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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

4 Changes You Should Embrace if You Want to Enjoy Your Job More

Your Facebook newsfeed is full of updates from people who seem to be working at the most glamorous companies. One friend writes about traveling all over the world on her company’s dime, and another posts photos from a rooftop at a corporate-sponsored party. You on the other hand are, you know, working from your desk with a view of—your co-workers’ desks.

Why does everyone else seem to have all the fun while you’re stuck in a boring office doing a boring job?

As you know, social media is not real life. That friend who’s flying all over the world? I bet she’s not including that she works 100 billable hours a week and spends nearly all of her time at a hotel business center when she travels. And your other friend at that swanky rooftop party? He spent every night in the office until 10 PM for six weeks to land that account—and this is the first time he’s had a drink on a weeknight in months.

No, I’m not suggesting you feel better about yourself because your friends’ work lives secretly suck, too. But I am saying that all too often we only focus on the positives of our friends’ jobs and the negatives of our own. However, every position has its pros and cons. And rather than seeing the glass half-empty, I recommend embracing these four ideas. While they won’t make a horrible job awesome, they’ll help you gain a little perspective.

1. Take Ownership

Back in my childhood, I spent a summer selling lemonade for 10 cents. I made over $60 which, to a kid, feels like enough to buy the world. I loved the ownership I felt over my business. I set the pricing. I set the location. I set the hours. I was in charge and I loved it.

What does my lemonade stand have to do with your job? Well, that mindset is the secret to turning your 9-to-5 into something you can’t wait to get out of bed to do.

Instead of dreading each day as a series of assignments you have to complete, look at your position like it’s your own little business. You don’t run that report just because you have to; you run it because it gives you insight into your business. You don’t answer emails because your co-worker gets upset when you don’t respond right away—you answer them because that action drives your business forward.

When you remember that you’re steering the ship, you feel more like the smart, impactful person you are—and less like a cog in the machine. So, take some time today to decide what your business consists of as well as what goals it needs to reach this week, this month, and this year.

2. Practice Having Gratitude

According to Rory Vaden, author of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success, at any given time we are doing one of two things: We are either being grateful or not being grateful. It’s a simple concept, but it’s incredibly hard to put into place.

So let’s say one of your co-workers is difficult—OK, really difficult—to get along with. You could focus on how annoying it is to work with someone with such a different communication style.

Or, you could be grateful. Does she always have suggestions for how your projects could be different? Even if you like your way better, you’re probably learning new and different ways to share your thoughts. That’s something to be grateful for. Or maybe, she seems to to absolutely hate you. I bet your strengthening your people skills—and your patience—every time you work with her. That’s also something to be thankful for.

3. Have Perspective

Along the lines of reframing what could be seen as an obstacle, Tim Burton, the film director known for Alice in Wonderland, Beetlejuice, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, put it best: “It’s good as an artist to always remember to see things in a new, weird way.”

You may not be an artist, but you can adopt this idea. Instead of looking at your job as a “clock-in, clock-out” arrangement, choose to look at it as your art, and you’re there to constantly look at it in a “new, weird way.”

You’re not in billing simply to send out payment reminders; you’re there to keep the company afloat by protecting your cash flow. Or, if you work in finance, you’re not employed just to forecast and re-forecast indefinitely; you’re there to direct the decisions and strategy of a Fortune 500 company. Or, if you work in HR, you’re not going in each day simply to listen to people’s problems; you’re there to make someone else’s job better and more enjoyable. Instead of looking at what you’re doing, consider your impact.

4. Take Action

Maybe you’ve read this far, and you’re thinking, “I have a great attitude, but I still hate this or that aspect of my job.” I say: See if you can change it. If it’s something small like where the coffee machine is located, ask to move it. (Oh, and if that’s your biggest complaint, I’d then revisit point two, gratitude, because that’s a pretty great gripe in the scheme of things.)

If it’s something big like how your team operates, look for opportunities to make positive, optimistic, practical recommendations to management on how things can improve. (And to do that, you can start here or here.) You’ll gain a reputation as an innovator and someone who is solution-focused. If your suggestions are adopted, you’ll know you inspired change—and even if they aren’t, you’ll know you’re someone who works toward creating a positive work environment.

These are simple concepts—and they’re deliberately simple. Choosing to be grateful, looking at your job as your business, taking action when things aren’t great, and transforming your perspective are all things you can start today. So, if you think parts of your job are the worst, try putting them into a practice for a few weeks and see if you notice a change.

Photo of happy employee courtesy of Shutterstock.

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