning is something you have completely control over! So make sure you set yourself up to have a great morning: Get enough sleep the night before, choose a gentle alarm to wake you up instead of a harsh buzzer, drink your water, have a great breakfast, appreciate the weather if it’s a nice day. Maybe you even bring your work into it and think about what you want to get done at work that day. Visualize a day of productive meetings. Do what you need to do to set yourself up for success before you even get to the office!
Human beings are not creatures that are built to multi-task. When you’re jumping around from task to task, your brain has to stop, shift its focus, and start again. That doesn’t allow for the flow to really focus on something and produce your best work. And in the modern office landscape, there is no greater distraction than email. It’s open on your desktop all day long, with notifications popping up and sounds chiming every time you get a new message. And instantly, your focus is drawn away from whatever you’re working on to the new message that’s landed in your inbox, you stop what you’re doing to read it, answer it if necessary, and then have to move back to your other task. This constant back and forth impedes your productivity and your creativity immensely.
Instead, try this: For the first 45 minutes of every hour, turn off your email. Not minimize, turn it off entirely so you’re not getting notifications of new messages. Throw yourself into whatever you’re working on with a few focus and allow yourself to solely concentrate on it without distraction. Then, after 45 minutes, open your email up and see what has come in. Respond as necessary, and then shut it off again.
We’ve got to move from this place where every email is an emergency and needs to be responded to immediately – that just distracts from working on the things that will move you towards your goals. In the case of an actual emergency, someone will come find you or call you on the phone. And in all other cases, 45 minutes is not a long time to wait for a response. Give it a try and you’ll find that people really don’t need immediate responses…we’ve just tricked ourselves into thinking they do.
Human beings love to think about the past as a way to make sense of what they’re currently experiencing. He did this to me, that went wrong, this didn’t work, etc… But the thing is that doing so doesn’t allow you to experience the full breadth of what you’ve got right in front of you, right now because you’re not present in the current moment. Say someone throws you under the bus six months ago in a meeting and you think that means that he’s trying to do the same thing today, which prevents you from seeing that he’s genuinely trying to help you. Or say you tried a tactic in a previous job three years ago that is similar to one being proposed today and it didn’t work…you might think that because it didn’t work last time there’s no chance it will work this time, even though the overall circumstances are different.
As much as you can, have a laser-like focus on what’s going on right in front of you, right now. If you find yourself having a resistance to it, ask yourself what’s truly driving it. Is it current circumstances, or is it stuff from the past? If it’s from the past, do your best to let it go. You’ll be surprised at the outcomes you’ll experience when you don’t let the past get in your way.
When we’re faced with stressful situations, our natural response is to go into fight or flight: We either run away from the situation or we attack it aggressively. And we tell outsides that doing so allows us to remain in control when things around us feel like they’re spinning out of our control. However, the best control you can exert is to maintain control over your perspective in any situation. We can always make the choice to think about things differently.
Being able to shift your perspective comes in useful in almost any situation where you’re experiencing stress or negative outcomes to get you back on a more positive track. When you’re going down those routes – my boss doesn’t support me, my co-workers don’t get it, I don’t have the resources I need, etc… – you have to be responsible for disrupting that thinking because continuing on that path only hurts you and prevents you from achieving what you could. Stop and ask yourself disruptive questions:
Really consider your answers and be open to possibilities that you hadn’t considered before. And then just choose to go down the path that benefits you the most!
Human beings naturally default to putting more weight on negativity than on positivity. This is evolutionary. Think about when we were cavemen, hunting and gathering out in the field. The bushes rustle 50 yards away…it’s probably just the wind but it could also be a lion. If we don’t assume the worst, we might not survive!
These days, very few of us have any real possibility of being eaten by a lion. Yet we still carry those types of instincts with us. The difference between the people who experience happiness and fulfillment at work and those who do not is simply that they make the choice to be optimistic. They see the negative and they choose to simply not engage with it.
Here’s an example: Think of all those meetings you sit in when one person takes over the meeting, talking about how things won’t work, or here are all the things we’re doing wrong, or we’re never going to succeed with this plan. You can choose to engage with this person (or even agree with them!) and that just feeds the negativity. Or you can choose to simply not engage. Just because someone says something doesn’t mean you have to buy into their version of events. You could even speak up and say “here’s another way this could go” and present a more optimistic version for people to consider.
Asking yourself the disruptive questions in the previous step is a good way to help you make this choice when you first get started. Do it for a time and it will become a habit that you don’t even have to think about.
When I say performance goals, people normally think I’m talking about the annual (or quarterly) official HR performance review. But the annual performance review doesn’t really motivate anyone on an intrinsic level. Instead, you can take control of your own performance plan and break down your larger goals into smaller, focused tasks. It’s ok to do this outside of the official review process because you’re still working within the process and towards your larger goals – you’re just doing it in a way that is more mindful of what you need to be successful day-to-day.
