It's not difficult to experience more joy at work. You just need to know the rules.
A reader recently pointed me to some "rules for a happier life" that various folks have posted in various forms. Here's my take on those rules as they apply to the workplace:
1. Don't compare yourself to others.
Everybody, and I mean everybody, starts out in a different place and is headed on their own journey. You have NO idea where someone else's journey might lead them, so drawing comparisons is a complete waste of time.
2. Never obsess over things you cannot control.
While it's often important to know about other things--like the economy, the markets that you sell to, the actions that others might take, your focus should remain on what you actually control, which is 1) your own thoughts and 2) your own actions.
3. Know and keep your personal limits and boundaries.
While your job might sometimes seem like the most important thing in your world, you're killing a part of yourself if you let work situations push you into places that violate your privacy and your integrity.
4. Don't over commit yourself or your team.
It's great to be enthusiastic and willing to go the "extra mile," but making promises that you (or your team) can't reasonably keep is simply a way to create failure and disappointment.
5. Remember you get the same amount of time every day as everyone else.
You may feel you're short on time and that you need more of it, but the simple truth is that when the day started, you got your fair share: 24 hours. Nobody got any more than you did, so stop complaining.
6. Don't take yourself so seriously; nobody else does.
The ability to laugh at your foibles not only makes you happier as a person, it makes you more powerful, more influential and more attractive to others. If you can't laugh at yourself, everyone else will be laughing behind your back.
7. Daydream more rather than less.
The idea that daydreaming and working are mutually exclusive belongs back in the 20th century. It's when you let your thoughts wander that you're more likely to have the insights that will make you both unique and more competitive.
8. Don't bother with hate; it's not worth the effort.
Hate is an emotional parasite that eats away at your energy and health. If something is wrong with the world and you can change it, take action. If you can't take action, you're better off to forgive and forget.
9. Make peace with your past lest it create your future.
Focusing on past mistakes or wrongs inflicted on you is exactly like driving a car while looking in the rear view mirror. You'll keep heading in the same direction until you collide with something solid.
10. Don't try to "win" every argument.
Some battles aren't worth fighting, and many people are easier to handle when they think they've won the argument. What's important isn't "winning," but what you, and the other people involved, plan to do next.
11. Remember that nobody is in charge of your happiness except you.
While some work environments are inherently difficult, if you're consistently miserable it's your fault. You owe it to yourself and your coworkers to either find a job that makes you happy or make the best of the job you've got.
12. Smile and laugh more frequently.
Contrary to popular belief, smiling and laughter are not the RESULT of being happy; they're part of a cycle that both creates and reinforces happiness. Find reasons to smile. Never, ever suppress a laugh.
13. Don't waste precious energy on malice and gossip.
Before you tell a story about anybody else, or listen to such a story, ask yourself four questions: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it kind? 3) Is it necessary? and 4) Would I want somebody telling a similar story about me?
14. Don't worry what others think about you; it's none of your business.
You can't mind read and you don't have everyone else wired into a lie detector. Truly, you really have NO IDEA what anyone is REALLY thinking about you. It's a total waste of time and energy to try.
15. Remember that however bad (or good) a situation is, it will inevitably change.
The nature of the physical universe is change. Nothing remains the same; everything is, as the gurus say, transitory. Whether you're celebrating or mourning or something in between, this, too, will pass.
16. Trash everything in your work area that isn't useful or beautiful.
Think about it: you're going to spend about a third of your waking adult life at work. Why would you want to fill your work environment--and that part of your life--with objects that are useless and ugly?
17. Believe that the best is yet to come, no matter what.
When my grandmother was widowed in her 70s, she went back to college, traveled across Europe in youth hostels, and learned Japanese painting, among many other activities. The last thing she told me was: "You know, Geoffers, life begins at 90."
READERS: What additional rules should be on this list? (Leave a comment!)