Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
Happiness at work might seem like an elusive goal. You’ve likely been focused on your career growth and day-to-day needs, letting an overall focus on a happier work environment slide over to your career wish list, rather than your list of career priorities.
But it may be time to shift your career happiness back into focus. And that doesn’t automatically mean making dramatic shifts in your work environment.
It could be as simple as shifting your mindset about various work factors and how you strategize and interact with others and with yourself. And doing so is more actionable than you might think.
Understanding Your Work Mindset
In general, your mindset is what you believe when you think of something. It’s the little voice in your head that reminds you whether you love or dislike something. Chances are you don’t even consciously hear that little voice or remember inviting it to hang out in the first place.
In your work life, that little voice might be telling you things like:
- My job is so dull! I’m so uninspired.
- No one would even notice if I didn’t come to work. I have no friends.
- My boss criticized me. I’m about to get fired.
- I’m not nearly as good at [task] as [teammate]. I’m going to get fired.
Unless you work in a toxic environment, chances are those things simply aren’t true. But the more you listen to your inner voice, the more you’ll believe it. Try approaching things from a different mindset. Reframe the messages in your head to create a healthier dialogue with yourself.
When you do, you’ll find that much of your perspective on whether or not you enjoy work is rooted in your mindset. And this is excellent news because you can build habits that shift your mindset to be happier at work.
Your mindset has likely been built unintentionally due to external factors. Now it’s time to take back control and intentionally create a new perspective with new, healthier habits.
1. Rather Than Accept Loneliness, Build Social Skills
Are you feeling lonely and detached from everyone? Rather than assume it’s because no one relates to you or you can’t make friends with your teammates, shift your mindset to relationship-building.
When did you last reach out to a colleague to say hello? Those casual interactions can go a long way toward how you feel about clocking in daily. They happen organically in a traditional office, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build that environment when you work remotely.
Are you taking advantage of all of the opportunities to interact that your company is providing? Employee interest groups likely exist. Even if you’re not part of a particular demographic, it’s a great chance to get to know others more personally and understand the values that drive them.
Beyond employee groups, many companies offer Slack message channels to foster connections around outside interests, such as cooking, parenting, and home decor. Use general Slack channels to greet your colleagues once in a while.
Outside of your team, ensure that you’re also building in-person relationships. It’s a myth that remote work is guaranteed to be isolating. Like anything else, staying social depends on how much effort you put into it.
2. Let Go of Your Inner Critic and Practice Self-Compassion
There was a miscommunication at work, and now you feel defeated. Your negative inner thoughts are running wild. Take a breath and a quick walk to clear your head. Ask yourself, “What would I tell my coworker if they shared this with me?”
Treat yourself with the same compassion that you would a teammate. You’d likely tell them that mistakes happen. Or, maybe you’d note that communication can get distorted when the team is distributed across time zones. Why not celebrate your accomplishments and practice self-compassion?
Approaching the situation from a place of problem-solving can help create a better outcome and improve future communication. Assume positive intentions among your coworkers and yourself. Put that positive mindset into action and ask for a meeting with the teammate or boss. Together, you can discuss more productive communication methods moving forward.
3. Find Ways To Ditch Unproductive Thoughts and Relationships
Let go of unproductive thoughts or situations that are holding you back. You could have a persistent fear of failure or crippling self-doubt that prevents you from taking action. During your workday, pay attention to when those thoughts creep in. Is there a specific task that starts the spiral, or was it an interaction with a specific individual? You can find the pattern if you’re looking for it.
Learn to catch unproductive thoughts before they escalate. Once you notice them, take a moment to acknowledge them, and then consciously let them go. The same method applies to tasks, professional relationships, or projects that don’t bring you energy. Recognizing that they’re getting you down is the first step in setting boundaries.
When you see what’s holding you back, you can make room for more productive relationships. For instance, you can complete a less enjoyable task between two more enjoyable tasks that energize you. You’re in charge of how you let relationships and projects affect your mood, focus, and energy levels.
If you’re struggling to stay in the moment, try out some mindfulness activities to help you stay grounded and clear the clutter in your head. There are several different techniques you can try until you find one that’s a fit. You might discover that all you need is to quiet your mind and tune into the rhythm of your breath. Or, you could launch a regular yoga practice.
4. Feeling Drained? Focus Your Energy Where It Matters
Do you live in a place of overwhelm, constantly busy in a whirlwind of tasks, responsibilities, and projects? That’s exhausting. To find more success and happiness at work, analyze your task management.
Try time management techniques, like The Eisenhower Matrix, to prioritize your tasks based on urgency and importance. This can help you decide which tasks ought to be handled quickly and which can be scheduled for later, or even delegated to someone else.
When you start to feel anxiety creeping in, stop and consider what you need to work on to be the thriving, organized professional you long to be. Chances are, there are smaller tasks that can be automated or delegated. You may need to learn the art of saying no and setting boundaries.
Take any minor tasks off your plate that overwhelm you. Instead, focus on tackling the larger tasks that lead to crushing anxiety or calm satisfaction at the end of the day. That simple shift from “I have to do it all” to “I have to do what matters” can make all the difference in your perception.
5. Long To Thrive? Grow Your Confidence
What happens when there’s a new professional opportunity? Do you start talking yourself out of pursuing it, or do you have the self-confidence to go for it?
Confidence is an essential ingredient in your professional journey, and you can build and strengthen it over time. It begins with acknowledging your abilities and talents. Everyone has unique strengths, so take the time to recognize and appreciate yours. Your strengths might be your hard skills, like expertise in a specific tool or language, or your soft skills, like communication or leadership.
Next, set realistic goals for yourself. Your goals should be ambitious enough to push you out of your comfort zone but also achievable. After all, you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment. And as you work toward your goals, each small achievement will gradually build your confidence.
To improve your confidence, try some positive affirmations. Acknowledge your accomplishments every day. That might include speaking up during a virtual meeting or pitching to a new freelance client. Celebrate those tiny successes.
Move that needle further with visualization. Imagine yourself taking the next step that you find challenging. Changing the movie in your head ensures you’re more likely to achieve success.
6. Feeling Stuck? Have a Clear Destination
Do you feel like your career is stale and growth is something that everyone else seems to achieve but isn’t in the cards for you? It’s time to reassess your goals. Are they specific or ambiguous? For example, are you hoping for a new job or a promotion? Is your goal simply “get a new job?” That’s more of a wish than a plan.
With that approach, you’re likely to spin your wheels and cause yourself more unhappiness at work. Instead, it’s time to pull out your trusty SMART goals and build momentum strategically.
As a refresher, SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Breaking down your overarching goals into smaller, more manageable goals can help you see that you’re progressing. As a result, you’ll change that mindset from “I’m not making any progress” to “I’m strategically approaching my goal one step at a time.” This can make all the difference in how you perceive your current job and long-term career prospects.
Along the way, celebrate your progress. If you start to get off course, remind yourself that this is manageable too. It’s an opportunity to learn — not an obstacle you can’t overcome.
Finding Your Happiness
Rather than accept that you’re stuck in a job or career that doesn’t bring you joy, reframe your thought processes to create a happier work environment. Admittedly, some aspects are outside of your control. But instead of looking at those hurdles as insurmountable obstacles, build a mindset of goal-setting, strategy, and positive energy to create the professional life you’re longing for.