How to Be Happy (or Miserable) at Work
There's no question that bad stuff happens. When a close friend or family member dies, it's appropriate to feel grief. Similarly, good stuff happens. If you suddenly get an unexpected windfall, for example, it's appropriate to feel stoked.
Most of the time, though, the stuff that happens isn't dramatically positive or negative. It's just stuff that happens. Whether you let that stuff make you happy or miserable is entirely dependent upon your beliefs.
Everybody has beliefs about what events mean to them. In most cases, however, people assume those beliefs reflect objective reality and are therefore immutable Laws of Nature.
However, it's easy to observe that events mean different things to different people. For example, you might have two salespeople doing cold calls. One might believe:
- "Cold calling means meeting new people."
While the other might believe:
- "Cold calling means being rejected."
It's intuitive that the first salesperson will be more successful at cold calling because her beliefs will lead her to enjoy the process, while the second salesperson will see the task as misery-inducing.
What's really important about those two beliefs is the part that's not explicitly stated. In the first case, the implicit part is "...and therefore I feel happy." In the second case, the implicit part is "...and therefore I feel miserable."
This simple observation provides you with a powerful tool to ensure that you're consistently happy at work.
Every time you feel unhappy about something that happens, step back and ask yourself: "What is the belief that is generating the negative feeling I'm experiencing?" Identifying the belief gives you power over the emotion. Here's an example.
Earlier this week, I sent my book manuscript to the publisher and haven't heard back yet. While I know that book is the best thing I've ever written, I'm still nervous and anxious about it.
So I ask myself: "What is the belief that is making me miserable?" The belief is as follows: "If I don't get immediate praise from my publisher, it means that they don't like my book...and therefore I feel miserable."
The minute I wrote out that belief, I realized how ridiculous it was. The truth is that at this point I simply don't know what my publisher thinks and, furthermore, even if my publisher thinks the book sucks, I still know it's the best thing I've ever written.
More important, now that I've identified the belief that's causing the problem, I can overwhelm it with beliefs that have the implicit suffix "...and therefore I feel happy." For example:
- "Writing a book is a major achievement...and therefore I feel happy."
- "My book will help millions of people...and therefore I feel happy."
The other day, I was being interviewed by another writer, a guy who'd been nominated for a Pulitzer but was now doing a lot "corporate writing" (like white papers, ghosting blogs, etc.) in order to pay the bills. He wasn't happy about it. His belief was:
- "Corporate writing is boring and anonymous...and therefore I feel miserable."
However, I pointed out that companies really struggle hard to form messages that make sense to customers. I encouraged him to focus on a different belief:
- "Corporate writing is helping others be successful...and therefore I feel happy."
In other words, your attitude proceeds directly from whatever beliefs that you're choosing to emphasize. To be consistently happy, identify the beliefs that are making you miserable and replace them with beliefs that make you happy.
It's really that simple.
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GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist
Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.