So many people are in jobs they think they hate. They hate their boss, they hate the location of the work, they hate the hours they do and they hate the customers they have to deal with. Others just don’t like the concept of working. Some people think there is greener grass on the other side of the fence, and hop into self employment for a while before realising that it can be just as miserable as employed positions, and rapidly returning into servitude.
I think the key to a happy existence is to be happy in everything you do. Whilst this probably sounds extremely wishy washy and unhelpful to the extreme, if you have a job you love but a boss you hate, there are easy solutions. Yes, I know that to move jobs sometimes you have to change everything, including your children’s’ schools, your partner’s career, your house, your friends and your geographical location, but life is just too short to spend every day in drudgery hating a percentage of time that you have in the day.
Think about your average day on this planet. You probably wake up at some point between 6.30am and 7.00am, get yourself, your house and your family ready for work and school, jump in the car or on the bus and head to work or school, start your working day at about 9.00am, take an hour off for lunch, finish work at 5.00pm, do a quick visit to a shop or take a child to an after school club before getting home at about teatime for 7 o’clock or 8 o’clock and settling down on the sofa in front of the television for an hour and a half before going to bed.
What kind of life is this? What have you achieved in your normal day, and are you satisfied with it? Have you got any space or room in that day to spend time doing the things that you want to do? For example, if you wanted to go to the gym for an hour, how would you fit it in? If you wanted to sit and read a book for 30 minutes by yourself uninterrupted, is this possible? If you wanted to spend some time with one of your children out of school, would it be possible to do this?
I suspect the answer for the vast majority of the population is a definite no. So many of us are tied up in what can only be described as financial servitude, it is hard to see the bigger picture of life and all the things that you could be doing as well as work. In order to be happy at work you have to have a good work play and life balance. This involves having friends and family, outside interests, something to keep you occupied (whether this is work or some other form of activity), plenty of exercise and plenty of good food. You cannot focus on one of these things without the others.
Being happy at work is a very difficult thing to achieve. But everybody’s working existence, whether you are chief executive of a multinational PLC or the office cleaner, there are stresses that occur in everyday life in your workplace and you have to deal with them. These stresses can impact on your daily life, whether it affects your family time, your work time or your leisure time. They will always be there and how happy you are will depend on how well you manage the stress that is buzzing around you.
Most of us live in a completely chaotic world, but this can be made more chaotic by the lengthy time spent in a working environment. Let me explain: if you are out of action between 9am and 5pm everyday because of work then your fanatic lifestyle, whether this is doing the shopping, dealing with financial management, sorting out the children or fitting in leisure activities, are all done from about the hours of 5pm to 9pm on a daily basis. You have no scope at all to spread these out and so although your working life may be quiet and peaceful and relaxed, the other part of your life is definitely not, and you have almost moved the fanatic activity from one place into another. Similarly, if you have fanatic work existence which involves cramming as many possible tasks into your working day as possible, and often find it hard to finish by 5pm, it’s either taking work home or working longer hours than they should, then this would impact on your possibly peaceful home life as your brain hasn’t had any time to relax between one type of activity and another.
The key to a happy working existence is balance, and I think the only way you can get that is by being content in a job that is set between certain hours (very hard to find) or working for yourself.
I suspect that about half the people reading this have now dismissed this whole article as being a total waste of time and not worth reading, because who on earth can just give up a job and work on their own, simply to achieve a happier working existence? I would say that just about everybody can who is not happy in their working life. What is the point in having a miserable working existence simply to earn lots of money that you think you need, in order to maintain an existence which you’re not actually able to enjoy? Will you ever be able to enjoy it if you are working flat out in a miserable environment, with retirement 20 years down the line and potential for lots of health issues to arise before then as a result of your unhappy mental state of mind? I would suggest not, and the key to having a happy working existence is to be happy at work. Again, very wishy washy but here’s what I mean: if you are happy working as an office cleaner for five hours a day for say £50 and you can comfortably live on the money you make as an office cleaner, and as a result you are happy with your existence and so are the people around you, then why on earth would you want to do anything different?
