How to Be Happy at Work? Here Are 12 Ways.

“Well, I hope you’re happy.”

We’re used to hearing that with a dose of sarcasm, but I really mean it. I hope you’re happy at home and at work. Today, I wanted to take a little break from the print and promotion issues I normally discuss, and share some thoughts about how to be happy at work to truly enjoy life and your job. You spend a lot of time at work, so if you’re not happy at work, you’re not happy, period.

These thoughts are based on an inspiring blog post I came across, written by a pastor from a church in Illinois. If you follow me on Facebook, you may recognize it—I shared it a few weeks back. The post basically talks about the things happy people do as they deal with daily life (and unhappy people don’t). I found it interesting and very relevant to the things most of us face in our careers. So I’d like to pass along his 12 points here. I’ve added a little “workplace” focus on each of them to help us all learn how to be happy at work.


  1. Focus on what you have and not on what you don’t have

This is a big one. Money, promotions, and titles are often the cause of jealousy and resentment. You are far better off than a huge percentage of people in the world. Chances are, that’s true in your company, as well. Look at the big picture, and be genuinely grateful. Instead of envying a few people “above” you, how about empathizing with a few million who are less fortunate. It will do the world, and you, a lot of good.

  1. Question the sources of your expectations

If you feel you “should do better” ask yourself why? The external appearance of someone else’s life, or what they tell you? You don’t know if it’s even true, or what else they might be dealing with. Media stories, or comments from friends and family that make you feel like an underachiever? Unrealistic expectations are guaranteed to make you miserable. By all means, try to be your best. Only compare yourself to yesterday’s you.

  1. Be generous

It really is better to give than receive. Studies have proven it. Unhappy people hoard their time, money and other resources. Happy people share them freely. At work, offer to help others when they need your expertise, or just an extra hand. Be a good listener. Be equally kind and helpful to those above and below you on the “organizational chart.”

  1. Remember, happiness is not a destination

If you are obsessed with a certain position, income, house, whatever, don’t expect to be happy once you get there. True happiness is learning to enjoy each day along the way. Little wins. Challenges overcome. Interactions with good people. Giving and receiving appreciation. You don’t arrive at happiness. You create it.

  1. If you don’t like your life, change it

Unhappy people whine and complain. But ironically enough, they are the only ones who can change things. In the workplace, happy people have problems, but work to resolve them through discussion and diplomacy. Want a promotion? Work harder or learn a new skill. Hate your job? What’s keeping you from finding one more to your liking? Yours are the only human hands on the steering wheel of your life. If you’re headed in the wrong direction, don’t use cruise control.

  1. Slow down

In any business, you’ll find people who are driven; workaholic to the extreme. They may appear successful, but they are not likely to be the happy ones. Truly happy people have more than one dimension. They allow themselves to like sports, pursue a hobby, or enjoy plenty of family time. This gives them more texture and makes them more interesting. That’s why they are likely the ones who rise to the top. And even if they don’t, they’re okay with that. Because they’re happy.

  1. Realize there are no shortcuts

These days, working hard doesn’t make you a hero; it keeps you employed. Sure, in most industries there are new tools and technologies that add efficiency. But if you aren’t willing to acquire the right skills, put in the time and show the dedication, success will be elusive. There are smart ways to work. But zero ways to avoid it.

  1. Stop feeling entitled

“Gee, I thought sure there’d be a bonus this year.” It is common to expect good things at your workplace. Whether it’s a promotion to an open spot, an improved schedule, added compensation for some achievement, people set themselves up for not only disappointment, but bitterness when those things don’t happen. It best to do your best, and expect only the agreed-upon return. Be happy with it. If a pleasant surprise arrives, be happier.

  1. Think significance

Give serious thought to the impact of what you do on other people, both at work and elsewhere. We feel our work matters, for example, because we help people balance their lives. Our work helps them save time in the workday so they can get out the door and home to the things and people that matter most.

  1. Forgive

Simple word. Critical message. For success and (more importantly) happiness, you must be able to get past slights and offenses, small and large, and keep your energy on moving forward. This includes the guy who took the last coffee from the pot, the boss who promoted your rival instead of you, and your rival, for that matter. Forgive yourself, too, for any past failings. Your career can set sail once you’ve cut loose all the anchors.

  1. A great attitude is a choice, not a disposition

Every time you walk into a room (and that includes business meetings, sales calls, and personnel activities) your attitude is a choice you make. You aren’t bound by being “naturally” anything, so don’t use that as a cop-out. Expect a great attitude from yourself every day. If it isn’t, fix it. Yes, you can.

  1. Speak life

I’ve saved the best one for last. You, and every single one of your co-workers, will be happier if you do it. When you speak, use words of encouragement. Uplift people, don’t tear them down. Happy people bring positive energy into every room. Smug, critical, sarcastic people aren’t happy, and others aren’t happy to see them. Give up clever. Go for kind.

One More Thought on How to Be Happy at Work

This wasn’t in the pastor’s article, but here’s a quote I heard long ago and never forgot. It’s been attributed to several people, including Ann Landers. But I think it belongs on the list above.

 There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who walk into a room and say “here I am” and those who walk into a room and say “there you are.”

I know which kind of person I’d rather be and work with. Do you have any other thoughts on how to be happy at work? I’d love to hear about. It’s an important topic, and I’ll share any I get in a future post. Just get in touch with me and let me know. It would make me happy. Seriously!

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