Episode #42: How to Be Happy in Your Career

Be Happy in Your Career

Today’s episode is focused on how YOU can be happy in your career! 

Many people want more from their work than the paycheck it provides – they want a sense of purpose and deeper meaning in their work. Within career development, a direction that leads a person toward a personally fulfilling and/or socially useful engagement within one’s work is sometimes referenced as an inner passion or life purpose. 

Check out my blog post where I share 5 Ways to Be Happier in Life and at Work

The truth is, so many people feel miserable in their jobs. Gallup reports that more than 70% of American workers are disengaged at work, a percentage that has changed very little in more than a decade.

Furthermore, stable careers are a thing of the past. Adults now hold an average of 11 jobs by the time they turn 44 years old–and the median number of years people have worked for their current employer is just 4.4 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Check out Episode 71, How to Not Sabotage Your Job Search

These numbers tell a story in which uninspired work and constant career change is the norm, with people at all career stages asking themselves questions like – “How can I find more meaning in my work?” and “What path should I take now?”

In Episode 41, I shared the keys to greater happiness, productivity, and engagement in your work. The key was identifying your signature character strengths. 

Your Character Strengths

Character strengths are 24 positive traits within each of us. We can also think of these character strengths as 24 seeds within us that we can nurture and grow that often just require us to do the proper watering. You can take the VIA Character Strengths Survey to determine your unique signature strengths (the link for this Free Survey can be found in the show notes)

So why character strengths? Our brains and bodies are wired to look for what is “wrong”, rather than what is “right”. We have sophisticated systems in our body to fight or flight in terms of when there is danger and upsetting things going on. While we have some wiring for what’s right, the wrong part is very strong. Therefore, it comes down to us learning how to focus on the right and this is one reason why knowing and using your character strengths can have a positive impact on your life. 

Other research has shown that the negative grows faster than the positive and therefore dominates the positive. It’s more varied and complex than the positive and we need more resources to handle the negative than to express the positive. 

The negative of life, the suffering, the problems, and the struggles are very contagious interpersonally to others or within ourselves. This is what can create vicious cycles of negativity in our thinking, feelings, and our behaviors. We can have a couple of negative thoughts that lead to some negative feelings and negative emotions of shame and sadness that leads to more negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and these keep cycling over time.

Unfortunately, it leads to some negative behaviors or bad habits – such as starting to drink too much, not getting enough sleep or not exercising enough, and living a more sedentary life, which feeds into negative thinking and feelings about ourselves and just continues to go into a vicious cycle where we are then in the midst of a depression or panic attack. 

The negative can take over and become difficult to manage. This is why we need character strengths as a counterbalance – not to replace the negative, because we very much need the negative to motivate us, to move us forward and to learn from, to grow, and to gain wisdom from our anger and from our sadness and even shame. We absolutely need that, but it’s terribly imbalanced. 

We need our strengths to create more balance and to be able to build on the positive to create those upward positive spirals to build on. Character strengths create many benefits within ourselves to counterbalance the negative.

Other areas of research such as engagement and disengagement by the Gallup Institute have found that  2/3 of workers are disengaged or actively disengaged with their work. This means that they are not connecting with their work, they are misaligned with their work, they don’t want to be there and they are not concentrating on their work, and so on. 

Only about 1/3 of people are engaged with their work. They are in the zone, finding flow with their work and really enjoying their work and so on. Our strengths are literally connected with engagement. The way a lot of people actually define engagement is when you are using your strengths you become engaged. You enter that flow state and so your character strengths are a solution.

Research on Flourishing is also quite low in the U.S. In the U.S. research has shown that less than 20% of people are flourishing in this country. Flourishing can be defined as having high social well-being and psychological well-being. Many of us are just not flourishing in our lives. 

Many are just languishing in life and they are just going through the motions and not really there. This is another reason why your character strengths are important in your life because they can really help you to flourish in life to really have those different areas of well-being. 

There is so much value in finding meaning and purpose in work because this leads to greater happiness in your career!

  • A sense of purpose and meaning is associated with positive career development outcomes. People who are connected to their purpose are more confident that they can make good decisions about their careers, they are more committed to their jobs and organizations, they are more intrinsically motivated and engaged, and more satisfied with their jobs. 
  • A sense of purpose is associated with general well-being – compared with other people, those who are purpose-driven are happier, more satisfied with life, cope more effectively with challenges, and express a stronger sense of meaning in their lives. 
  • It’s really about living it – people with a deeper purpose are happiest, most committed, and experience the most benefit when they feel they are living out a calling. Unfortunately, some people who sense that they have a purpose have trouble finding opportunities to express it, and as a result, they feel frustrated, discouraged, and unhappy. 

Although living one’s purpose can be a guiding light –  for some people, a sense of purpose can cause career sabotage, or “tunnel vision,” to workaholism, or even exploitation from employers. 

I love to help people discern and live out their purpose by helping them understand their interests, gifts, and character strengths, so that they can identify and create new opportunities, and even transform their relationship with their current job by tapping into their aspirations.