There is a tale told in lots of business help books that I will summarise here for you in case you have had the luck of missing it, but it concerns a businessman going on holiday to a Greek island and studying the behaviour and work of the local Greek fishermen. He noticed that they were very inefficient in the way they worked and trundled out of harbour at a certain time of day, didn’t pick up that much fish, returned later in the day fairly early on and sat around for the remainder of their time without actually doing any work. He got talking to a couple of the fishermen and pointed out that with a bit of extra work and efficiency they could improve their income dramatically. He started to explain to them how they could do this in terms of time management, investment, increasing efficiency in the way they fished and lots of other useful and helpful information. The Greek fishermen just laughed at the businessman and pointed out that the end result of all of this would be that they could spend time trundling out of the harbour when it suited them, returning at a time when it suited them and just sitting around in bars drinking whenever they wanted to.
The businessman hadn’t quite understood the key to a happy existence. In his mind, business was all about making as much money as possible in as short a time as possible, but for the Greek fishermen the key to a happy existence was to be happy in work and in what you were doing now. Yes they could go out and spend more time fishing, invest in their fishing fleet and improve the way that they caught their fish, but this would take time and effort, and time and effort away from their time enjoying their existence as fishermen on a Greek island. For them, the balance they had in their working existence was correct. They were enjoying their work, enjoying their life and satisfied with their lot in life. The businessman clearly was not. And of course whether the wives of the fishermen were similarly as happy as the fishermen were if they’re loafing about and failing to catch many fish, is another matter entirely.
If you are self employed or work for yourself a couple of things occur. Firstly, your income is completely tied to the work that you do. For some people this is a complete nightmare and something they would rather not experience. For others it is like a breath of fresh air and they no longer feel frustrated that their good work benefits someone else. It may still benefit the customer but at the end of the day it provides them with the satisfaction that they have performed a good job and they profit from it. You cannot get the same type of satisfaction in an employed position unless you are happy with your lot in life. So for example someone working as a teacher who gets no satisfaction at all about having a pay rise every 2 years because they are more experienced, they just don’t get satisfaction from seeing a class of children achieve their potential, and somebody in that class getting better grades than they would have otherwise done had it not been for the outstanding teaching of that particular professional, and they are going to be very unhappy with their lot in life. This is why some people can be extremely happy who are in a paid employed position, but others hate every minute of it. Have a think about what you are – are you somebody who gets satisfaction out of receiving a pay packet every month, or are you someone who gets satisfaction out of seeing a result from your work? Think very carefully about this question as this ought to guide you in terms of how you plan your life, progressing either to generate profit for yourself and your family or to gain satisfaction from the work that you are doing.
Similarly, have a think about why you are doing your job at the moment. Is it because it’s something expected of you, you have fallen into it, it’s just what you do, or it is a job you’ve always wanted to do and you love every minute of it? If it isn’t the latter you need to seriously think about changing your future before it changes you. By this I mean it adjusts the way you see life, your outlook on life, and your future with your family.
Some years ago career coaching, I came across a lawyer who absolutely loved her job. She thought it was one of the best things she’d ever done and she’s always wanted to qualify as a solicitor, work in a law firm (in her case it was a local government job), and she got satisfaction from seeing the results of her work and everything else she did. Unfortunately she also had a bullying boss. The bullying boss was particularly horrid and spent a lot of time trying to undermine her. After a few years of this she was at the point of thoroughly detesting her job, her career and her life, and wanting to completely change what she was doing. It took a long time during our session to persuade her to see that the reality was not that she hated her job or her existence, but that she hated her boss who was particularly horrid. She needed to change her job, not her career or the way she worked. It was not her problem that she didn’t like her current existence but rather the external factor of her boss. You need to sit down and think in the same way. If you current don’t like your job is it because of the nature of the work, or is it because of the environment or people at the work? We’ve all worked with difficult and horrible people and they exist in every walk of life. They are often horrible and difficult people because they are miserable with their existence and want to make yours the same. We think that the only way of sorting this out is to change your job. There is no point continuing in a job that you hate in an environment that you detest. This is not the key to a good life balance. You can make your family life and your home life as happy as you like, but without having a happy life at work you will never be content with your lot in life, and this is not the key to a good life.
Jonathan Fagan is MD of Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited and TP Recruitment Limited, a set of websites involved in a range of recruitment work. Jonathan has been running small businesses for over 20 years and has a number of interests and investments in companies as diverse as transcription, legal recruitment and a bit of marketing. He is an author of a number of guides and books, together with a children’s novel. In his spare time he enjoys playing golf, cricket, coaching girl’s football, operating a parent taxi, lots of running and paddleboarding on Bala Lake and the River Dee. He is a strong believer in a good work-life balance and regular blogs on making money vs enjoying life. Jonathan’s website is http://www.jonathanfagan.co.uk