Welcome to the New Year 2013! You’ve probably already made your resolutions, but if not, I suggest a renewed commitment to finding happiness and satisfaction in your work. After all, most of us spend more hours in this role than any other, and life is too short to spend most of your life unhappy.
If you haven’t tried it, one way to be happier at work is to be an entrepreneur, according to a recent study by the Wharton School of Business. In a survey of 11,000 MBA graduates over many years, those running their own businesses ranked themselves happier than all other professions, regardless of how much money they made.
But whether you choose the entrepreneurial route, or any other approach, I suggest you try the following recommendations from experts around the world on how to stay happier at work:
1. Do what you love and love what you do.The right reason to start a business is not the money, challenge, or the prestige, but the chance to follow your dream. If you are sick of the corporate grind, take your favorite idea or hobby, and join other happy entrepreneurs.
2. Stay rooted in the present. While entrepreneurs often have to make pivots and react to unforeseen challenges, constantly thinking about the worst case scenario will place undue stress on your body and drain your mind of resources that are better used in more productive ways.
3. Keep expectations realistic. It’s a lot easier to reset your expectations than reality. Keep your expectations low. So if reality matches expectations you will feel neutral about it. If you succeed, then it is an unexpected pleasure and you are happy.
4. Spend more time with the family. As a professional, keeping a sense of balance between work and family is always a challenge. The happiest people are the ones who can split their focus between work and family, and get value and satisfaction from both.
5. Do something nice for someone. Small or big, directed at friends or strangers, random acts of kindness make the person performing the kind act happier. At work, help someone who is struggling with a new task, and give praise to the people you respect.
6. Keep track of your wins. Happiness doesn’t come from getting something you don’t have, but recognizing and appreciating what you do have. Write down five things you’re grateful for each day before you start work, or before you leave the office at the end of the day, to retrain your brain to focus on the positive.
7. Stay fit and rested. You will have more energy and think more effectively if you are in shape and rested. In addition, you’re a role model for partners and employees. Real job performance is more a function of productivity than hours worked anyway.
8. Find a stress reliever. For some people, it’s quiet meditation, and for others it’s a vigorous workout at the gym. Find something that doesn’t have anything to do with your profession for a change of pace. These will also help you unleash the creative side.
9. Put trust in your employees. Build a supportive and constructive relationship with your staff. If you empower key employees to make important decisions then every small decision will not have to go through you. It starts with trust and ends with peace of mind. Hire people who have skills you don’t have, but share your values.
10. Listen to the music. Music has an incredible power to quickly alter your mood. The right song can cheer you up more quickly than a well-reasoned argument. Upbeat tunes can keep you in a good mood all day long.
11. Exercise the other side of your brain. If your job is analytical, take some time regularly to explore the creative side of your personality, or vice versa. The happiest people are whole-brained, rather than just left brain or right brain.
12. Nurture your spirituality. Every survey seems to show that people with strong religious faith of any religion or denomination are happier than those who are not religious at all. Faith provides social and emotional support, and a reason to focus beyond self.
13. Play the optimist role. Optimism is a learned skill. First, straighten out your emotions by keeping a straight body posture. Second, change your tone of voice so that it is cheerful and full of energy. Third, use upbeat or happier words, such as “challenge” rather than “problem,” or think of “opportunities” rather than “losses.”
Overall, I believe happiness is largely a choice. You can choose to be happy at work, or do the work that makes you happy. Make your resolution today to keep the long road ahead in 2013 a satisfying one. One way is to become an entrepreneur and join the happiest work segment.
CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; Callaman Ventures Board Member and Executive in Residence; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups.