Work Doesn’t Have to be a Burden

“People in the United States work to live at 65,” may well be one of the most profound statements I have heard in my lifetime. My daughter said this after spending seven months in Asia. Her account caused me to think about how we are living the precious life we have.

The majority of us have to work, but that doesn’t mean it should be a burden. Take all-star quarterback Tom Brady for example. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time; he could easily transition into broadcasting which would be much kinder to his body. But after watching him in a pre-Superbowl interview, I quickly realized why he hadn’t. In the interview, Brady explained that he loves what he does, his coach, and the fans. He adores the game. Why would he leave something he is great at and loves?

Unfortunately, survey after survey suggests that Brady is in the minority. The 2017 Mind the Workplace report, released by the Mental Health America (MHA) nonprofit and The Faas Foundation, surveyed more than 17,000 U.S. workers in 19 industries. They found that 71% of employees were either “actively looking for new job opportunities” or had the topic on their minds “always, often or sometimes.”

It appears my daughter’s take on the American workforce is accurate. Work has become merely the means to an end. Otherwise, why on earth would a staggering 71% of people continue to work in a job that does not make them happy let alone fulfilled?

Virgin Founder, Richard Branson, says, “In my everyday life, balance is what stops me from burning out. I don’t see work and play as separate – it’s all living.” Branson’s take on life is something we can all learn from.

Now you might be thinking it easy for guys like Richard Branson and Tom Brady to be happy with their careers – they are rich. Remember it was my daughter’s experience in Asia, where poverty is the norm, that suggested we are working to live at 65. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking, “When I have a nice house, and a new car, then I will be happy.” But in reality, happiness is possible for all of us, right now.

While employers can do things to increase work satisfaction, the primary responsibility for experiencing happiness at work lies within each of us. Finding ongoing happiness in our work life is achievable, but, takes practice. Start with these three habits.

Unite your values to your work. These can include being gracious to others, encouraging others, working with integrity, being a role model for your children, and providing for your family. Weaving your values into your work life can give greater meaning to your job.

Exercise happiness at work. It sounds simple, but can be difficult to put into action. We all want to have the best employer or manager, but, we may not. There is an old saying “whether you look for the good, or look for the bad, you will find it.” Dwell on the parts of your work you enjoy, and avoid negative people and gossip.

Don’t save gratitude for the “big” things in life. The habit of gratitude starts with recognizing you can be thankful for the small stuff alongside the big stuff. Even if it is as simple as being grateful for a sunny day, a good parking spot, or the free breakroom coffee, don’t leave anything out when practicing gratitude.

Taking small steps each day to prioritize our lives and perhaps change our attitude can significantly increase our happiness. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” The good news is, we can decide to be happy at work. I would even venture that practicing happiness at work could bring us opportunities we may not have had otherwise.

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