In a recent blog post entitled “The Secret to Happiness,” I touch upon the concept of Subjective Well Being, or SWB for short. Subjective well being refers to an individual’s current evaluation of his or her happiness. It includes:
- The sense of satisfaction one feels with one’s life, both in general and in specific areas, such as relationships, health and work.
- Lack of depression and anxiety.
- Positive moods and emotions.
If you’re unhappy at work, and/or unfulfilled by your job (yes, there’s a difference), it’s tempting to point the finger at offending parties and situations. Examples might be:
- A boss who doesn’t take your suggestions seriously.
- A subordinate who constantly undermines your authority.
- “Meetings” that, instead of serving as idea sounding boards and productivity drivers, always become venting sessions.
We view such persons or scenarios as roadblocks to success. They become immobile obstacles which prevent us from carrying out our goals and subsequently, contribute to our dissatisfaction in a very big way. We assign blame to every aspect of our workplace existence that proves “troublesome,” “difficult” or “challenging.”
And in doing so, we allow such people and situations to triumph over us. We give them the upper hand, relinquish our personal power and find ourselves sinking deeper into the pit of despair. We feel “defeated” by life forces beyond our control.
Once our subjective well being has officially hit rock bottom, everything becomes a vicious cycle. We view our work and our workplace relationships as negative, and so we approach the situation with a negative attitude. Our negative attitude causes us to adopt a passive, or defensive stance. Because we are being passive and defensive instead of active and open, we attract more negativity into our daily workplace existence. And so the cycle continues.
As I mentioned in my blog post on SWB, it’s all in your attitude. But most would and do question, “How am I supposed to ditch the bad attitude, when there’s so much that I can’t change?”
The secret is to realize that you CAN change. No, you can’t change other people, but you CAN change yourself. It all starts with YOU. In changing yourself, you change the way people react to you. You can learn to change behavior… your own, and other people’s.
In other words: change your approach, which in turn changes the way people respond to you. When you get good at it, you’ll find that the effects of your new attitude and behavior ripple outward and begin to change situations… but it happens very gradually, and takes great concerted and repeated effort.
And if you really find that after giving it your best shot, things aren’t playing out the way that you wish they would, you can remove yourself from the situation. You can leave and begin to pursue something that holds more promise and appeal for you. People change workplaces, jobs, careers, every day. The hardest part about it is committing yourself to the new endeavor.
For more insights into Turning Workplace Unhappiness on Its Head, read part 2 of this series.