It is the 1st of May today, so let me begin by wishing everyone a Happy International Workers’ Day! Inspired by this special day in May, which is focused on work and labour (also known as Labour Day in some countries) and the fact that it celebrates the achievements of workers, I have written a blog on how you and I, can become more successful at work.
Labour Day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. So it is without any doubt, that being successful, does not necessarily mean working harder or longer, eight hours a day should be sufficient enough to get you on the road to success. In this blog, I will be explaining how being happy, majorly determines your success and productivity at work, so here it goes..
I must admit, working long days and shifts lately has made me sceptical about what really makes us happy during working hours but also what makes us successful in our careers throughout our lives. My so far research has revealed to me that hard work and success do not necessarily make us more happy and resilient, and that actually it is the exact opposite… It is the people who are happy at work that produce more, accomplish more, earn more and are more successful! The happier we are, the more we learn and develop and the more creative and innovative we are. In other words, success does not come before happiness; happiness comes before success.
When we are happy both in and out of our workspace, we care more about our learning and continuous improvement at work, we strive for success and want to receive a sense of achievement from our work, and we even look for ways to be more creative and innovative.
I’m sure you are asking yourself: ‘But why should I even bother being happy at work?’. And asking yourself this makes total sense – Why should you be ‘jumping for joy’ when it comes to a job? For most of us, going to works signifies another stressful day that we have to get through. A day where we have to get to somewhere on time, to work for at least eight hours, sitting at a miserable desk or hiding behind a computer screen. Perhaps, only the idea of this makes you tired and you’ve already started counting down the minutes until it’s time to leave work and go home.
Sounds familiar? Well, I’ve been there! But honestly approaching work like this in the long term will ‘kill’ you. It will not contribute to your positivity or growth, it will bring you down psychologically and most importantly it will not make you successful in the long term.
It is, therefore, important to be concerned with your happiness at work. People who are happy at work are healthier, learn and achieve more, generate better and more creative ideas, achieve goals faster, achieve greater success, interact better with colleagues and bosses, get more support, earn more and get promoted faster, maintain an open and innovative mind. And let me remind you that it is your personal happiness that leads to every one of the positive outcomes, not the other way around. Happiness is the precursor to success, not the result, and that together with optimism is what fuels success.
So what must you do to be happy?
First of all, you have to believe in yourself. The smartest way to get happy is to actually believe you can be happy. Envision what happiness looks like and start acting like you are already happy and successful in life. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just ask yourself what your end goal is. Once you believe that it is possible to reach your final destination, then you are almost halfway there.
Now you actually believe that you are or can be happy, you can start training yourself and adapting your mindset to this belief. Remember that Happiness is a science and having a ‘happy mindset’ does not come easy. You have to actively work on it and cultivate your brain to serve you in the way you want and need. As Shawn Achor says: ‘Waiting to be happy limits our brain’s potential for success, whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative and productive, which drives performance upwards’. You can do this by looking out for the positives. Try to think of the reasons you like your job. What was it that attracted you to it in the first place? Try to identify a few things that give you pleasure. Try to find joy and meaning in what you do (whether this involves dealing with numbers and figures or people) and think about the results your role specifically brings. Reminding yourself that you are helping others, or that you are contributing to a greater cause might just be that motivational boost you are missing.
I’ve often spoken about how we should avoid over-analyzing, but sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and calmly think about a current situation. This is particularly useful when feeling stuck or when unsure of the steps we need to take next, in order to find personal and professional happiness. For example, I mentioned contribution above, but we must remember ‘contribution’ has two dimensions. It may useful to analyse what we contribute to work and what work contributes to us. What do you bring to work? Do you feel valuable to the company? Happiness can be built through the sense of security, freedom to raise issues, having clear objectives and achieving goals at work. But it also is important that we feel acknowledged and appreciated. Do you feel like you are listened to? Do you feel like your boss respects you? Think about whether you are receiving positive feedback or whether you receive thanks for what you do. If you do not feel validated for who you are and what you bring to the table, then you won’t be feeling energised, motivated or happy in any way.
We have to accept that success and happiness do not come easy. You have to work hard for it, you have to be consistent and you have to remain dedicated. As Theodore Issac Ruben says ‘Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best’. You also have to accept that there will be disappointments and moments of failure on the way. After all, as Napoleon Hill once said ‘most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure’. I just want to make it very clear here, that failure is not the opposite of success as most people believe, but it is actually the stepping stone to success.
They say that success cannot be measured because it lies within those you have helped. Despite this, we can be sure of one thing: that a successful person is one that touches people’s lives. Therefore, it is always good to try to put in the effort to make someone’s day a better one, especially in the workplace. You can start by bringing happiness to your employees, your colleagues or even your managers. Helping others find joy and meaning in what they do, doesn’t only benefit the profit margin of the company you work for, but also you personally. To do this, you need to support them, appreciate them, listen to them and empower them to use their strengths. A simple joke is powerful enough to spread laughter and excitement across the room. After all, creativity is vital to business success but creativity cannot thrive in a negative environment.
Lastly, allow me to say that the only obstacle to reaching true happiness in your workplace is the belief that you are a prisoner of a circumstance, a situation or a condition. Remember that you are responsible for your own levels of happiness. You have much more room for manoeuvre than you think. Self-awareness is an essential first step. If you are so unhappy at work and you have exhausted all the possible ways to make things better, then there are always other choices and jobs you can go for. Remember it is good to persevere, but don’t be a fool: if something clearly isn’t working then it’s time for something else. So make a change, take a risk, do something different. You will adapt to the change sooner than you think, and you might just find yourself in a happier place. Jessica Pryce writes ‘If you continue to put up with what you always had, that is what you will always get. And if we all do that, nothing will change.’
If you are taking anything away from this blog, it must be a reminder that you are not always powerless before the things that happen to you. Sometimes to change your job, all you need to do is change the way you think about it, the way you approach the tasks you have to complete and the people you interact with on a daily basis. If over time you don’t start to feel different about matters, then you can always move on to a new challenge. Remember that life has a plethora of opportunities to offer, you just have to be brave enough to walk down new paths which may lead you to unexpected directions. This is how growth takes place and how true happiness occurs.