Most of us spend over half our waking days at work. And too many of us consider it a necessary sacrifice, something we're required to do to provide for ourselves and our families and make it possible to enjoy the time we have for ourselves.
That attitude needs a rethink.
What if the workplace could make you happier? Wouldn't it give everything a positive new perspective? The Dali Lama has said, "Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions."
If you're in an abusive or truly dead-end work environment, then working to get out is your best source of happiness--and more power to you in that effort. But for the vast majority of workers, there are daily actions you can take to make yourself happier.
Here are 25 of the essentials:
1. Take charge of your own growth. Growth, it's been said, is the only evidence of happiness. Every day you always have a choice--you can either step forward into growth, or step backward into safety.
2. Make feedback a gift. Most people dread feedback because they equate it with criticism and negativity. But if you can retool your thinking to treat feedback as a gift you can accept with best intentions, you can transform it into something positive.
3. Make fun a part of your day. Even if your work is serious, don't forget the importance of fun. Do what you can to bring fun into work. One of my clients got a popcorn maker for the office, and now every Wednesday at a designated time they make fresh popcorn and spend some time relaxing and connecting. Even 15 or 20 minutes can make a lot of difference.
4. Have a mentor who can advise you. Everyone deserves and needs a mentor. Having someone more experienced to turn to helps you step outside your own perspective and makes challenges far less challenging. It's frustrating and unproductive when you're expected to figure everything out by yourself--try to get someone in your corner with knowledge and experience. And for even more happiness, connect a colleague with a suitable mentor.
5. Collaborate as much as possible. Thinking on your own is great, but bouncing and brainstorming your ideas off others is better. Working in silos is rarely the most productive approach. The happiest and most effective workers are part of a great team. Think of ways you can collaborate with others to feel happier and more supported.
6. Notice who you spend your time with. Notice the people who are happy for your happiness and sad for your losses. These are the people who deserve your time and the ones who will bring you joy. Time spent in the presence of such people will always increase your store of happiness.
7. Connect with what your work really means. Work is a grind when all you have to show for it is enough money to pay your bills. If you can connect with the big picture of what you're doing--no matter what it is--may bring more satisfaction to your life. There's an old story of three bricklayers who were asked what they were doing. "I'm laying brick," said the first. "I'm making a wall," said the second. The third worker smiled and said, "I'm building a cathedral."
8. Keep a source of inspiration within reach. To help you through the tough and uninspired times, keep something close at hand that will bring you happiness and connection. It may be a photo of your family or a mentor, a book or a collection of quotations that speak to you.
9. Declutter your space. To be productive, you need to be organized, and to be truly organized, you need to declutter. A clean work space, a tidy desk and an orderly environment can help you energize yourself to start new and exciting tasks.
10. Give help without being asked. Often the people most in need of help have the hardest time asking for it. Make a practice of offering to help someone who appears to be struggling whether they ask for it or not. And remember to model positive behavior by asking for a hand when you need one.
11. Make mindfulness a full-time state of mind. Mindfulness allows you to surrender to what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be. Stay focused and in the moment to make the most of your days, whatever you're doing.
12. Get physical. Physical exercise will not only help you stay healthier and live longer, but it's also one of the most dependable mood boosters. Even a 10-minute walk can brighten your outlook.
13. Don't let anger steal your happiness. Don't let little things anger you and rob you of your happiness. Save your anger for significant injustices and situations where you can help make a difference.
14. Remember that you're valuable. One of the best ways to cultivate happiness is to remember how valuable you are--simply because you exist, not because of what you've done or what you can do, but because of the unique set of gifts and traits you bring to the world.
15. Spend time with open-minded people. People who appreciate multiple perspectives and are open to change are the best companions you can have. They'll inspire you to open your own mind in turn and be receptive to new ideas, new experiences, and new people.
16. Concentrate on focused action. Don't fall into the error of thinking happiness is mostly a matter of inborn temperament. Genetic, cultural, and environmental predisposition is a factor, but an estimated 40 percent of your happiness level is entirely within your control. Taking time to reflect and making conscious steps to make your life happier really does work.
17. Try to simplify what seems complicated. Don't overthink the sources of your happiness. Discovering what--and who--makes you happy can make everything much more simple.
18. Take your lunch breaks. Don't just grab something to eat--make a break in the middle of the day to truly nurture yourself. Leave your desk and have lunch with friends, take a walk, visit a park or museum.
19. Tune in. As much as you're able, listen to music. The right music can help you concentrate, find a rhythm for work, and even (when you need it) escape.
20. Learn something new every day. Those who do new things―whether it's learning a game, traveling to an unfamiliar place, or anything in between―are happier than people who stick to familiar things they already know how to do.
21. Stay agile and flexible. Success today requires the ability to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react and reinvent yourself every day. Stay loose and limber in your thinking and be open to change.
22. Get enough sleep. Every day, we're learning more of the bad effects of sleep deprivation--everything from memory loss to weight gain. Simply getting enough sleep will help you maintain a higher level of happiness.
23. Remember that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Let go of the thinking that failure is the worst thing that can happen, because that thinking keeps you safe in a corner. Be bold and tackle daunting goals and tasks with grace--even knowing that you may fall flat on your face at first.
24. Take small breaks. Short breaks and mindful quiet times calm your thinking and ultimately keep you more productive.
Make your days count. Every day we have the opportunity to be happy, to make a difference, to live life to the fullest and to wildly succeed. It's up to each of us to choose the things that make us happy and bring us joy.