Apr 5

How to Find Joy at Work

“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.” -Betty Bender

When discussing topics such as “joy,” it’s easy to neglect actually applying the wisdom that we find to our day-to-day lives. But if you ask yourself if you want more joy, the answer is almost always “YES!” Who doesn’t want more joy? BUT (and there’s always a but), we don’t like to focus on those areas of our lives that are not joyful. They scare us. We often become conditioned to believe that if something isn’t hard (especially in an area like work), then it’s not worth doing, that we’re not giving our all – i.e., the all-or-nothing mentality. Personally, I fell into this trap and realized I couldn’t sustain what I was doing without a sense of joy in my life, and so I set out determined to incorporate joy into my work.

Along this journey, I’ve learned over and over again that finding joy in what you do is integral to your wellbeing. Utilizing the tips listed below while reminding yourself of the bigger picture can help steer you to a place of contentment. Never forget – you don’t deserve any less.

Acknowledge reality. How do you feel in your work environment? Don’t think about this question – use your body as a compass and literally acknowledge how your body feels while working. Then, compare this feeling to how your body feels when you’re doing something you absolutely love. Is there room for improvement? If so, you’ve completed one of the hardest steps – consciously recognizing that you want to change an area of your life. Now, you’re ready to focus on creating that change.

Do you need more joy at work?

Remain positive. Remember that your own attitude is the one that counts.  No matter the environment you find yourself in, if you stay positive, you’ll find your own daily outlook and interactions improve. Focus on brainstorming small ways to improve your routine.

What can you do to nurture a positive attitude at work?

Celebrate moments of accomplishment. Placing moments of success on your own small pedestal may help you grasp the bigger picture.  Every mountain is climbed with small steps of success.  Don’t forget that every task you complete contributes to your end goal. What is that end goal?  If you view the end goal as something of little importance to you – or no relation to you (e.g., merely a step to help your boss achieve his/her goal) – then it’s difficult to take pride in your work. Reframe the way you view your smaller tasks so that they are more important to you. Never underestimate the impact you’re making.

What is your end goal? What is your motivation for moving towards that goal?

Be proactive. Brainstorm new ways to approach a problem or process at work, look to improve current job tasks, and work to add to your repertoire of skills. These actions will provide you with a sense of control over your own work and increase the impact you feel you have.  You’re shifting the power dynamic, and that is incredibly empowering.

How can you be proactive? Why do you want to be proactive?

Start something with passion. If you feel something missing from your life, consider turning in that direction with passion and creativity.  Take the lead on a new initiative or project at work, focus on a project outside of work, or further your involvement in the community – these activities will help foster other interests and will allow you to focus on what brings you joy. Utilize this passion when you approach your work – regardless of the task – to infuse positive energy into your day.

How can you add passion to what you do?

Consider fulfillment and purpose. It’s important to analyze your personal goals and overall vision. Every couple of years, take the time to do this and compare your current work life with where you see yourself going. Doing this can help you get in touch with your current state of fulfillment and where you’d like to grow.  Aligning these goals with your work life will create a powerful ripple effect that is cumulative over the long term.

What are your personal goals? What are your professional goals? Do these goals align?

There is no doubt that our current economic climate contributes to stress in the workplace.  With the strain stemming from both job insecurity and the increasing burden on employees to take on ever-greater responsibilities, it is important to look beyond the everyday.  No matter where your current work life stands, the process of continual improvement will never lead you wrong.  Finding joy in your professional life and striving toward a sense of balance between your professional and personal life are crucial components of your happiness.  Creating a more joyful work environment by focusing on those changes that you can control and staying positive are very important ways to make those workdays go by with a smile.

What do you think? What’s your relationship with joy at work?

: : endnote : :

*I’ve emphasized (via italics) specific questions within the text that focus on the big picture. Feel free to utilize these questions as journaling prompts or even as prompts for your own blog posts. I hope you find them useful for turning the knowledge in this post into action. If you do discuss these questions within a blog post, please let me know!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben April 5, 2010 at 7:39 PM

These are awesome tips!

For me personally, joy manifests itself from the feeling of accomplishing something that i’ve been working hard on. When you’re doing what you love there aren’t enough hours in the day.


Whitney April 5, 2010 at 7:46 PM

Great questions!


Erin Prais-Hintz April 5, 2010 at 8:57 PM

I am sad to say that there is absolutely no joy at work. There hasn’t been in *gasp* over a decade. But I am trapped. By the salary and the fact that there is a family connection. I feel powerless and undervalued. There is nothing that I do that is either important or fulfilling. I am the queen of busywork and it stinks. I am sorry to be such a downer. I read this post with a lot of tears in my eyes because this is exactly the thoughts that ran through my head as I went for a walk today. I want to be fulfilled and feel empowered. I want to be a contributing member. I want to enjoy, if not love, the job that I am called to do. But this is just not it. And it is eating at my soul. When you mentioned to use your body as a barometer? Well, I have been having tightness in my chest, a slumped posture, a scowl on my face, a lack of motivation to talk to or engage anyone at work. And the headaches. I realized that every morning as I turn the corner on the last part of the route to work is when these feelings grip me. And they get worse as the week wears on. I know that it is killing me. But there are things that I am passionate about. A business that I have on the side that is fulfilling and exciting and different. But again, I am trapped. And I feel lonely in that entrapment. I am going to print this out and read it over again to see if it can give me even a glimmer of hope to make it through.
Thank you for your inspiration.
Enjoy the day.


Carolyn April 5, 2010 at 9:46 PM

Erin, you are so much stronger than you can begin to realize. So many people don’t realize they lack joy because they truly don’t remember what it feels like – in any area of their life. Just recognizing that work is sucking your energy out of you is powerful – even though it HURTS. It is so much easier to remain numb – but that never steers us in the right direction.

Hold tightly to what you are passionate about. It is your most powerful guide.

I’m not sure if you’ve read Perseverance, but its overall focus is how to turn fear into hope.

If you would like additional resources, please don’t hesitate to contact me via the contact form (in the right sidebar).

Thank you for sharing your thoughts – your courage and authenticity are amazing.


Lee April 6, 2010 at 10:42 AM

Thanks for your post Carolyn :)
I loved what you said about staying positive, that’s something that my mother has always told me. If you think negatively, everything in your life will seem that way.


Becky April 10, 2010 at 3:39 AM

I have to say that I too was feeling over worked, drained, and trapped at my job for quite sometime. Since I knew that I had no other options but to keep working where I am working (due to economy), I have learned to change my attitude. It has rejuvenated things so much to the point that I actually enjoy going to work again. I follow Denice’s Kronau blog that is full of great information based upon her own experience. I can’t wait for her new book to come out soon. However if you go to her site http://www.denicekronau.com you can get for free her ‘Top Ten Tips’ on how to be happy at work + updates about her book. Really useful and helpful information.


shona cole April 14, 2010 at 1:30 AM

what a wonderful post! I wish I had known all that way back when I worked… but now I am a mom I can still apply all of these principles to my daily life.
.-= shona cole´s last blog ..birthday =-.


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