How to Be Happy in Your Job

By Dr. Lee Jampolsky

Do you dread going to work each day and having to face the same problems? Have you noticed that the changes you make in your job or organization often result in only short-term fixes? Regardless of how you modify your approach, do old habits soon creep back in? Changing jobs or organizational structure without addressing your thinking is like painting over rust. It will look great for a while, but eventually the old rust will slowly break through the new paint.

There is now a solution to job dissatisfaction, stress, and lack of success — a simple solution based on research and thirty years of practical application that can be accessed any time, any where, and will not add to your to do list. The solution involves attitude changes that take five seconds to apply and anyone can do.

1. Know that how you react to a situation is up to you: Some people are happy with their jobs, while others are not. What’s the difference? Is one group just luckier than the other? Chances are that’s not the case. Those who are unhappy in their profession often feel dissatisfaction with a situation happening outside of their control (such as downsizing or a merger). But their unhappiness and stress actually began with their thoughts, fears, and perceptions about the downsizing. In other words, situations are completely neutral —it is our thoughts about the situation that lead to dissatisfaction. Hard to grasp and easier said than done? Sure, because fear can easily take over our thinking. As long as you believe you are a helpless victim you will not see a positive and effective response to every situation.

2. Know that fear, guilt, and worry hold everyone back: Countless people, from entry-level employees to CEO’s, make unsuccessful job changes each year because they either felt that they could not overcome their mistakes, or were overly worried and preoccupied about the future of their jobs. For example, Larry is a manager who had a poor performance review and is working for a company that reported less than stellar profits over the last three quarters. What would be the best use of this manager’s mental energy? Is beating himself up about his past mistakes and excessively worrying about his future going to lead to effective action and happiness? No.

Decide to stop wasting valuable time and mental energy being fearful, guilty, and worried. If you want to have solutions to job dissatisfaction and stress, ask yourself, “Is my current thinking taking me where I want to go, or perpetuating my unhappiness?”

3. Being a faultfinder does not create motivation for change: Randy was a vice president who was committed to creating growth for the insurance company he worked for. Randy inherited a department that was lackluster in morale and performance. In an effort to quickly improve the department, he immediately gave a motivational speech, citing the usual “we can all do it together” and “we have unlimited potential.” However, in the months to follow he began being critical, daily pointing out problems and what should be done differently. He was becoming a faultfinder. Randy spent more time on what was wrong in the past than on a positive approach to reaching a shared goal. He was critical of the previous manager, which didn’t give his current position a positive light. Even though he had the best of intentions, the department actually became less effective, and Randy became increasingly unhappy in his position.

With most companies and individuals, you can see that as stress increases, so does blame. Stress and fear feed off one another in a vicious cycle of fear that is difficult to break. Sometimes blame is toward others; other times it is self-directed. Break this cycle by knowing survival in your job and motivating others does not come from over-focus on what is wrong and who is to blame. When Randy applied this approach by being quick to extend help in a positive manner, rather than being a constant faultfinder, he improved relationships and productivity.

4. Making a change in the situation doesn’t always make things immediately better: The core of the solution to job satisfaction is knowing nothing needs to change in your job situation in order for you to have peace of mind. At first, such a notion may seem implausible. This idea is foreign to the typical way of thinking which states, “If you’re unhappy in your work, change something – change jobs, change the organizational structure, find a different career.”

Rather than giving into the thinking that tells you, “If you are not happy with your job, change something,” instead tell yourself, “If you are not happy with your job, learn something.” I have found that a key to a successful and satisfying career is to know that all situations have a lesson for us to learn. I have a commitment to myself to learn even from the situations I believe are not going as I want them to. This way there is no such thing as a “bad situation,” only “learning situations.” Know your job success and happiness is not dependent upon changing something, it is dependent on learning something.

The starting point to being happy in your job even when things aren’t going well is to decide to practice the simple wisdom outlined in this article. This is how you can shift from stressed-out and dissatisfied to clear, calm, and happy in your job — no matter what’s going on around you. As you, and the people you employ, discover the benefits from practicing these attitude changes, job satisfaction expands and takes everyone involved to new levels of innovation.

Dr. Lee Jampolsky is a psychologist and author of Walking Through Walls, Smile For No Good Reason, and Healing the Addictive Mind. He is a speaker and leader on creating a positive attitude, decreasing stress, setting and obtaining goals, motivating individuals and teams, and achieving peak performance. For free daily Words of Wisdom via email, or for more information on his keynote speaking and work, please call 831-659-1478.

[From the April/May 2005 issue of AnswerStat magazine]