February 12, 2014

Choosing Happiness Personally and Professionally


There are a lot of reasons we choose not to be happy.

Sometimes you might have chosen to stay in a relationship that made you feel small because you was afraid you’d feel that way on your own, too. Or perhaps you have chosen to keep being unhappy about how your pants fit because the momentary pleasure of another slice of pizza. There may have been a time you chose to let people speak down to you because you didn’t know how to speak up. Sometimes instead of choosing to go to yoga class or go for a walk or otherwise let your anxious mind rest, you chose to give in to negativity and stress.

There are so many moments when it feels like happiness is out of reach, but in fact we always have a choice, however slight, however hidden, or however unconventional.

Just as it is in our personal lives, so it is in our professional lives. There are a lot of reasons we choose not to be happy. We choose to stay late instead of going home to see the kids. We choose to worry more about getting a promotion than supporting the people we hired. We choose to glorify overwork and buy expensive toys rather than reinvesting that money in creating a new position. We choose to play office politics instead of creating constructive solutions.

Both off the clock and on the job, we can make better choices.

Sometimes the reactions people make to positive, progressive work environments and the people who work in them, are tinged with jealousy, fear, resentment, or disbelief. “You draw a salary to go to visioning meetings?” they might sneer. “What do you mean you show up when you want to?” they gasp in disbelief. They might wave you off and say “Yeah, I bet your team is so productive. If you don’t tighten up your management you’ll go bankrupt in a year.” Or maybe you’ve heard the classic, “Well, when I first started my boss was real tough on me. These kids starting their careers are so spoiled now.”

You might have baggage about changing the way you and your organization work. You might worry that your team won’t respect you if you don’t hold firm about lunch breaks and an 8AM start time. It could seem impossible to keep the books if your employees don’t log every minute of their time and send you daily reports. You think you’re doing ok, and wonder why you’d risk that on something new, or make the bet that it could be better. These fears aren’t much different than the ones that hold us back in our personal lives.

The key to being happier at work is simply to make different choices. Just like you’ll never know how happy you could be on your own until you break up with an incompatible partner, you’ll never know how much better and more successful your organization could be if you broke up with a way of doing work that isn’t, well, working. There are a lot of reasons to micromanage, and still there are even more to let go.

It can seem intimidating to try new things, new policies, new organizational models, new ways of communicating. You might wonder if your business is ready for social media, much less cultural change. The truth is, though, you won’t know until you find out, and give some of those practices a try. They might not work for your business. But to succeed like an entrepreneur, you have to risk like an entrepreneur, even at an established or more traditional business.

It’s never too late for a culture change, or to fix a toxic or lagging organization. Remember a time in your personal life you made a leap, believed in yourself, and asked for what you need, felt like you had purpose? Think about how good that felt. As soon as you let go of the fear, you can bring that feeling into your work, and get glad.

One Comment

  1. June 3, 2014


    This article is very beautiful. We want to print it in Tavleen Foundation’s annual journal ‘ Soul Space’ which is going to publish on Happiness theme. Pl send your consent and your high resolution picture with short bio please.

    Thanks & regards.
    Dr Narang

    Reply to comment

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