No matter how much you love what you do, staying happy and motivated at work can be a challenge. (And if you don't love what you do it can be a huge challenge!) It's something we all struggle with and, though I've written about it in my book, The Positively Present Guide to Life, I'm always looking for new resources and insights for how to keep the workplace positive.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Deborah Heisz, COO and co-founder of Live Happy magazine, about her advice for making the most of work. Keep reading for inspiration for making the most of your workday! (And if you don't work, don't worry — there are still tons great insights in the interview that you can apply to life at home or at school.)
- Staying positive at work can be difficult. What advice do you have for someone who struggles to stay positive at work?
Even though you may love what you do, in any job there will be moments when the printer breaks, your call is not returned or a key partnership falls apart. If you are handling a stressful situation or have been solving problem after problem all day, it’s helpful to just stop and take a breath. Sharon Salzberg, meditation expert and author of Real Happiness at Work: Meditation for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace, suggests using mindfulness, compassion and other forms of meditation to improve work life. She says that beginning a daily meditation practice that is as short as five minutes can be life changing. Sharon and other experts share tips in our latest issue of Live Happy to help everyone on the path to a more positive workplace.
Another important point is to focus on what aspects of your job are the most meaningful to you. If you interact with the public or clients, what can you do to feel you are making a difference in their lives or helping to make their day just a little bit better? Bringing a smile to someone else’s face can have a positive effect on your outlook as well.
- How you start the day can have a big impact on the rest of the day. What things can someone do to start his or her day off on a positive note?
Find a reason to be happy and positive when you wake up to start the day off on the right note. I like to think of something funny my children did or said the day before that makes me laugh. Exercise, even just 10 minutes’ worth, will get the blood flowing and set you on a course of making healthy decisions all day. Setting your priorities for each day the night before can also allow you to be present so your first couple hours of the day aren’t lost in chaos.
I enjoyed Amy Robach’s comment about this in our story on Good Morning America. She says that giving and receiving cheery greetings with co-workers each morning — even though the entire staff and crew starts their days very early — is exactly what she needs to feel positive from the minute she arrives at work. “The place is humming and alive,” she says, “and you just can’t help but be glad to be here.”
- You recently interviewed the Good Morning America team. What did you learn from them about making the most of a work day?
GMA is one of the most joyful and supportive workplaces I have ever seen. It’s clear that the staff loves what they do and that this contributes to a positive environment, as well as to their great sense of teamwork. Spending time with the GMA anchors made me realize that it is not just the light-hearted moments that convey positivity, but also the respect for every contribution made that builds trust and camaraderie.
- Not everyone loves what they do for a living. How would you recommend making the most of a not-so-great workplace?
It’s hard to believe that only 30 percent of all Americans are truly engaged and like their jobs. But for the other 70 percent, there’s a lot they can do to feel more satisfied and fulfilled at work and to create a better work environment. One of the easiest ways is to recognize that you can be a catalyst for change. Negative talk and gossip can impact your day to day experience, instead avoid those conversations and thank people, say good morning, share positive news.
Happiness, like negativity, can be contagious. You can be the person who brings everyone else in the office up instead of down. Shane Lopez, Ph.D., and Gallup senior scientist, says engagement at work is about more than happiness. It’s about being content with the work you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. He urges us to “take some control where you have it” and organize your day to make the most of it. Change your shift to work with people you enjoy and be curious about what other co-workers are doing who have a more positive outlook.
Ask a colleague about what he or she is working on that they are excited about. Thank someone for going above and beyond on an assignment or acknowledge a job well done to set a more positive workplace tone for everyone. And if you decide that you do really need a change, just starting to explore new options or signing up for a class to learn cutting-edge skills can help you feel less trapped and capable of moving beyond your current challenging situation.
- Sometimes coworkers can be tough to cope with. What advice do you have for staying positive around negative colleagues?
Practice mindfulness. Walk away from the negative unproductive gripe session. Shake off outbursts or tense exchanges by stepping away for a moment for perspective. Focus on your breath or take a walk away from pinging email and desk clutter.
Kerry Hannon, author of Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness, offers some great common sense tips we describe in-depth in our latest issue of Live Happy. One of the easiest and most useful tips from Kerry is to write down one thing you did well or that went right every day in a work journal. It’s easy to focus on that brusque comment or dismissal of your idea during a meeting or the printer that broke on deadline, but if you start focusing on the good, you’ll begin to notice that it’s been there all along.
Keeping a positive attitude isn't always the easiest thing to do during your work day, but if you take Deborah's insights on how to make each work day a bit happier and put them into practice, you'll find it easier to keep a smile on your face at the office. For more great insights on staying happy at work, check out LiveHappy.com/Work.
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