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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

5 Practical Ways to Feel More Joy in Your Job

“Job” and “joy” have one letter between them, but for many they’re like chalk and cheese, oil and water, or snakes and mongooses.

And yet people do experience joy in their work. They’re the people who regale you with tales of how much they love what they do and make you feel bad because you don’t leap out of bed on a Monday morning.

Your mind might spring to the likes of Oprah and Richard Branson, but joyful work isn’t exclusively for the super-rich and super-successful. A high school teacher who loves helping kids develop their talents will find joy in his job. An art director will find joy through shaping a creative vision and seeing it come to life. And a bank clerk who loves people will find joy in her work when she treats customers like human beings instead of commodities.

Here are five ways to feel more joy in your work.

1. Don’t Be an Island

When you’re hating on your job, there’s a tendency to withdraw from the people you work with. You don’t chat with them because you don’t even want to be there. You don’t ask about them because you don’t care. And you don’t laugh with them because you just want to get your work done and get home.

Time and time again, polls have shown that the people you work with are the number one reason for loving a job. So disconnecting yourself from people will not only deprive you from human connections that can provide some much needed relief, support, and joy, but it’ll also do real damage to your happiness prospects and self-esteem.

Say hey. Be interested. Smile. Offer help. Not because you have to, but because there’s more fun to be had when you’re part of a community.

2. Accept Responsibility

Sometimes the last thing you want to do is raise your hand and take on responsibility, especially when you have a full plate already. But if you’re not responsible for something, you’ll feel like a tiny, insignificant cog in a big machine.

When you side-step responsibility for the contribution you make, you also side-step the inherent value you get from it.

More than a sense of a “job well done,” taking and accepting responsibility is the only way you can really see your contribution. Whether you played a small role in a big project or were leading a complex program of work, you have an impact. Maybe you offered a dependable, ever-present skill that helped things along. Maybe you had an idea for a better way of doing things. Or maybe you listened to people and made the best choices you could.

Whatever your contribution, own it.

3. Don’t Play Games

You know why politicians don’t give straight answers? It’s because they want to avoid responsibility (see above), want to get their own way, and want everyone to like them. It’s an extraordinary combination of self-interest that isn’t just seen in Washington and Westminster, but in offices everywhere.

Office politics will eat you alive if you let them. From building your empire at the expense of others to being sure to cover your own ass and assign blame elsewhere to only showing the sides of you that you think will earn the most favor, politics is all about the detail of your own agenda and never about joy.

Watch for the politics. The little jabs and comments that might draw you in. Occupying yourself with image over value. Getting distracted by ego and agendas rather than doing great work.

Find joy in playing tennis, Trivial Pursuit, or Candy Crush by all means. Just don’t play at politics.

4. Engage

Resisting, fighting, or struggling against your job is only going to strip away any possibility of enjoyment. Even though you may not enjoy your job a whole lot, why spend your energy flapping your wings against the bars of the cage when you can make things so much easier?

I get it, sometimes work sucks and you’d rather not be there. But even then, choose to struggle, and that will be your experience. Choose to hate your job, and that will be your experience. Choose to fight against where you’re at, and that will be your experience.

You don’t have to bury or ignore your dislikes, but you don’t have to let that stuff dictate what happens. Just engage with it. Embrace it. Throw yourself into it, and you’ll create an environment where joy can happen.

5. Follow the Energy

It’s so hard to feel any kind of joy, pleasure, or even satisfaction when you’re run down, uninspired, and unmotivated. So sometimes, you gotta go where the joy is.

Ask to get involved in that project that you’ve been eying jealously because it’s looks like it really might be something special. Apply a strength or talent (creativity, empathy, problem solving) in your work rather than leaving those things at the door. Or sometimes this might mean retraining, reskilling, or making a move into a company or a career that really lights you up.

The point is, life’s too short to not experience joy in your work. It doesn’t have to be there every day, and it shouldn’t be something that you expect to be provided (like free biscuits or a 401k), but joy is something you can feel more if you only choose to make it a priority.

Photo of Ford quote courtesy of Shutterstock.