We know that the best, most motivating individual goals are small, observable, controllable, meaningful and doable. Who better to set those goals than you! When you make your goals smaller, you keep yourself within constant view of the finish line and that allows you to maintain momentum because you’re not overwhelmed with the task.
Most people have a lot of great ideas, but when it comes time to tell people about them, they clam up! They tell themselves all sorts of stories for why this happens – maybe they aren’t 100% sure, or maybe they don’t want to draw attention to themselves, or maybe the idea will create more work for them, or maybe they think it will make someone mad. But those are just stories. They may turn out to be true or not, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. The real point of expressing yourself is not necessarily the outcome – it’s about allowing others the chance to receive your ideas, knowing that what you have to contribute is valuable! If you don’t put it out there, you’re not giving your co-workers a chance to respond to you either way.
Manage your expectations when you do this – don’t go into it expecting everyone to fawn over your idea. Sometimes people need time to consider something new, or they may like a part of it but not another part of it, or just wouldn’t be open to ANY new idea regardless of who it came from. And sometimes you just need to say something more than once before people will actually hear you! How people receive your idea is not important – the fact that you express it is. The point is that you have to find value in expressing the idea, and feeling satisfied that your voice was heard. If the people around you don’t receive it today, that doesn’t mean it’s dead in the water. It just means you have to say it again!
You probably have your official annual performance review goals, and then all of those “other duties as assigned” that your boss expects you to take care of, that you’ll be evaluated on regularly at work to see if you’re hitting the mark or not. But just because those goals exist does not mean you can’t create your own measure of success that is just for you.
Back when I was in a job I hated, with a boss and a CEO I couldn’t stand, every day I came in and felt like there was no chance of being successful. I just couldn’t win. The problem was that I was using their goals to evaluate my success, and in using their goals I was playing their game. So, I decided to create my own game and developed a mantra that I still use as my definition of success to this day:
Act with integrity
Show compassion and empathy, even if others don’t.
Be of service to the people around you.
This became the yardstick I held myself to every day, and if I achieved it, then it was a good day no matter what else happened. Using this didn’t preclude me trying to work towards my official goals…it just meant I was no longer internalizing things I couldn’t control (like if my boss was acting like a crazy person).
Let your own definition of success, something that you can focus on completely no matter what is going on around you. This might take a few drafts, but once it’s done it will help you find the light at the end of the tunnel.
We all have to do things that we don’t want to do, especially at work. If you find yourself putting things off or avoiding them simply because they aren’t your favorite tasks, you’ll just wind up with a whole mountain of stuff to do that you don’t like and may find yourself buried under it!
A better strategy is to find a way to make the task fun. Think about why you’re doing it, what it will set you up for. Or do something like listen to your favorite music or podcast while you’re doing it! You could even give yourself a reward for completing it, something small like a treat or leaving a little early, or something large for the bigger tasks. But above all else, just tell yourself that it’s going to be easy and fun before you ever get started and that will set you up to enjoy it more while you’re doing it!
One of the biggest problems plaguing most organizations is that so few people really listen – they just wait to talk and get their own point across. If you want to build better relationships with your co-workers (which should be EVERYONE’S goal!), then listening to them and making them feel heard is one of your ultimate shortcuts.
Whether you’re in a meeting, a one-on-one, or just having an informal conversation in the hall, put away your laptop or your phone and give the person talking your full attention. Look them in the eye. Uncross your arms so your body language is telling them you’re open to what they’re saying. And repeat back to them what you heard them say to make sure you understood. This simple act will not only enhance the quality of your communication, but it will also allow your co-workers to feel like you really understand and appreciate their contribution.
When you’re at work, you are not on an island all your own. Some people look at it as a weakness if they need to ask for help from others, but the reality is that it makes you stronger and will only lead to your advancement if you do it well. You need other people on your side to accomplish the most basic things (and you definitely need them for the bigger stuff!). So make sure you know who your allies are. These are not necessarily the people you like versus the people you don’t – these are also the people who’s goals align with your. If you’re moving towards the same thing, chances are you’ll be able to find common ground to work together to get there!
A very smart person once ingrained this idea in my head: What resists persists! The more you focus in on the things you don’t like, the more impact they will have on your current experience. And most of those things are really out of your control! A decision that your boss, or someone higher up in the organization, made, a client who doesn’t like an idea, a co-worker who is pushing back on you. Fighting these situations usually just makes them worse, not better!