“Your work doesn’t have to suck the living life right out of you, it can bring you tremendous joy, satisfaction and success.” – Teena Evert

I am a licensed mental health professional who has fully transitioned into a career, life, and leadership coaching. I work with people who are more interested in designing a future, rather than getting over a past. 

People who want to live their life more fully both personally and professionally value having a personal coach. Because of this, professional men and women and entrepreneurial small business owners – hire me because they want their vocation to reflect their values.

I believe that you can create an ideal work life. This requires taking full responsibility and accountability for your personal growth and professional development. 

“I went from feeling super stuck – to –  seriously satisfied, I will show you how.” – Teena Evert

Let’s take a look at your level of job satisfaction. Research consistently shows that more than 50% of professionals in the workforce are unhappy in their position. 

On a scale of 1-8, rate how satisfied you are in your current job or occupation. 

1 = You are burned out

2 = You hate it

3 = You dislike it

4 = You can tolerate it

5 = It’s okay, but you can do better

6 = I’m content for now

7 = I like it

8 = I love it

What is your current score and is it where you truly want to be? 

With so many people looking to make career changes and transitions, but not knowing how to achieve their goals, career and life coaching are becoming increasingly important. 

7 critical questions to boost your confidence, satisfaction, and success

Let’s explore some questions to help you gain more clarity and understanding about your career experience and future trajectory. 

Self-awareness is the first step towards creating greater work satisfaction, long term success, and authentic confidence

  1.  Are you a career-oriented person? – This is someone who values their career as an important piece of their personhood and they prioritize their job over other parts of their life. 
  2. What has been your career-defining moment or action? – This is one that is very important in making you successful in your job or in deciding how you will be remembered.
  3. What has been your career-limiting habit or action? – Your career-limiting action or fault is one that damages your chances of being successful in your job, for example, a career-limiting habit you should avoid is being unreliable and resistant to change. 
  4. How are you progressing in your career? – Career progress is the progress of making progress to better jobs and opportunities. What is your plan to further your professional development?
  5. What is your career path? – How have you intentionally progressed in work, either in one job or a series of jobs?
  6. Are you looking for a career move? – Are you itching for a change in order to get a better job or to have better success and satisfaction in your current job?
  7. Are you a careerist? – Do you consider your job + success to be important in your life, but perhaps you took a career break because you wanted to travel or take care of your children? 

By taking time to reflect and answer these 7 critical questions, you will begin to have more clarity and understanding about your career experience and future trajectory. As I mentioned prior, gaining more self-awareness, identifying your character strengths, and knowing your purpose is the first step towards creating positive change that can lead to greater work satisfaction, long-term success, and authentic confidence.

The career development process

Let’s take a look at what the career development process looks like. 

Career development planning is a structured process that will help you determine your next career step, set goals based on knowledge of yourself and the market and help you take the right steps to realize your fullest potential and calling. 

The process begins with becoming self-aware, followed by identifying career options that match your transferable skills, character strengths, interests, and passions, followed by exploring your possibilities that lead to making the best career decisions for your future.

Many of my clients experience stress that is related to their belief that they are making decisions about a career “for the rest of their life”. I tell them that while they should make the best decision with the information they have, it’s helpful to remember that the most life-changing, life-altering events they have experienced were probably things they didn’t plan, predict or control. The truth is, there will be more of these events in our lives. 

I invite you to try this happenstance exercise:

First, focus on your future. Consider your life plans (regarding issues like relationships, education, job/career) for either transition or stability over the next couple of years. 

Are you planning for change in any of these areas, something new? Or are you planning for no change to take place? Maybe you are content with your residence, your partner, your job, or other aspects of your life. 

Next, shift your focus to the past. Think about some of your life-changing, life-altering experiences. This could include meeting the person who became your current partner or spouse, insights and new ideas that directed you professionally, an event that changed the way you think about your own life, or any other experience that has significantly shaped your direction. 

Now consider this: how many of these life-changing, life-altering events did you plan, predict or control? 

If you’re like most of my clients, that number will be close to zero. The events that shaped the direction of their lives in the most profound ways are usually outside of their control, beyond their ability to plan or predict. And yet, we all continue to confidently plan our lives even though our most important life events are unpredictable. 

Our lives contain two types of this unpredictability: serendipity (unexpected good things) and disruption (unexpected bad things). In spite of the fact that our lives are often profoundly unpredictable in both of these broad areas, I continue to believe that “planning” is a worthwhile activity. Life without any planning would likely be directionless, haphazard, and meaningless. Our plans can incorporate meaning in the face of unpredictability.

We can make provision for enhancing the unpredictable effects of serendipity by tapping into your character strengths and using them to lead a more fulfilling life, and we can make provision for mitigating the effects of disruption by increasing our resilience, such as maintaining supportive relationships, renewing professional relationships, building an emergency fund, etc.

I teach my clients practical tools to maximize the positive effects and minimize the negative effects of living an engaged life. 

Best practices to claim the lead in your career!

  • Take steps to improve your job satisfaction
  • Gain clarity and direction on your next best step
  • Discover your blind spots and barriers to getting unstuck
  • Explore your growing edge and important areas of development
  • Maintain a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset
  • Design a career that supports your best life

It’s time to transform your life and career!