I get it … your job is like Water Torture.

Drip by drip, day by day your ability to do your job well is threatened by a myriad of toxins. Toxic people, toxic mission, toxic management, toxic hours and expectations, too.

You’re exhausted, burnt out and it’s hard enough to drag your ass in each morning, let alone choose happiness at work!!

It’s not just you. Almost HALF of American workers express displeasure in their workplace. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why people can be miserable in spite of having it all. The expense of Self to achieve everything else simply isn’t worth it.

I know it may be hard to believe right now but this phase of your life won’t last forever. Great news though. When you can choose happiness at work that sucks, you’ll have all the tools you need to set yourself up for happiness in all kinds of circumstances.

1. Be willing to be wrong.

Before you read on, you need to realize that chances are good, if being happy is a regular struggle for you, your brain cares more about being right than being happy.

You already have a belief: “my work environment is awful.” You’re pre-wired with a tendency to solidify that belief by weighting confirming evidence more heavily than contradictory evidence (Confirmation Bias). Ever been committed to improve yourself but others simply cannot see (or under-appreciate) your efforts? That’s their confirmation bias at work. You do it too.

Once you firmly believe your workplace is toxic your brain goes about looking for all the ways you’re right, even though the belief makes you unhappy. The fact that you make good money or have a great opportunity for paid education is actually minimized (even though it would make you happy) because it doesn’t fit inside the paradigm you’ve built about your job.

This is such a strong default for some people they could literally win a million dollars and they’d “yeah, but” all over it. “Yeah, but I sure could’ve used it before I went into debt,” or “Yeah, but the government is going to rob me of most of it, I’m sure.”

Take a good, hard look at where you’re doing this (you ARE doing it) and understand that to choose happiness at work is going to take some dedication to rewiring decades of defaults. Be patient with yourself as you grow through this.

2. Recognize happiness really is a choice

I know when you’re in the midst of the suck it can actually feel insulting to hear that Pollyanna squeak, “Well, if you want o be happy then just be happy!!” It’s an invalidating sentiment that implies, to some, that all of your reasons for being miserable at work are in your own head.

Let me be the first to say, “you’re right.” Your job is terrible. Your belief comes from firsthand experience. You have mountains of valid, verifiable, corroborated proof about how shitty your job is.

Rest in that validation for just a moment so the part of your brain that needs to be right (see first point) can lay down arms in this fight.

3. Search out the positives.

You have good reasons to be there or else you wouldn’t keep making the choice to stay. List them out on a piece of paper then read through them, out loud, every day.

Remember, your brain wants to dismiss, or “yeah, but,” all over this list of positives. That’s ok. Remember to validate your experience. (see second point.)

Next, go deeper. What are you really, really getting out staying where you are? A sense of control or security? A hope that things will get better without you having to change anything real? Question the fuck out of those thing!! Do you really have control or security in the first place (over anything other than yourself)? What changes, big or small, are you willing to make to improve your situation? Maybe you don’t want to change a goddamn thing and you actually like the false sense of security. Add it as an item on your list, “I feel secure at XYZ Company.” Read it out loud every day. See if it holds more weight with repetition, or less. Adjust, if need be.

3. Make room for BOTH truths.

Whether you’re dealing with loneliness at work or you choose happiness at work make room for “and.”

Watch your language throughout the rest of your day and you’ll find yourself negating all kinds of things with “but.”

  • I love you, but I just can’t take your video games anymore.
  • You did a great job with your chores but you didn’t follow through and put the leftovers away.
  • She makes me so mad but I can see where she’s coming from.

The first half of each statement is practically erased by the “but” in the second half. Even if you mean to negate “she makes me mad” you’re putting that little part of yourself that needs to be validated on defense. Remember from the first point?

Rather than, “work sucks but at least it pays the bills,” try, “work sucks….AND it pays well.” Now the part of your consciousness that might normally defend the “work sucks” part doesn’t need to pipe up and remind you how unimportant a positive angle is to the preservation of your opinion.

Start with the “the pay is great…AND _____.” You’ll find, over time and with repetition of step two (reading the positives out loud each day) that you’ll begin to put less weight on your previous, over-generalized assumption. You’ll start to maximize the importance of the pay, for instance, and clarify the “work sucks.” “The pay is great…AND the business model really needs to be more agile.” As this perception shifts, so will your energy.

4. Allow yourself to be happy as you go

Practice the above 3 Step Cycle enough and you may find you can generally choose happiness right where you are. That means you’ll naturally stop commiserating with people who are miserable. Shoot, you may even start collaborating with new people who are interested in the same changes you are.

Allow it. Resist the temptation to try to feel happier but for the sake of social acceptance keep gossiping at the cooler. Allow your new curiosities and ideas to shape conversation in meetings regardless of who is surprised, disappointed or pleased that you’re contributing differently.

Being miserable at your job was a default. It will try to take back the reigns. Recommit to your intention to choose happiness at work. That means you want to opt into it repeatedly.

5. Give it time

You’ve only just learned how to choose happiness at work. It’s going to take some time (and perhaps some changes) in order to really get the full affect.

You let the misery go on for how long? If you expect this new attitude shift to work overnight you’re going to build more proof for harmful beliefs. “You can’t choose happiness,” for instance.


5. Be willing to change everything.

Once you choose happiness at work you’ll see that the process that gets you there also gives you incredible new insight about yourself and what’s really important.

You may find that your new mindfulness around your work has inspired you to make some changes, leave the company or start your own thing. Create at least the possibility for the new you to develop through inspired adventure. Safely, of course and with verve and playfulness. Let your new sense of wonder be your guide. It will help you create new, purposeful avenues for you to reinvent yourself for a new career.

6. Forgive yourself

Once you really choose happiness at work you’ll begin to doubt why you ever settled in the first place. Or maybe you realize you could’ve self-advocated more. Whatever the insight, you’re going to need to follow the steps of forgiving yourself and others.

If don’t you’ll find yourself either repeating old patterns or the mistrust of yourself will keep you rooted in one spot.

The fact that you’re miserable enough to need this article in the first place is a sign that you need to make some hard choices. To choose happiness at work is really to choose mindfulness about yourself and your purpose.

You can’t un-know what you’re about to learn about yourself. You’ll begin to see how everything in your life is something you’ve opted into, therefore is something you can choose happiness about.

It’s amazing how a few steps in a list can actually feel like a lot. Download The Squeeze right now to help you manage any anxiety that crops up. It’s my favorite go-to practice when my head spins and my first recommendation if you can’t shut their brains off at night. Lemme know what you think!

Triffany is a certified professional life coach who helps strong women tame their inner hot mess. Start with the book and follow up with a class. Everything you touch will get easier as you go.