Instead, try to find your flow with any situation that you’re in. Be like water. Does water try to flow uphill? No. It flows downhill easily…and yet it’s very powerful and can get things done (the Grand Canyon, anyone?). How can you make the most of whatever situation you’re in without fighting against your current reality? There are usually plenty of opportunities around is if we make the time to look for them!
We all have to encounter naysayers in our professional environments (and the occasional narcissist or bully). You know the type – they put down every idea and nothing you can ever do is good enough. It can be easy to turn your back in frustration…but that’s not necessarily the best thing to do when you’re working with someone long term because you’re not setting yourself (or them!) up for future successes.
Instead, try a little bit of empathy. Someone who is a constant naysayer is probably in a pretty tough place, and may not be experiencing the receptiveness to their ideas that they’d like either. Is it right for them to take it out on you? No. But try connecting with them human being to human being. Find out what their real concerns are and where they come from. Even better, find out what they’re afraid of, and then help them navigate it. Most of the time, you’ll find out that it might be a really easy obstacle to overcome, or that it doesn’t have much to do you with or your idea at all. But you have to empathize first to get to that final place.
You’re human. You’re going to screw up and make mistakes. And newsflash: Your co-workers are human too!
The problem is the fundamental attribution error, which holds that when we screw up, we blame external circumstances…but when someone else screws up, we blame it on a character flaw of that person. Be mindful of when this is happening so that you can stop yourself and reframe the situation – that person’s goal wasn’t to screw up and it may have been a simple mistake or miscommunication or something outside of their control that caused it to happen. And even if it is in their control, so what! If you want to be forgiven when you make mistakes then you have to forgive the people you work with when they make them too. Otherwise, you’re just holding your co-workers to a different standard than you hold yourself.
Just when we get comfortable with the current way of doing things, they change! And the process of change can be incredibly uncomfortable for a lot of folks out there and instantly causes them to think of all the things that could go wrong, or that they will miss out on. However, you are always in control of your perspective. Instead of focusing on all the things you don’t like about the change and its potential outcome, instead ask yourself what could go right! What are the benefits of it? What will it mean for you? Will it give you more opportunities or free you up to focus on other things? View it as a simple part of the process of getting to a better place. The most successful people are the ones that are able to flow with change and adapt to it, rather than fighting back against it.
On any given day, you’re doing way more things right than you are wrong. Yet most of our victories at work go unnoticed – we only celebrate or hand out high fives for the really big milestones. Instead, look for opportunities to give yourself a pat on the back every day. This isn’t being egotistical or self absorbed – this is about acknowledging the power of your contribution. The more you acknowledge it, the more contribution you’ll make.
And if you see your colleagues having small wins, don’t be afraid to say “good job” or “way to go.” You’ll make their day, even if they seem a little embarrassed or uncomfortable with it. The reality is that most people are uncomfortable receiving positive feedback, because it just doesn’t happen all that often. Not only can you help your colleagues become more comfortable with it, it giving it out will also help you – the more praise and positive recognition you give out to others, the more comfortable you’ll be receiving it yourself.
Work/life balance looks different for every single person, and there is no one “right” answer. For some, working 60-80 hour weeks may be perfectly OK. For others, anything over 40 hours might be problematic. Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum, you’ve got to take responsibility for your own work/life balance and be proactive in developing it in a way that works best for you.
It’s not your employer’s fault if you’re a workaholic. Research tells us that when someone feels they are out of balance, the first place they need to look is in the mirror. It’s usually not the employer’s fault – it’s usually the employee who is giving, giving, giving…but not setting aside any time for themselves. Their boss might even tell them to take a vacation, or go home at 5pm, or encourage them to stop working and checking their email after hours, and they ignore all this good advice. The world will go on if you have time to yourself – be proactive about your work/life balance and you’ll be rewarded with increased focused and productivity at work as a result!
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve got it pretty good. You have a computer and an internet connection. You’re probably employed in a job and have money coming in, even if it’s not your dream job. You probably have a place to live and more food available to you than you could ever eat. And that’s just the basics, before you get into all the other really good stuff you have going on in your life.
Whenever you’re feeling angry or stressed out or frustrated, simply come back to all the good things you have going on and be grateful for them. Most people have a lot more good than bad to worry about every single day. Make sure you’re not letting the negative overshadow all the positive things.
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When most people think of mindfulness, they usually think of a meditation, which is something that is hard to get away and do at work unless your office has a dedicated meditation space. However, mindfulness is merely the act of being aware of your thoughts and feelings, focusing on the present moment, and achieving a state of non-judgmental acceptance – all things that can be done without meditation.
Here are five ways to use mindfulness at work without sitting down to meditate.
