How to Enjoy Your Job

Four Methods:Phase 1: Examining YourselfPhase 2: Examining Your JobPhase 3: Putting It TogetherPhase 4: Taking Action

"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Option 1: Alarm rings – hit snooze. Alarm rings – groan. Get up, throw on some clothes. Fight traffic, complain, get to work, hate the day – watch the clock and count the minutes. Go home, eat, watch TV, go to bed. Alarm rings – hit snooze. It's only Wednesday - two more days to go. Oh will this week ever end? I just want to sleep until Saturday. Please let me win the lottery. I hate this job. Did I do something bad? Every day feels like I'm in prison.

Option 2: Alarm rings but the shower drowns out the noise. Pick out sharp clothes for the day. Music on the way to work – smiling while stuck in traffic; looks great – oh my, time to go already… Where did the day go? Have a great dinner, talk about the day, asleep almost instantly. Alarm rings but the shower drowns out the noise. I love what I do!

Which would you rather feel? The question isn’t what do you feel, but what do you want? Honestly, don’t you envy, just a little, the people that actually love what they do and look forward to each day? For them, work isn’t drudgery – it’s fun! Why? Because they decide it’s going to be that way. Before you can enjoy your job, you have to figure out what "enjoyment" means to you. Doing that will not only help you enjoy your job, but it will help you more fully enjoy life in general. Here are some ways you can improve your satisfaction – job related and otherwise. This is not a quick fix; it will take some time, but the effort will be incredibly rewarding.


Method 1
Phase 1: Examining Yourself

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    Understand what makes you happy: Think about it – write it down. Take some time to make a list of the things that bring a smile to your face. When you make this list, write down everything, no matter how trivial or how irrelevant it may appear to your job. The purpose isn’t to relate this to your job, the purpose is to make a list that’s all about you.
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    Ask "Why?" for each item: OK, you’ve got your list – now you need to figure out why those things make you happy… what is it about "fishing" that makes you happy? Is it actually doing it; or is it the surroundings? Is it really fishing or is it being out with friends? Do this for each item – dig deep. Keep asking "why" until you come up with the root of why this makes you happy. That’s the list you’re really looking for.
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    Understand what makes you unhappy: Just like in the previous two steps, you’re going to do this with the bad side of things. Does your morning commute make you unhappy? Why? Is it really the time you spend in the car… (if you ever just go for pleasure drives then it’s not being in the car)? Is it other drivers?
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    Ask "Why?" for each item: Just like you did for the positive aspects, you need to determine why those things make you unhappy. Why does sitting in the car really bother you? Since you enjoy taking drives listening to music, why is this different? Think. This will be used later and it has to be very, very specific. Why does that bother you? Make the list and do the "why, why, why" and find out what really, deep down, are the things that make you unhappy.
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    Understand what motivates you: People like doing the things that motivate them (that's an obvious definition). So you need to make a list of the things that make you feel motivated. Some people are motivated by helping others, some are motivated by accomplishment, some by intellectual stimulation. This is not a particularly easy task but it's something you need to know about yourself. It's one of those "meaning of life" activities that will vary from person to person. What is it for you?

Method 2
Phase 2: Examining Your Job

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    Identify Positive Aspects: OK, maybe you don’t love your job, but there are things about it that you don’t completely hate. There are things you actually like. List these first. Put yourself in a relaxed state of mind and consider everything about, and related to, your job that are not negative. Maybe you have a very short commute to work – that’s a good thing. What about the lighting and overall facility conditions? Is there a break room? If you get breaks during the day; even if they’re short, that’s a plus. What about at least some of the people there? List all of it.
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    Ask Why: Just like in Phase 1, you need to identify why you like these things. What is it about each item in your list of positives that attracts you? This is important because you’re going to correlate this with the same list you made earlier.
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    Identify Negative Aspects: This should be easy enough – what about your job do you not like? List all of them, but be specific. "I hate what I do" just isn’t good enough. What, specifically, do you not like about the work, the environment, the people, the company… everything.
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    Ask Why: You did this for the positives, and you have to do this for the negatives. Just like Phase 1, dig a little deeper. You may have listed that you don’t like your boss. Why? "He’s a <insert here="" expletive="">" is not productive; what, specifically, about his behavior do you not like and, more importantly, why does it affect you in a negative way?

Method 3
Phase 3: Putting It Together

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    Match Your Positive Influences: Look closely at the list of things that make you happy and the list of things you like--and dislike--about your job. Interestingly there may be things about your job that you dislike that actually match up with some of the things you listed that make you happy. An example might be "My boss is always hovering around" but under the happy thoughts list you have "being around people." Take everything you listed about your job from both lists (like and dislike) and write those things (the ones that apply) next to items on the list of what makes you happy outside of work.
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    Match Your Negative Influences: In similar fashion to the previous step, you’re going to match your job-related items (likes and dislikes) to the things that make you unhappy. Again, you might find that some things you listed in the plus side for your job actually match your unhappy list. For example, if you listed "my boss leaves me alone" as a positive but "being alone" makes you unhappy, there is a contradiction which leads you to…
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    Look for Contradictions: On your match lists, you are very likely to have things about your job you like that match things that make you unhappy, and conversely, things about your job you dislike that match things that make you happy. Make a Contradiction List that contains all those. You will concentrate heavily on those in just a bit.
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    Look for Confirmations: Just like the previous step, you will have things that match the way you thought they would. Some of the "bad" things about your job are in your unhappy list and vice versa. Make a Confirmation List that contains all those.
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    Check Your Work: To be on the safe side, do these exercises a couple of times. Don’t just hammer through it once and be done with it. This is a very, very important tool and you will use this later – if you really want to be proactive with your life, you’ll use this many times in the future. Once you are completely satisfied that all your lists are accurate and complete…
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    Take a Pause: Give yourself some time to let these things sink in. You’ll know when you’re ready for the next phase, but don’t rush into it. Your brain needs a bit of time to process the information you’ve just developed. If you’ve done the steps properly, you will have some new and potentially surprising information. After a couple of days, you’ll be ready.

