Usually we think that, to be happier at work, there is something we should gain. Could we be happier by giving some things up?

What makes us happy at work? When we think of making ourselves happier at work, we think of getting more skills, more confidence, more aptitude. Here are five suggestions for things we could give up to be happier at work. We’re not talking lunch breaks, but simple attitude changes which could revolutionise your working life.

1. Give up your need to always be right
When we try to be right, we are in effect trying to make someone else wrong. Work is never that black and white. By trying to always be right, you can severely damage important relationships you have with your colleague, boss, or customer. If you can try to focus on solutions – going forward together – instead of being right, you can have less stress and better, happier, more effective relationships at work.

2. Give up attachment and your resistance to change
We have expectations about what we want our work environment to be like in order for us to be happy. You want to be paid well, work with great people and a good boss, have challenging but achievable work, make a difference. Expectations are not always within our scope to change; you can, at least theoretically, change job if you don’t like your pay, colleagues, boss, workload or company ethics, but if you focus on things you can’t change, your attachments can make you very unhappy.
Our attachment to these expectations can make us unhappy when we are not getting what we want, but equally, we can become very attached to the way things are and bitterly resist adapting to change when it is forced on us. This need for our work environment to be a certain way is the root cause of a great deal of unhappiness and misdirected energy.
If you can stay open minded, accepting your workplace as a fluid environment rather than wishing to fix it in one shape, and be willing to accept the unchangeable and adapt to changes at work, you are already working positively to take action, instead of feeling bad about it.

3. Give up on blame, complaining, criticism, and the past
We can waste a lot of time at work dwelling on the past, usually on something that happened that we didn’t like. It’s not just human nature, it’s a learning mechanism built into all animals. But this sort of negative thought can waste time and damage your relationships with your colleagues, so forgive and then firmly forget.
Difficult as it can be to resist the temptation to complain about, criticise, and blame others, no productive progress can come out of it; and, rather than make you happier at work, moaning will only re-inforce your negative feelings about your workplace.
When we slip into the habit of grumbling, we run the risk of getting a reputation for moaning or bitching which can damage our professional standing and, by making this sort of behaviour acceptable, you lay yourself open to the same treatment in the future, so it’s worth working to present yourself as a positive person.
In the same way that smiling can make us feel more cheerful, looking for the positive in a situation or finding something positive to say about a colleague can genuinely help make you to feel happier at work and remind you of what you like about your workplace and colleagues.

4. Give up self-defeating talk, and self- limiting beliefs, fears, and excuses
Just like giving up negative thoughts about others, it’s also so important to give up negative thoughts about yourself and what you are capable of doing.
We can choose what we tell ourselves, so why not choose to tell yourself inspiring things? For example, when set a task, you may think ‘I dislike doing that because I don’t do it well’ or ‘I don’t have enough time to do it well – what if it’s no good?’
We rarely feel we have the time or skill to spend on the projects life sets us, whether the task is a presentation at work, a costume for the school play or a celebration dinner with friends. In the latter two cases we pitch in and do our best – and our family and friends are happy and grateful for the results. Apply the same ‘can do’ attitude to work and see what you can achieve!

5. Give up your need to live your life to other people’s expectations
Producing work to expected levels is one thing, but too often office life can make us unhappy about other aspects of our lives. Many people fall into this trap because we live in a society that loves to flaunt material wealth and compare status; the kind of car we drive, the house we live in, the school our kids goes to, our holiday destination.
These distractions are a frequent cause for unhappiness, damaging your self esteem as well as your working efficiency. But you have a choice on whether to subscribe to the standards and expectations of other people. Why not try setting your own standards? Give up your need to worry about what the people in your office think about your life choices, focus on what you have achieved in life and be happy with how you choose to live.

By C Macdonald, as published by PA Life, October 2012

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