You may not be willing or able to meditate every day, but the breath is the core of any meditation practice. This is one of the easiest things you can do to use mindfulness at work because you can get some of the benefits of meditation just by taking a few minutes to breathe deeply at your desk – something anyone in any type of job can do. Breathing deeply will instantly calm your nervous system and reduce your stress levels, leaving you balanced and able to better focus on whatever you have in front of you.
Here’s how you do it: Sit with your back straight up and both feet flat on the floor and your arms uncrossed. Inhale as deeply as you can through your nose, almost to the point where you feel like you’re going to snore. Feel the cold breath go down your throat all the way into your belly. Hold your breathe for a few seconds and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this 2-3 more times and whatever stress you’re feeling will melt away, leaving you more grounded and centered.
Mindfulness at work means you’ve got to stop multi-tasking, and the number one obstacle in the way of that is email. Most of us have gotten into the bad habit of keeping our email open on our desktop all day long, stopping whatever we are doing when a message comes in to read it and instantly respond. But doing so is keeping you in a constant state of multi-tasking, in which you have to switch your brain from one task to another without getting into flow with anything you’re doing. We’ve convinced ourselves that we owe a response to any message the moment the moment it comes in, but the truth is that most messages can wait! If it’s an emergency, someone will come and find you.
Do this instead: For the first 45 minutes of every hour, turn off your email entirely. Focus on what you’re doing, one task at a time, with no multi-tasking allowed. This will allow you to achieve a higher quality result for that task in a shorter period of time. Then, for the last 15 minutes, turn on your email and see what has come in, responding to whatever you need to. This gets your colleagues timely answers but allows you to flow with other projects.
Between laptops and phones in meetings, and people fighting to make sure their individual points are being heard, listening is becoming a lost art in the office. However, this is to everyone’s detriment – allow people to feel heard, understood and considered is the easiest way to get their buy-in for projects, even if you don’t end up using their ideas. Most change initiatives in organizations fail because they overlook this point – they don’t listen.
Try this: When you’re having a discussion with a colleague, focus your full attention onto what they are saying, listening both for the direct content of their words, and the meaning and context behind the words. Then repeat back what you just heard. “What I heard you say is that you think the project is a good idea but you’re worried about how the timeline will impact your other priorities and it would really help you out if we pushed it back two weeks. Is that right?” Repeating it allows you to demonstrate that you heard them and their concerns, and gives them a chance to clarify their answers. Sometimes, you might even if that you didn’t hear them correctly at all and it cuts mis-communication off at the pass before it causes more problems down the road.
One of the worst things you can do to yourself at work is chain yourself to your desk all day – it’s doing to reduce your own enthusiasm for your job and the quality of your work. Taking breaks gives your mind a chance to rest and to reduce to look at problems with renewed focus and clarity.
Pencil it in: Block your calendar every day for a 15-20 minute walk outside (or walk around the office if the weather is bad). Get away from your desk, clear your head, and get some physical activity in. On nice days, you can also take a moment to be really appreciative to be able to be outside in the good weather instead of eating lunch in your cubicle.
Using mindfulness at work means that you should always be aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Most of the time when you’re feeling any of those negative emotions at work, they are a mask for something else going on. Here’s your key question: What am I afraid of? If you can answer that question and focus on fixing that problem, rather than lashing out at the co-worker that caused it, you’ll set yourself up for greater success.
Here’s an example: Your co-worker misses a deadline and you get rightfully annoyed by that. You could send them an angry email, or complain to their boss, or be passive aggressive in a meeting about it, but none of those get to the heart of what you’re truly afraid of: The project not finishing on time, you being to blame for it, and getting in trouble. Focusing on solving for that problem is much more productive than focusing on your co-worker messing up. Maybe you go to them, show a little vulnerability, and say “I’m worried we’re not going to be able to meet this deadline. What can we do to stay on track? How can I help you?” You’ve instantly changed the tone of the conversation to one that could have been adversarial to one of collaboration and support.
Work Reboot is very personal for me. When I started Zen Workplace in 2012, the basis of the idea was that no one should be miserable at work, and that anyone could look inside themselves to create a better work experience. Of course, that came from my own less-than-ideal work experience. Believe me. I get it. And since that time, I’ve been blessed to work with organizations around the world to help them create better working environments for their teams, and with many individuals one-on-one.
But that leaves a whole lot of people out – people outside of organizations who hire me and who aren’t ready for one-on-one work – and Work Reboot represents that middle ground. Because access shouldn’t be the problem. Anyone who genuinely wants to create a better professional experience for themselves should be able to.
I’ve long questioned if people, given the opportunity, would take proactive control over creating a better work experience for themselves because it can be so easy to get into a comfort zone and not think change is possible. That’s why I decided to launch a campaign to fund the first round of Work Reboot on Indiegogo – to see if it was an idea that people would value. It’s not about the money. It’s about testing the idea. If it’s something people want, they will fund it by enrolling in the program, or by supporting the idea with a contribution to get a different perk.
When I launched the campaign, I got a bunch of questions about the program, so I made this video to answer a few. Don’t want to watch it? Scroll on down for the written text (and a few additional answers that didn’t make it in the video).
Work Reboot is a 12 week virtual group program, meaning you can participate from anywhere in the world. It has three main components:
You will also have lifetime access to everything and will be able to refer back anytime you wish.
Because you want more out of your work life. We spend decades of our lives at work – there is no reason not to be happy! Here are some reasons people might enroll:
I’ve specifically designed the program to take 1-2 hours a week. However, you will get out of it what you put into it. If you want to do more, you’ll reach your goals quicker. If you’re really busy and need to skip a week, that’s ok too – you’ll be able to catch up or work through the program at your own pace.
Work Reboot is about you – what will make you happy at work and developing a customized plan to get there. It’s not about the specific function of your job or your co-workers or your boss or the organization you work it. Because it is so tailored, it doesn’t matter what your job or your level is. This is the same program I use with my one-on-one coaching clients and any one of them that has truly embraced the process has had success with it, regardless of the specific work they do.
Yes! I have used Work Reboot with people who freelance, or people who were transitioning from corporate to freelance or start their own business full time and it has worked for them.
You may not have to. There are two tracks in the program – one for people who are making adjustments but seeking to stay in their current job or organization and one for people who are looking for new opportunities. It will work for both.
Ok, so this one is less of a question and more of an excuse. Let’s tackle each separately.
We’ve already discussed time – it will take you 1-2 hours a week, more if you want to put in that extra effort. We make time for things we care about. If you truly care about achieving a happy, productive, fulfilling work experience, you will make the time.
And now the money. The reason I created Work Reboot was the only option I had for people who didn’t work for an organization that hired me was to work with me one-on-one. That’s really expensive. This allows for an option at a lower price point.
When the program launches fully, it will be $375 – well worth it since it can change the course of your career and give you a happier path all the way up to retirement. However, when you contribute to the Indiegogo campaign, you will get it had a discount. We’re talking basically the cost of a night in a hotel room here – if you’re serious about making a change, you can find the money.
The real reason you might be apprehensive is there’s something else holding you back – time or money is not the real reason. Look inside yourself and ask what’s really holding you back from making the change? Do you not think its possible? Don’t believe you’re worth it? Are afraid of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone? If you’re not honest with yourself, you’ll never be able to create the experience you want and you’ll go through your entire career without truly achieving what you could.
If I didn’t answer your question, go ahead and leave a comment or shoot me an email and I’ll make sure you get a response! But if you’re ready to go, head over to Work Reboot and enroll in the program, or support the idea of it by picking out a different perk.
Years ago, I was in a job I absolutely hated. The CEO was a raging narcissist and those who reported to her (one of whom I reported to) followed suit. The tone in any organization comes from the top, and their toxicity spread thoroughly and completely. In the midst of it, I took a much needed vacation – a Caribbean cruise. Stuck in the middle of the ocean with no Internet to distract me, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on the situation I found myself in and what I had done to create it.
Yes, you read that correctly – what I had done to create it.
The world is a perfect place. That doesn’t mean that we get everything we want the minute we want it – it means we get what we deserve based on our behaviors.
I might say I want a great work experience, where I can make a meaningful contribution and find personal fulfillment. But how am I contributing to that every day?
Here’s how I was sabotaging myself:
No, I wasn’t solely responsible for the environment – the CEO had that weight to bear. And I couldn’t control the behaviors of other people. But I was in complete control of my perspective and my daily contributions, and in that I was failing.
In the months that followed, I focused on the things I could control by setting a new standard for my success based on acting with integrity, showing compassion and empathy to others, and being of service to the people around me. If I met that standard, it was a good day. Nothing else mattered – not my boss throwing me under the bus or my co-workers spreading gossip and lies. And because I had such laser-focus, I had enough energy at the end of the day to create my exit strategy.
First, let’s make sure we know what we mean by happy. You don’t have to be in a toxic situation like I was to take a second look at your work experience. The reality is that most people are not happy at work. Perhaps it’s because so many of us have had an awful job experience (or several), but all too often we confuse not being miserable in our job with being happy. That’s not happiness – that’s satisfaction. You can do better.
Your first step is taking an honest look at what would make you happy. Don’t put any restrictions on yourself for this exercise – if you could do anything, what would you do? How do you want to spend your days? What things do you love doing at work? What do you hate? Make a list, journal it out. Paint a crystal clear vision.
