Some of us are lucky enough to have a career that fascinates us. They may live to work.
However, there are many more who work to live. They just exchange labour for money.
That’s perfectly fine but it can mean being less than enthusiastic about work. And when the job takes up 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, it can quickly become a miserable experience.
If you aren't happy at work, check out this suggestion for you to be happier at work.
While there are lots of different psychological approaches to working on this problem, one of my favourite go-tos is Self Determination Theory.
What is Self Determination Theory?
Basically, this is a macro theory that suggests motivation relies on us having three things:
- Autonomy - having control over your own life.
- Competence - developing skills you are proud of and having them recognised
- Relatedness - being part of a team, or at least feeling connected to the people around you
Okay, now if Edward Deci and Richard Ryan ever see this over simplified summary of their forty odd years of research, they’d probably have fits. However, this is a simple blog post and it’s good enough for you to get started.
How do I use Self Determination Theory?
Look at your work and analyse your average month. Then ask yourself questions and use the answers to pump up your happiness potential.
Question 1: At what point in my work do I feel as if I’m Mistress of the Universe? Look for that feeling of control and purpose.
Question 2: What parts of my work mesh with my own beliefs about how life should be?
For example, suppose you work in a customer service centre and feel at the beck and call of faceless others. By asking these questions you might find that your core values include kindness and making a difference. If so, know that each time you help a customer, you are making the world a tiny bit better. If you shift perspective and tell yourself you really are spreading joy, work becomes more joyful.
Question 1: What do I do that’s fantastic?
Question 2: What do I do okay at that I want to become fantastic at?
Simply put: we love doing things we do well, and we often do well at the things we love. So when you pick a work skill and turn it into your super power, you will get a thrill every time you use that work skill. This pushes up your overall happiness level. Bonus: if you become a true skills ninja, you may be able to get a job you like better!
Question 1: Do I feel connected to the people around me? And if I don’t how do I make that happen?
For me this is a fundamental part of happiness. People who feel cut off from the world around them fall into despair. There’s no getting away from it: we need to feel connected, even if it’s only to one or two people.
So my advice is, if you can connect to the people you work with in a friendly way, you will feel happier about work. Make friends, and then spread your wings and start connecting with others in your field. LinkedIn is good for that!
If you want more
Like I said, this is a super short blog post that introduces one of the ways you can go about improving your happiness at work.
I’ve made it look like a simple 1-2-3 but clearly there’s a lot more to the theory and what goes into using it in therapy. This is a conversation starter; it’s not a substitute for proper professional help.
If you are stressed and depressed, and you need help, please do contact me