Happiness depends much more on our positive attitude than on what actually happens to us, according to research cited in an article entitled “6 Ways to Be Happier at Work” which was published last fall in the Ask Annie career column in Fortune Magazine. I think the connection between happiness and a positive attitude can be applied to life in general as well as to work, school, and the career planning process.
The article’s reference to some of the basic principles of positive psychology, also known as the formal study of happiness, is what really intrigued me the most. I majored in psychology in college, and I always get excited and interested when I come across an article with a psychological reference. And it’s extra special when I come across news items that combine psychology and career planning.
According to the article, the 6 ways to be happier at work are as follows:
- “Practice looking for the good“
- “Have some fun“
- “Brighten your office space“
- “Keep a journal“
- “Invest in people”
- “Think of work as a series of sprints, not a marathon“
You can check out the article for more information on these 6 points, but I wanted to emphasize one point that I found especially helpful and have used myself to stay positive. The article talks about keeping a gratitude list by writing down at least three things you are thankful for every day. If you keep one of them work, school, or career planning related, you’ll automatically focus on some of the positive in this area of your life.
I went to grad school in my 30s with the hopes of teaching at the college level after I graduated. Unfortunately, the job prospects in my field weren’t very good at the time. It was easy to get discouraged, especially since all my classmates kept talking about how we were “doomed.”
I chose to focus on the positive and kept a list of things I loved about my new career path. I had confirmed the positive things about my chosen career path through:
- classroom observations
- volunteering in professional organizations
- attending conferences
- presenting at conferences
- talking to people in the field
Whenever I came across another positive aspect, I wrote it down on a piece of paper I kept in my “career binder.” I also kept a list of contacts I had made in the field and experiences I could leverage during an interview.
I believe I felt less “doomed” than many of my classmates because I kept looking for the good, and I kept reminding myself that I was embarking on something I had always wanted to do. Having positive written notes helped me through times of doubt, which certainly crept up at times… My positive attitude got me through grad school, and I was lucky to line up several teaching jobs after I graduated.
Questions: Do you have a positive outlook in life? Do you have a positive outlook when it comes to work/school and your chosen career path? Have you ever kept a gratitude list?