Next, analyze the gap between where you are right now, and where you want to be. For some people, the gap may not be that big – they’ll be able to make improvements in their current organization and get pretty close to their ideal. Think about the things you’re doing (or not doing) at work every day that have gotten you where you are, and what you need to change to do things differently. Write a personal mantra as your measure of success, and strive for it every single day. Some days you’ll make it, others you won’t. But every day is a new day to begin again.
Some of you might love your organization, but not like your job. That doesn’t mean you have to leave! Even if you’re shooting for a different job function, don’t underestimate your ability to get your organization to craft a position for you. If your organization values you, it’s in their best interest to keep you happy. I’ve walked countless clients through the process of literally crafting a job where one didn’t exist before. It is possible!
Don’t be discouraged if this assignment makes you realize that you’re in the completely wrong job in the completely wrong industry. That just means it’s going to take a little longer for you to make a change. Consider your options: You’re going to be working until you retire, probably decades from now. You can spend that time in the wrong type of job, or you can put the time and effort in to making the transition and get to the right type of one, even if it takes a few years. Your hard work will pay off.
You would think that someone who’s not happy at work would be ready to do what it takes to end up in a better experience. However, lots of times I find that people are more comfortable in a less-than-ideal work experience than they are in chasing something that they will love.
It all comes down to fear. You’ve probably spent a lifetime on the “shoulds.” You should do this, or you should want that. Few people have dared consider that what they really want is an achievable possibility and when you put it in front of them and say “you can have it”, they freak out. It’s overwhelming! But it is possible. The people who get there are the ones that push past the fear and make little changes every day to move themselves in the direction they want to go.
If you’re not happy at work and are looking for a better way, join my program Work Reboot.
Not in love with what you do every day? Take control of your career and create your perfect job.
So many people confuse not being miserable with being truly happy. Don’t settle with simply being satisfied – you need to figure out what truly makes you happy at work. You’ll know you’re happy when you’re doing things that don’t feel like work – they just flow. Hours seem to pass like minutes. There is no right answer to this question! What makes one person happy will make another absolutely miserable. Figure out what’s right for you.
Start by making a list. For this, it’s helpful to think both about what you love…and what you don’t like at all. What are the things you love doing at work? What are the things you dread doing? What busy work do you have that you would rather punt off your list so you can focus on other things?
Another tactic is to keep track with a list during the day. When you find yourself doing a task you love, write it down! Document the opposite as well. The goal is to create a clear idea of how you like to spend your time – we’ll use it in our next step.
Professionally, you can have whatever you want…but you must have a crystal clear idea of what that is! You will never find your perfect job if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s time to create your roadmap. Take your list of what you love and what you don’t and use it to craft your ideal job descriptions. Don’t put any restrictions on yourself – if you could do anything in the world, what would you do? What would your title be? Where would you report into? Would you manage people? What tasks would you spend your time on? What kind of salary do you want? What other benefits? Think this through as though it wasn’t merely fantasy but a real opportunity to craft exactly what you want.
Now, compare your ideal job to the one you’re in now. How far apart are they? Is there an opportunity to work with your boss or your human resources department to morph what you’re already doing into your ideal? Don’t underestimate your ability to ask for what you want! One of the key things that lead to employee retention is career advancement. If your employers value you, it is in their best interest to keep you happy and to help you advance your career in the direction you want to go. The reason it doesn’t happen for most people is that they don’t ask! Or they want for their employers to do it for them. Don’t put your career in the hands of other people – the worst thing that can happen is that they say no.
So, what if they do? Or what if what you want isn’t available in your current organization? If you can’t create your perfect job in your current capacity, you’ve got to keep a constant eye out for opportunities. Indeed.com is perfect for this, since you can easily set keywords to monitor what shows up every day with just a few minutes of time. Get your resume together, start networking, and hustle! If you’re willing to do the work, anything you want is within your grasp.
I’ve helped countless coaching clients go from a lackluster work situation to their perfect job, some within a matter of months of when they start to work with me. Learn more about coaching with me and schedule your free discovery session to learn more.
Nikki Massaro Kauffman is one of my favorite people in the world for many reasons, but mostly because she is THE person to learn from if you want to advocate for yourself at work. I’m so lucky to have her joining the Mental Health Day lineup. As a preview for what you’ll learn from her, check out this chat we had about the topic of self-advocacy. You’ll learn about finding more empowerment at work, seeking clarity on your professional path, making sure you’re giving your co-workers their power back, and more.
One of the biggest lies we’ve been told in our professional lives is that once you’re successful, you’ll be happy. You work hard, get ahead, make more money and all that is supposed to lead to happiness…right? Wrong. In the last several years, research has shown emphatically that the formula is reversed – happiness leads to success rather than success leading to happiness. This is true in pretty much every part of our lives – marriage, friendship, health, creativity, and (yes!) work.
