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How to be Happy at Work

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you can be happy at work if you make it a priority

The year is already in full swing, with the end of January almost here. After the mad rush of Christmas and the sultry heat of Summer holidays, getting back into work mode can be a challenge even for the most conscientious worker bee.  

As the beginning of the work year gains momentum now is a good opportunity to set some work life goals for the next 12 months as well as reassess if the way you spend your working day is actually aligned with your life and career goals. 

Does what you do fulfil you? If not, what changes can you make to your working life to ensure you are fulfilled. It could be a matter of looking at why you first decided to take a job at your current place of employment. Do those reasons still attract you or is it time to spread your wings and seek a more fulfilling role elsewhere?

A job doesn’t have to be your ‘dream job’ to be fulfilling, but it does have to be enjoyable at least some of the time. If you have at least a couple of colleagues who you enjoy spending time with, a boss who you respect and a sense of purpose within your role, this will often be sufficient to keep you satisfied. Or perhaps you are ambitious and have high expectations of yourself within your working life and want to work toward a senior role or perhaps move into an industry which fuels your interests and makes you more excited.

So many people stick with the same job for most of their lives because they don’t mind the office culture, get on well with most of their colleagues (and hopefully their boss), and resist the unpredictability of change. And if that’s you, that’s ok! But if you aren’t actually happy in your current role, you don’t have to stick it out, even if you have bills to pay and commitments to carry out. You are allowed to look ahead and decide what it is you want for your future, which may well be staying where you are (and perhaps improving your work conditions and tweaking your role into something you do enjoy), or getting well away from your current work situation. If it is the later, day-dreaming about ‘one day’ leaving, or putting up with a miserable work life (while grumbling about it) without putting into place an action plan to move on isn’t going to magic up a new career for you. However you CAN magic up a new career if you clarify what it is you want and then take steps toward making that a reality.

Ask yourself what is it you want out of your working life? What are your values and ideals? What causes do you care about? If you could go back in time, would you still pick the same path you’re currently on? Get clear on what you want to be doing with your life and set yourself some actionable goals to make it happen.

Short to long term solution:  Improve your daily work life while staying at your current job

  • Remind yourself of why you applied for the role in the first place. it’s easy to get jaded over time, but perhaps there is a reason you’re working where you are, and you just need to reignite your interest in your role and the part you play in the whole and what impact it has. 
  • Chat with you boss about working on projects you enjoy, including how you can have a sense of responsibility around certain roles within your job
  • Request to manoeuvre away from having to work with anyone you don’t get along with into roles which see you working with colleagues you enjoy working with
  • Work on improving your relationships and appreciation of those you have to work with.   Attend work social outings and cultivate friendships with colleagues. It makes a world of difference to your day if you actually like the people you spend it with. 
  • Request a pay rise.  Sometimes we just need a bit of financial encouragement to pick up our energy and keep on keeping on.  You may be asked to lift your game and achieve some goals before a pay rise is approved but it might just be the motivation needed to work smarter, be more accountable and therefore more committed.    
  • Seek out another role within the same place of employment, something fresh and new but with the familiar faces and systems you know.  It might just be add the spark that was missing before.  

Medium to long term solution: Find a new role elsewhere

  • Seek out a similar role but within a different company or organisation.  Utilise your exisiting skills set, but with a renewed outlook and a fresh perspective.  Meet new people and get excited again about what you can offer and what more you can learn.  
  • Alternatively seek out a different role altogether somewhere new.  Perhaps within the same industry so you can draw on existing skills and experience and not have too much of a dip in pay.  Or try something completely new, something that really interests you (understanding of course you'll likely have to work your way up the ladder again, and may have to accept a drop in the wage you've become accustomed to).  Perhaps a new fresh start is exactly what you need,  and the joy it brings and work satisfaction you experience is invaluable.  

High risk but potential long term solution: Start up your own business  

  • How good would it be to be your own boss where you call the shots, and do what you love? This is often ‘the dream’ of many people, but it’s not an easy path to tread in many cases and often requires people to stick to their current job for a few years while they navigate new territory and build the business. The reality is, starting up a new business has big risks but can also have big rewards including immense work satisfaction, but it’s not for everyone and in many cases can be more stressful than working for someone else. Keep in mind it can take a couple of years before a small business becomes profitable, if at all. Also be aware launching your own business may require additional training and course work in all the elements of running a successful business, which also costs time and money. But if it's something you want badly enough, you can make it happen if you equip yourself with the determination and focus required.  


Your happiness is ultimately up to you! 

At the end of the day, (and actually even more important at the beginning of the day!) YOU get to decide if you are going to enjoy your day or not, not your boss or colleagues. Regardless of what you do for a job, whether its cleaning toilets or managing a team of 50, you bring to your work experience your own perceptions and lense of experience based on your attitude. So while seeking out changes to your current work life will certainly help to improve your job satisfaction, you are responsible for how you respond to what happens during your day. Choose to be positive in the workplace, kind to your colleages, and find things to be grateful for within your working life. It will turn a mundane job into something enjoyable and an enjoyable job into a 'dream job'! 

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.