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How to find what makes you happy at work

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

You’re at your desk, or in yet another ‘quick’ meeting that’s been going for an hour but your mind is elsewhere. You are dreaming of all things you could be doing if you weren’t stuck here, all the things you would enjoy doing more.

Sound familiar?

You spend your free time generally doing the things you like doing, and find ways to avoid doing the things you don’t (hiring a cleaner, or taking the car to the car wash rather than doing it yourself for example) – but at work you seem to be stuck in an endless loop of things you’d quite happily delegate to others, if only you could find someone to do them.

What if you applied the same approach to work, as you did to your free time?

Many of us go through work without really thinking about the bits of our jobs that we enjoy doing, or how we do our best work, and it’s only when we really hit crisis point that we stop and think about what’s important to us. If we could find ways of integrating what’s important to us into our everyday working lives, then maybe we would enjoy our 9-5’s a little bit more.

So how to go about thinking about what lights you up at work? Whilst we can all think about the ‘dream’ office that we’d like, the kind with a ping-pong table, free biscuits and 2pm Friday finish, the most sure-fire way to find what makes us happy is to look back at what we’ve already done, our experiences.

So grab a pen and a bit of paper and follow the steps below to come out with a list of what you should be aiming for in your working world.

1. Write your work story – go through your career as if you were telling a story to someone else, describe each job, the people, where you worked, and what you loved and loathed about it. Consider how you felt too – were you feeling confident in what you were doing, did you feel like you did a great job? One of my big tips here is don’t edit what you write! The small details count! If the fact that you had a gym in the basement was a great thing then put it down, ditto if you didn’t have to go into the office much!

2. Highlight the good and the not-so-good – once you’ve been through your whole career, take some coloured pens and circle all the good things, and then do the same with all the not so good things in a different colour.

3. Look at the themes coming out – Take a look at what’s coming up in each colour and see if you can pull out the general themes. For example, you might have lots of things coming up around team work, and working with others, so you might want to group all of those together, and think of a word that encapsulates what’s important to you about it.

4. Pull together a list – Once you have your “key words”, I’d pull them together in one place – maybe one column for the things that are important to you, and one for things you’d rather not have in your working life!

That was the easy part.

Now you have your lists, it becomes trickier – what are you going to do with the information you have? How are going to get more of what’s important to you into your working life?

Look at your working week, and then back at your list. Are there ways to ‘tweak’ what you are currently doing – such as offering to swap certain tasks with others so that you get more of what you enjoy doing, or asking for a little bit of flexibility to allow you to make pick up an extra day (could you go in early, or make up the time in the evening after bedtime)?

The big thing about career happiness is that it very rarely happens by accident – you have to go out there and make it happen. So go and do it. Talk to your managers, seek out and ask for what you want, because life is too short not to love what you do.

If this has rung any bells for you and you’d like some on going support in making your work life work better for you, then click here to book a free 45 minute Discovery call with me.

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