When people are happy at work they…
In short, every single business metric that can be measured goes up when we’re happy. All this means that happiness at work is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling. Happiness at work is a business imperative. Thought it may seem weird to focus on it in a business setting, when you do your bottom line will speak for itself.
Want more details? Sure. I’ll summarize a few studies here, and if you’d like the full citations, they’re at the bottom of the article.
Want proof that happiness at work comes before success? Here are a few examples.
Employers love to use the “innovation” buzzword with their teams, but are they really creating an environment that supports it? If your team is not happy, chances are they are not being as innovative as they could be.
Want to reign in your healthcare costs? Maybe the answer isn’t to look for another insurance provider…it’s to gauge the happiness level of your employees.
On the most innate level, we shouldn’t even need all these studies (or countless others) to tell us that positivity will win every day. We intuitively know this! Can you name one example of when an approach grounded in negativity has produced a better result than positivity? And yet, at some point we convinced ourselves that positivity was not substantive or meaningful. Not only is there a mountain of research that says otherwise, but I think that most people understand this on instinct. They just don’t know what to do about it. That’s another article for another day…for now, just know that when you focus on happiness at work, based on everything we know that is time and money well spent.
Some people think that happiness is a question of nature – you’re just born the way you are. And those people are wrong. Our brains have the ability to physically change based on both our actions and our circumstances. That means that we can make the decision to be happy, and if we behave in a way that is consistent with that decision, we will literally re-wire our brain in the process. But this doesn’t happen overnight, and consistency is key – it takes about 30 days of consistent behavior for this to start to work. Think of it like going to the gym. You don’t get results the first week…or even the second. But getting into that third and forth week, you start seeing some changes! Happiness is the same way. If you’ve had a consistently pessimistic outlook for a while and you make the decision to look on the bright side, it’s going to feel very weird for the first few weeks. Fake it ’til you make it! Around the one month mark, you’re going to see the world in a very different way, and it’s going to feel much more natural than it did when you first started.
I work with organizations to help them create amazing work environments for their people. Learn more about what I do in this free online training or reach out and schedule a meeting to discuss how I can help your team find greater happiness at work.
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Much of the content of this article was drawn from Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage. It’s a really great read.
Cohen, S., Doyle, W.J., Turner, R.B., Alpher, C.M., & Skoner, D.P. (2003). Emotional style and susceptibility to the common cold. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 652-657.
Danner, D., Snowdon, D., & Friesen, W. (2001). Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings from the nun study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 804-813.
Diener, E., Nickerson, C., Lucas, R.E., & Sandvik, E. (2002). Dispositional affect and job outcomes. Social Indicators Research, 229-259.
Fredrickson, B.L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300-319.
Fredrickson B.L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.
Fredrickson, B.L., Mancuso, R.A., Branigan, C., & Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and Emotions, 24, 237-258.
Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. (2008). As referenced in: Associated Press. (June 18, 2008). Poll: Unhappy workers take more sick days.
Stay, B., Sutton, R., & Pelled, L. (1994). Employee positive emotion and favorable outcomes at the workplace. Organization Science, 5, 51-71.
Want to be more productive? Earn a better performance review? Get that promotion? Have less stress? Your job success in all those areas and more start when you bring a success mindset with you to work every day.
You are in control of the reality that you create for yourself every single day. It all starts in your head the minute you wake up in the morning. How are you going to approach the day? Do you roll out of bed with a feeling of absolute dread….or do you feel motivated and excited? At this point, nothing has happened yet to really tell you how the day is going to unfold either way…and yet the attitude that we form in an instant sets the tone for your next 16 hours or so. Make no mistake, we are in control of the direction we choose to take.
Here’s what we know for sure: When you make the decision to choose positivity at work, you will…
In fact, 75% of job success can be predicted from one simple thing – bringing a success mindset to work with you every day. There are three things that make up a success mindset: Work optimism, positive engagement, and support provision. Let’s take a quick look at each.
Mantra: “Good things happen.”
Work optimism concerns how you use your mental resources. What do you focus on? The paralyzing, demotivating aspects of the job, or the exciting, energizing parts of it? When you engage in work optimism, you put your energy into the good instead of the bad, and generally believe that positive things will happen. Work optimists are three times more likely to be highly engaged at work, and five times less likely to experience burnout.
Mantra: “In the face of challenges, I can succeed.”
Positive engagement is the idea that you train your brain to perceive stress as a positive challenge rather than something to be feared. When we view stress as a threat, that results in fight or flight behavior – we either tackle the problem aggressively (though not necessarily effectively!) or we run away from it. If you can flip the switch and view it as a challenge that you can conquer, and own that your behavior in the situation will be the difference between kicking down the roadblock or being derailed, you will be 15 times less likely to experience burnout, six times more likely to be highly engaged with your work, and three times more likely to be satisfied with your job.
