Happiness For Dummies
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Are you a person who loves they do? This is important if you are trying to be truly happy. After all, working is what you do with a good chunk of your day.

Sandra has been a school teacher for 30 years. When she started in the early 1970s, teaching was relatively easy — children respected their teachers and did what they were told. Having kids stay on task — for example, learning multiplication tables or how to diagram a sentence — wasn’t all that difficult. The pay wasn’t great but, as far as society was concerned, teaching was classified as a “high-value” occupation.

That isn’t the case anymore! Sandra has to struggle with the kids every school day, from start to finish, all in an effort to educate them. The kids show her little respect; they often don’t comply with simple requests; and, there are constant disruptions.

So, how is it that at age 57 Sandra continues to love teaching? According to Sandra, “I suppose a lot of it has to do with the fact that I really believe these are good kids and their behavior is not their fault — most of it has to do with how they’re raised. I’m actually a pretty good teacher. I guess I just love what I do — simple as that.”

Peter, on the other hand, doesn’t love what he does for a living. Peter is a high-priced architect and a senior partner in a major firm. He’s so accomplished at what he does that he enjoys the respect of his peers in the community and has amassed a considerable amount of wealth as a result of his labors.

So, why is Peter unhappy? All it took was asking a few key questions: Peter had been succeeding at a career that wasn’t of his choosing. All the men in Peter’s family going back four generations were architects and, like it or not, that was his destiny. What Peter really wanted to be was a big league baseball player — which was not completely fanciful given his natural athletic abilities.

But his family reasoned that there was too much uncertainty associated with a sports career (not all good ball players make it) and, in their opinion, it wasn’t a serious, respectable profession. Peter was outnumbered, so he gave in and that was the beginning of a lifetime of unhappiness at work.

Do you love your work? If not, consider the following:

  • Don’t think of your job as an all-or-nothing thing. Break it down into its various components — meetings, sales, dealing with subordinates — and focus on those activities that you enjoy most. That’s where you should be spending most of your time.

  • Think of your work relative to the other aspects of your lifestyle. One reason that Sandra enjoyed her work was that it provided escape from major stresses in her home and family life. As she said, “It’s a refuge from all that other stuff that I just don’t want to deal with right now.”

  • Consider the alternatives — if you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Believe it or not, no matter how much you dislike your job, there’s always something worse out there!

  • Try to assign meaning to your work that goes beyond the routine aspects of your job description. All companies have a mission statement — find out what yours is and be part of that mission.

  • Get those parts of your job that you don’t love behind you early in the day. From there on out, it’s all downhill.

  • Make a conscious effort to increase the positivity ratio in your workplace.

  • Act as though you love what you do, even if you don’t. That’s right, fake it! You can empower yourself by putting a smile on your face.

  • Find a compatriot, a fellow traveler as you journey through the work day, preferably someone who loves her work more than you do. Who knows? Maybe her optimism and enthusiasm will prove contagious.

  • Start looking for a new job if you’ve tried everything you can think of to be happy at work and nothing works. Be optimistic and tell yourself that there’s a job out there somewhere that suits you better.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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