State of mind and performance specialist and best-selling author Chantal Burns explains how you can be happy at work without trying
Want to feel instantly happier at work? Wish that people would stop being so irritating? Fed up of putting on your ‘game face’?
There are thousands of books dedicated to showing us how to be happy or fulfilled. But what if our obsession with happiness is what stops us from feeling happy? What if there’s a much easier way to feel great and do our best work?
In my research, I asked people ‘What contributes MOST to your happiness at work?’ and 26% said ‘I do’. The other 74% chose relationships, colleagues and the work itself. Interestingly, the work itself was the lowest rated answer.
These answers probably don’t seem unusual but they point to a massive myth about happiness.
Here are a few pointers to show you why we get stuck and most importantly, why your happiness is in your hands and not at the mercy of anything else.
1) Happiness is an inside job
Happiness is a state of mind. And if you’re like most people, your state of mind fluctuates. Sometimes we feel upbeat and other times we feel flat or fed up.
So what causes our ups and downs? The answer to this question is what holds the secret to our happiness and success.
Most of us grow up believing there are multiple reasons for feeling the way we do. We blame everything from weather to workload. But the great news is that it doesn't work that way. There is only one thing that determines our state of mind in any moment and that’s how we are thinking.
Paul Dolan, Professor of Behavioural Science at the LSE cites a study where they compared the happiness of people in California with those in the North West. He talks about how they expected more happiness in California because it’s sunnier but they discovered that happiness levels in both regions were actually the same.
He said "Most of the time the weather doesn’t affect our well-being at all. But when we think about it, and think that it does, that’s when we get miserable."
This study is one of many that proves how culturally hypnotised we are by the belief that life circumstances can make us feel a particular way. For example, we are constantly being told that ‘moving house’ is one of the most stressful things a person can do. As he states above, it is only our thinking about the weather that determines how it affects us.
The truth is that the weather, workload, our clients, family or colleagues have no inherent power over how happy or stressed we feel. Only our thinking has the power to determine that.
That’s why we can each respond differently to the same workload or colleague. It also explains why we get discouraged about something one minute and then later on we can feel okay about it even though the situation hasn't changed. The only change is that we’re in a different state of mind and that's what makes the situation seem better.
2) The feeling isn’t the problem
A state of unhappiness or insecurity is not the problem. It’s our thinking about our unhappy or insecure feelings that plagues us.
We believe that our state of mind is telling us something about our life or the situation at hand. But the only thing it’s telling us about is our own thinking in the moment. This means that the biggest problem we are up against at work is our misunderstanding about what’s causing us to feel the way we do.
The truth is that we cannot experience any state of mind (good or bad) without our own thinking playing the starring role. If you think it, you’ll feel it and if you don’t think it, you won’t feel it. That’s how the system works.
We live in the feelings that our thinking is giving us.
When you realise that your state of mind can’t be caused by your colleagues, deadlines or workload it empowers you.
3) Happiness is instantly available
We mistakenly believe that our happiness is dependent on a whole host of factors such as how much we earn or whether we achieve a particular result.
But it doesn't work that way.
We all know people who have great jobs, lots of cash, nice cars or great relationships but they’re still miserable. In contrast, there are plenty of people who seem to have very little or have difficult and challenging lives, yet they are happy and grateful.
Feeling happy or content, isn’t about more, different, better, easier, faster or slower. It’s not about the situation or other people having to change in order for you to feel better. It’s not even about you having to change.
Happiness is a state of mind and the great news is that the only thing that stops us from feeling happy, content and confident right now is the mistaken belief that something other than your own thinking can determine how you feel.
Happiness is quite literally available in an instant.
Chantal Burns is a state of mind and performance expert. Her bestselling book ‘Instant Motivation: the surprising truth behind what really drives top performance’ is WHSmith’s Non-Fiction Book of the Month. Click here to get your copy.