Recently I was watching the film Hector and the Search for Happiness and it got me thinking about how work can either be a source of happiness or contribute to a sense of unease or unhappiness with your life. There are a few quotes from the movie which I think should be examined in the context of your job and your overall happiness.
Making comparisons can spoil your happiness
Even if you work at a company that stack ranks it's employees, you are not your peers. While looking to others and their accomplishments can be a great source of inspiration, comparing yourself to others can also be an easy road to unhappiness.
Instead of comparing yourself to specific people, who may or may not have the same gifts and talents as you, figure out what achieving and exceeding your goals in *your role* means. This means sitting down with your boss and having a conversation about the expectations of your role and what your goals are. I highly recommend creating SMART goals.
Work towards achieving *your* goals and not towards being better than your peers. If you consistently achieve or beat your expectations it won't matter if you're better than your peers. You'll feel valued and appreciated and likely will be rewarded for your effort.
Many people only see happiness in their future
Are you one of those people that only seems to be happy if you know you're on track to a promotion or a particular set of responsibilities or ownership? Having an aspirational goal is great, but if it's the only source of happiness at work it's getting in your way more than it's helping.
What is getting in your way of being happy right where you are? Make a list of the top five things in your current job that are getting in the way of your happiness. Then create a set of goals for each one to affect real change in your current role.
For example: let's say you have a co-worker who is driving you nuts. They're overly critical of your work and you feel like they're targeting you in an unfair manner. Set a goal to try to dig deeper into the tension and try to see your interactions from *their* side. Be blunt and honest and tell them you feel tension and would like to resolve it. You'd be surprised how much unhappiness in your current situation is resolvable simply by bringing it up.
Fear is an impediment to happiness
What fear is causing you to dread going into the office? Is that fear rooted in reality? The typical work related fear I experience is not feeling like I am on the same par as my peers. I'm afraid that I have to work harder than them to get the same thing or less accomplished. But at the end of the day this fear usually turns out to be baseless.
I've found that the best way to root out fear at work is to work closely with your manager and your stakeholders and define what success looks like. Your manager should be able to paint a picture of what success in your role looks like. Very likely, this will start with a job description or some internal HR document that describes the necessities of your role. Talk with your boss about that and ask for specific examples of meeting those expectations or exceeding them in your current projects. You should do the same with your project stakeholders. Make sure that what you're planning to deliver is what they're expecting you to deliver.
You're likely going to spend 2000+ hours a year at work. Why not make it a source of joy?