A recent survey asked adults in the US:
How happy would you say you are with your current job?
- 23% are very happy
- 35% are happy
- 31% are neither happy nor unhappy
- 7% are unhappy
- 5% are unhappy
This post is for anyone in the bottom half. Even those in the middle and maybe even those that are just “happy”.
There are a number of reasons that you could feel unhappy or out of control of your work life.
Here are a few tips for finding ways to improve your situation:
1. Values & Goals
The first step to taking control of your work life, and really your life in general, is to understand what you want. To understand what matters most to you.
Many people are at work right now just kind of floating through life. They’re going through the motions because life’s circumstances have kind of taken them to this point.
They’re like a ship lost at sea. Just going with the current.
If you want control of your career you need at least an idea of a destination.
Start by thinking about your life. The things that matter most. That make you most happy. That you do for self enjoyment. Also consider what brings out the most emotion in you.
These will help you discover your values.
For goals, start thinking about people and what they have achieved. Then see if your values align with the goal of doing what they have done.
It’s a simple exercise, but many people don’t do it and they end up unhappy or unfulfilled at work. They blame others when really they have no idea what their destination is.
2. Criticism, Approval-Seeking
Criticism is a major aspect of work. In many jobs you’re paid to get the job done. No excuses. You’re rarely given a pat on the back for doing your job. That’s what your paycheck is for.
But if you screw up just once you can bet you’ll hear about it.
This is just the nature of work. But a very important part of work is to not let criticism deter you from getting to your goal.
If you let criticism get to you too much you’ll usually do one of two things.
First, you’ll avoid anything new or anything that might lead to criticism. But that won’t lead you forward in any way.
Second, you’ll only do the things you think your boss and coworkers will approve. These may align with your goals, but not always. The better path is to focus on your goals and path to get there and let approval follow.
3. Negative & Energy-Draining Coworkers
If you’re agreeable then chances are your coworkers could be draining your energy. I know because I’m a fairly agreeable person. I let people spew their verbal diarrhea at me when they’re just venting.
It’s energy-draining. It doesn’t accomplish anything other than making me resentful.
There are also instances when people will come to you with their complaints. Or their pity parties. Or their gossip. Just negative talk in general.
If you find yourself in this situation I find that the only thing you can really do is distance yourself however you can. Avoid the person. Change your routine. Wear headphones if you sit close to them.
You could be direct and tell them. That might work like a bandaid, but it could also severe the relationship and lead to backlash within the company.
4. Solutions, Complaining & Validation
Now flip the mirror back onto yourself. Do you look for solutions to problems at work or do you complain and look for validation?
Many people complain because it feels good. It makes their feelings validated. It’s approval in a way.
For example, you may discover that you’re not getting bonuses this year. You could complain to coworkers and feel good in the short-term with the common stance.
Or you could figure out why you didn’t get a bonus. Was there more you could have done? Maybe there are other opportunities available where you could get a bonus.
Focus on solutions more than dwelling on issues at work.
Let’s end with one that can bog down your entire career: grudges.
Grudges accomplish nothing other than holding you back from achieving your goals.
In all honesty, the person you’re holding a grudge against probably doesn’t care about you or your life. They’re doing their own thing and are probably oblivious to how they’ve “wronged” you.
You don’t have to forgive and forget, but you do have to let go. Whatever you have to do. Shout it off a cliff. Write a letter to them and then burn it.
Whatever it takes to move on and focus your energy on your goals.
The big takeaway for this topic is to figure out what you control in your situation. It’s easy to focus on what you don’t control. That way you don’t have any real responsibility for changing the situation. You are free to complain and use excuses because you don’t control certain things.
But if you really want the situation to change it’s time to flip the script. Focus on the things above and the other areas you can change.
You’ll be happier, and probably more successful, if you do.