Method 4
Phase 4: Taking Action

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    Make the Commitment: The goal you've set is to enjoy your job. To do that, you have to be determined that you're going to make a positive psychological change. Do not believe that just because you've done the pre-work things will magically change for you. This will require a constant examination on your part of your attitudes and behaviors.
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    Focus on the Positive Matches: For example, if your boss is "hovering" remember that you enjoy being around people. When your phone is constantly ringing, remember that you love talking to people. When you're constantly being asked to do extra things, remember that helping people makes you happy. The objective here is to look for the things about your job that match the things you listed as making you happy and focus on those. Each time a job-related event occurs that is on your "happy" list, make a mental note this was good because....
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    Look for Job-Related Motivation: There must be something about your job that matches your motivation list. Find those things. This is one of the things your supervisor should also know. Try to have a conversation with your boss about the things that stimulate you and see how you can get more of those assignments. Don't assume it will happen all at once; your current assignments are there for a reason and it will take time to adjust the workload, but most managers want their people to be productive and happy - that reduces turnover and makes them look better because the team performs better. When you do this, focus the conversation on the positive areas rather than the negative areas: "I hate my job because it's boring." has no place in the dialog - you might get "Fine. Good luck in your job search. See HR on your way out." On the other hand, "I would really like to have some additional duties that let me interact more with people." will provoke a thoughtful response and it shows a mature work ethic.
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    Eliminate "Bad Rap" Thoughts: You sometimes find yourself thinking how you don't like your job - or you don't like parts of it. Your mind will feed on that and it grows until it engulfs you. That's what's referred to as "bad rap" and nothing good will come of it. When you find yourself doing that, yank yourself back to the positive. Think about some job-related activity that matches your happy list instead. This is not easy. Bad rap is a habit and it's hard to break, but it's oh so critical that you stop that in its tracks. Bad rap increases stress, can lead to depression and definitely reduces performance which will lead to poor performance reviews which will increase the bad rap... well, you see the vicious cycle.
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    Use Your Breaks Wisely: When you have a 15-minute break or a 30-minute lunch, use that time to do the things that you enjoy doing. This is not the time to gather around with co-workers and gripe. If that's part of the culture, you need to distance yourself from it - it's hurting you. Maybe find someone that likes to walk and walk with them; talk about pleasant things. During lunch, associate with positive people instead of negative people. People fuel each other with their attitudes. Your objective is to increase the positive and decrease the negative. When you constantly hear people expressing negative views, your negative views will increase. Likewise, when you're with positive people, your positive views will increase.
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    Use Affirmation: You've probably heard or seen this a thousand times. Maybe you've dismissed it - but truly it works. It might seem a bit silly to look in the mirror in the morning and tell yourself you are going to enjoy the day - but... and let this sink in... it will help. Positive thoughts are habit forming just like negative thoughts are. It works because of the way our brains are wired. It may seem useless at first and you will not see instant results - this is not a magic wand kind of thing - but keep at it. Do it every day. Post your happy list job matches on the mirror and read them every morning.
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    Look for Results: If you've done the steps and you're taking the actions, you will see results. They will be baby steps at first so you'll have to look for them. They will be there and it's up to you to find them. When you see a result... rejoice! You're succeeding! Every success is a positive feedback to your brain. They will start coming faster and faster. One thing though, there will always be events you don't like. Nobody loves every second of every day of their life. That's just not normal. When those happen, deal with them decisively and quickly, then move on. Do not dwell on the negatives. Focus on the positives to come.


  • Remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Sometimes you can change a job only to find that the new job has an employer who is very difficult to deal with or worse employees, even to have double the work load or less pay or benefits. Do your homework before you make that change. Get to know more about the potential new job and the people you will be working with.
  • Many times the part you hate about your job is another employee or several of them that make life at work miserable. The thing to remember about these people is, do not take things that are said personal. There are some who are insulting, jealous, gossipy, and even those who may be out to get your job. Sometimes finding something you like about that person and commenting about it to them can turn someone completely around. Be interested in what they have to say. Ask questions about them or their life. Many times that person will begin to not know why they like you and they will change the way they react to you. When you have found someone who is a constant problem, this is evident to everyone else too. Don't get caught up in their ways.
  • If these don't work; if you are 100% sure beyond the shadow of a doubt that you will never, ever like the job you're in, and you're going to find a new one, use what you learned doing these steps to evaluate the potential new jobs. Make sure your next job fits what you like.
  • Start looking. By taking action, you will either find that you like your job more than what's out there, or find another one. Sometimes the act of looking for a new job can be therapeutic in itself.
  • If financially feasible, start putting a chunk of each paycheck into a high-yield savings account or a "freedom fund". It may take up to a year depending on how much you can contribute, but eventually you will have saved enough to leave your job and support yourself for a period of time while looking for a new opportunity.
  • Realize that your attitude impacts others as well as your job performance. If you can afford it, take a couple of days off to reflect on where you are vocationally, and where you would like to be heading. Stepping back and gaining a different perspective can be crucial to changing your outlook and attitude.


  • Never quit a job on the spur of the moment without a good backup. It could take a very long time to find a fit. You could easily end up in a worse position. If you're going to quit, find the new job first.

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