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I was reading a weekly newsletter from Jon Gordon entitled: 5 Ways to Be Happier at Work. I guess from the title that a lot of people out there are not happy. Or, perhaps a lot of people expected that work or anything else physical was going to “make” them happy. Life doesn’t work that way. Another supposition I assume from the title is that people would want to aspire to be “happy”. I wanted to take and paraphrase the article from Jon Gordon and take it to a little higher level. I want to create a standard or benchmark for you to strive towards rather than just settling for something far short of what could be. Forget about being happy, and move on up to joy.
I do want to place one disclaimer here: I have not arrived at replacing happiness with joy, and am not an expert. My entire expertise comes from raising my now 32-year old daughter. I met her mom shortly after her divorce and Courtney’s birth, marrying Connie when Courtney was about 7 months old. The beginning isn’t what’s important, but the 32-year journey of watching a young child grow into an adult with such great perspective on life is. Courtney is one of those rare people that seem to find purpose in anything that happens. Even in bad circumstances she has the peace of mind and assurance that good will come of it. I never see her mad or upset more than about 5 minutes at a time and she always leads with her smile. While Courtney was taking off from the law firm to have our first two grandchildren, it was gratifying to hear from my brother (another attorney) and the other staff at the firm how much they were looking forward to having her back at work. In their words “everything and everybody just seemed nicer with her around”. This attitude of being the thermostat (controlling what and how she feels) rather than a thermometer (only telling you what the temperature is) is learned. That means each of us can choose to affect others and ourselves in such a way to empower joy. See, happiness is fleeting while joy in all things is a way of life. Forget the ups and downs and stress related to performance. You and I are not what others think about us and our performance.
In the article by Jon Gordon in his newsletter, he took the days of the week and asked the reader to consider benchmarking each day to add this strategy of becoming happier at work.

1. Monday: Focus on “Get to” instead of “Have to”. With gratitude realize that you don’t have to do anything. You get to go to a job while so many are unemployed. Gratitude floods your body and brain with emotions that uplift you and energize you rather than stress hormones that drain you.
2. Tuesday: Don’t Expect your Boss, Co-workers and Customers to Make You Happy. Realize that happiness is an inside job. Our happiness has less to do with forces outside of us and more to do with what’s inside of us. The way we think about work, feel about work and approach our work influences our happiness at work. For instance, just by making yourself smile you produce more serotonin in the brain, which makes you feel happier. You’ll also be happier when you focus on what you are giving instead of what you are getting.
3. Wednesday: Don’t Seek Happiness. Ironically, if you want to be happier don’t seek happiness. Instead share your strengths and decide to work with passion and purpose and happiness will find you. The research shows that people are most energized when they are using their strengths for a bigger purpose beyond themselves. Whatever your job, decide to bring passion to it and find purpose in it. I’ve met bus drivers, mortgage brokers, janitors and fast-food employees who are more passionate about their jobs and happier than some professional athletes making millions of dollars. Every job will get mundane and “old” if you let it but purpose and passion keep it fresh and make you happier.
4. Thursday: Focus on Excellence Instead of Success. When you focus on success you can easily fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others, looking over your shoulder, feeling envious, playing office politics, and competing against coworkers instead of collaborating. However, when you focus on excellence you measure yourself against your own growth and potential. You strive to be the best you can be. You simply focus on getting better every day and this makes work more meaningful and rewarding.
5. Friday: Celebrate Together. While we shouldn’t depend on others to make us happy, by building a positive team or support group at work we will be happier. So instead of expecting others to make you happy, you proactively create the positive relationships that enhance your engagement, productivity and happiness. One great way to do this is to huddle with your team at the end of the week and have each person share accomplishments, victories, and great moments of the week. This will produce great feelings on Friday that inspire you and your team to come back to work and make a difference on Monday.

Enough of this emotional, touchy feely stuff. I need to get back to feeling sorry for myself and making everyone around me miserable, while showing up late and leaving early from work. You know, if it weren’t for those crazy patients and stupid staff, this would be a pretty good job.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
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