I’ll be the first to admit that being happy is one of the things I’ve failed to do consistently throughout my professional career.
Since I began working full-time, my agenda in business was to push myself further along the road to perceived success. Things like what I was earning, what title I had, and how my resume was being shaped were the primary measuring sticks of what I deemed “worth my time.”
However, with these checkpoints charting the course for me, I was always left feeling empty. Like something was missing. Never truly fulfilled or proud of my profession apart from when a pay increase or title change was recently enacted.
Here are 17 things that shifted my state from discontent to serenity:
1. Learn how to be your #1 fan
As we receive recognition, we unconsciously set an expectation for when it’s going to occur again. Unfortunately, it’s rarely forecasted correctly — leaving us frustrated by our own accomplishments. If you’re brutally honest with yourself however, you’ll realize that the only opinion that matters regarding your performance is your own, as you’re the only one who can affect your performance. Stop holding your breath for applause and go create it for someone else. You’ll find that it feels even better.
2. Shift your relationship with work from a transaction to an investment
We sometimes get sucked into believing it’s simply a financial trade between employee and employer. But it’s more than just getting paid — it’s about building personal equity. Your dreams won’t be fulfilled by a few thousand dollars. They’ll only come to fruition by becoming who you always thought you could be.
3. Cherish the little things
Have a good friend at the office that you’re able to cut up with daily? Maybe you have the freedom of autonomous decision-making or creation. Whatever it is, don’t gloss over what’s priceless. Against the illusions of fantasy that a “dream job” may impress upon us, the underpinned luxuries get stepped on like a freshly bloomed flower. Wake up and smell the roses.
4. Don’t wait to communicate
Feeling good about the work you’re doing often has to do with a stamp of approval. Instead of waiting for a monthly or quarterly meeting, proactively communicate what you’re working on, the progress you’re seeing, and what you intend to tackle next. You’ll feel a lot better once you release your status and intent — as opposed to anxiously awaiting when you’ll get the platform to showcase your value.
5. Make yourself your only competition
The problem with comparing your performance to others is you never really know how much better you’re becoming. With most companies moving toward a year-over-year or same-store sales focus, your best checkpoint for growth is your prior results. You’re making a far bigger impact finishing 5th and growing 30% than finishing first and growing 15%.
6. Trust that your best is good enough
As a former perpetual worrier, I know how crippling it is to constantly be concerned with where you stand. I often created all these wild scenarios where my superiors were questioning how suitable I was for my role and none of it was actually happening. All that was happening was I was robbing myself of pride and enjoyment in my work.
At some point, you’ve got to let go of the vine and let your best be what it’s meant to be.
7. Commit to something to stand for
Unless you work remotely, you probably interact with people on a daily basis. Within the realm of this gift, you can make your work more meaningful by deciding what you’re going to stand for with your co-workers. As you head into the office, choose something to embody that everyone you come in contact with will feel. And with each person, your commitment — honesty, support, sincerity, appreciation, love — shows up.
8. Play the long game
Most the companies you rely on daily to fulfill your needs, like Google and Amazon, started small and were committed to the long haul. As Tony Robbins says, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a decade.” Dream as big as you can, but give yourself ample space and time to mold your masterpiece.
9. Ask others what they need help with
By focusing on others and not ourselves, we give ourselves a break from our own minds. We stay in reality instead of reciting an internal narrative about what we perceive is going on with work. The act of simply offering to assist someone else is often met with openness, appreciation and a little bit of surprise — all precursors to the ever-elusive state of happiness.
10. Get paid based on your results, not just your time
Payroll is most companies’ largest expense. So unless there’s a gap between what’s trending and what the benchmark is, you probably won’t be getting the raise you feel you desperately deserve. Moreover, base pay rate increases often don’t have lasting effects and you’ll soon be focused on what’s next. Where you’ll be far more successful is leveraging incentive plans that pay you out as you exceed certain budgets or metrics. Hang around this arena when negotiating your compensation and find something more gratifying to chase.
11. Master your mind
If we’re not careful, our minds can lead us to believe all kinds of wild banter about our jobs and what we should be doing in life. The second something happens that we feel shouldn’t be happening, our minds blow it of proportion. Staying present to the tricks we play on ourselves that sabotage our happiness is just as important as happiness ensuing in the first place.
12. Change what you talk about
The subject of your daily chatter at the office can actually dictate how invested you feel in your work. Surface-level conversations breed surface-level results. Dive deeper into your discussions (even at lunch when you don’t have to) and you’ll experience a rising level of fulfillment.
“Weak minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
13. Focus on the small, daily victories
In many businesses, a lot can go wrong in the span of a day. Blown sales, lost accounts, pissed off customers — it’s always something, isn’t it? Given this reality, we must stay disciplined in the acknowledgement of the minor wins, however small they may appear. This is not to compare with or put in place of a major roadblock; it’s simply to continue charting progress. One meaningful conversation can change someone’s day — hell, even their career. Seek these defining moments in the midst of adversity and offset the despair you’ll otherwise create for yourself.
14. Welcome challenges as a way to shape your future
In physical fitness, we grow our muscular system stronger by deliberately tearing it down and building it back up. When it comes to our professional growth, the tear-downs are often dropped at our doorstep. The difference is in if we view it as a setback from us being comfortable or an opportunity to grow stronger.
“Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth” — Mike Tyson
15. Create a new stability within uncertainty
As a cognitive function of our brain, we like to have everything buttoned-up with our work or we end up taking it home with us. Giving up this idealized sense of closure is critical to realizing your true happiness in your business. There will always be an outstanding issue, a disgruntled employee, a detracting customer. I’m not saying don’t do anything about it but address it during office hours. Get comfortable not knowing what’s going to happen and give yourself credit for your prior experience with adversity.
16. Stop defining yourself by your job
Who you are is not what you do. The more we identify with our work, the more fixed we feel within our identities. While that certainty may feel empowering for a period of time, you’ll eventually begin feeling trapped. Take up activities and interests beyond your primary means of income. You’ll diversify your portfolio as a person and leave the door open to all kinds of interesting possibilities for the future.
17. Take full advantage of the best minds around you
Unless you’ve just created a one-man start-up in your garage (applause), you probably have some very wise minds around you. Don’t sit back and miss the opportunity to learn what took them years to understand in a matter of minutes. Ask questions, learn best practices and gain valuable insight. And don’t just limit your inquiry to the CEO, President or Board of Directors.Anyone that’s performed well for a substantial amount of time did so with a reason .
Find out what it is.
Originally published on The Maverick.