Mantra: “I invest in the success of others.”
Here’s the one that’s not like the others! The more you support the people you work with, the more likely you are to succeed. Workers who make it a point to help out their team members are five times less likely to experience burnout and 65% more likely to get that promotion!
When you live and breathe positivity as your default everything around you will change for the better. Here are a few simple ways that you can start rewiring your brain:
Remember, it takes 30 days to build a habit – you’re literally creating new neural pathways in the brain. That means that you’ve got to keep with it, but after a month it will start to become second nature. If you can do one of these things every day for 30 days, that will be a great start to reframing your perspective and bringing your success mindset to work.
The data doesn’t lie. Positivity is your key to job success!
This article is based on the research of of Michelle Gielan in the book Broadcasting Happiness.
I’ll show you how to be both happy and successful at work in my program Work Reboot.
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From the time we’re old enough to understand what our parents are saying to us, we’re told that being selfish is a bad thing – that you should share your toys, consider what others want, let other kids play too, and all that. For the playground, it’s good advice – no parent wants their kid to be labeled the spoiled brat! But sometimes we internalize these early lessons so much that we apply them when we shouldn’t be later in life.
The idea of selflessness – of putting others needs before your own – sounds great. But what it ignores is that you are just as critical to the overall system of your organization as anyone else! If you’re not getting your needs met, that means that you’re not setting yourself up for success, and that the organization is not reaping the benefits of having you in that position. In other words, being successful at your job means being a little bit selfish! You have to fight for the things you need, for your goals, and for your priorities. There’s a reason your organization hired for your position in the first place – they need someone to do the job. If you’re constantly looking out for the needs of others over your own needs, you can’t deliver the results that you could be with a dash of selfishness thrown in.
There will never be a time when I don’t argue for the idea of looking for a win-win with your co-workers. Compromise is always a good idea. Setting people up for success, lifting others up, supporting the people you work with – all good ideas.
However, sometimes you’re going to work with people who just don’t see the value in handing you a win. They prefer to hand out losses because they feel that’s the only way they can secure wins for themselves – by pushing other people down. It’s their way or the highway.
When you work with people like that, be selfish! If you accept the first part of this article – that you are a critical component in the overall organization – that means that their needs are not any more important than yours. If their goal is to hand you a loss by rejecting any sort of compromise or trying to work with you productively, then your only recourse is to be selfish. Otherwise, you’re just letting them walk all over you and it’s your priorities that will suffer as a result.
Of course, there’s a caveat to this – you have to pick your battles. You should never fight for the sake of fighting because not all battles at work are worth winning. You have to ask yourself how much you really care about the outcome:
If winning a battle doesn’t advance your goals than walking away is the best win you can get, and is a selfish action. Your goal should never be to beat your difficult co-worker at any cost. But when it’s important, stand up for yourself.
When you always put the needs of others before your own, you teach people that they can walk all over you and get away with it. You’ll end up giving and giving and giving…and you’ll pay the price for it. The people you work with will know that you are the guy (or gal) that will always help them – that person that will always say “yes” – no matter what the cost to you. Your work will suffer, your stress level will suffer, and your career will suffer.
On the flip side, when you stand up for yourself, what you want, and what you need, you teach the people around you that you are not someone to be messed with. You teach them that you’re worth being paid a higher salary, that your time is valuable, and that your priorities matter. It’s not about being mean or overtly antagonistic to others – that misses the point! It’s simply about being clear on what types of behavior you will accept around you and what types you will not.
I work with many people who are in less than ideal, or even toxic, working environments. Part of the problem is almost always that their self confidence is shot! Maybe they came into their organization energetic and full of vigor, but over the course of being in that environment, they’ve lost their sense of self worth. They’ve learned to roll over and give those in charge anything they want as a means of survival.
When you’re in those types of environments, it’s almost like being brainwashed into a cult. After a while, you start to think that it is acceptable behavior and that every organization is like that. You try to mitigate the stressful environment in other ways – maybe you work out more, or spend more time with your family. However, you will never build the career you want if you continue to sacrifice your own sanity to stay in that environment.
The best thing you can do for yourself is selfish – get the heck out of dodge! Find an organization that will treat you the way you deserve, that will meet your needs, and lift you up. If you don’t love yourself enough to take care of yourself, you can never expect others to treat you the way you want to be treated. It can be scary, but there are so many opportunities out there. Do you want to spend your life dreading going into work every day, or would you like to get up and look forward to it? When you approach the problem selfishly, the choice becomes clear.
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