The Declaration of Independence states that we have “unalienable Rights, that among these are […] the pursuit of Happiness.” Our right, therefore, is not to be happy, but the ability to pursue it. We can choose to seek out that happiness, yet how many of us actively do? How often do we put the ownership of our happiness under someone else’s job description? Whose responsibility is it to find and activate that happiness? If we approach it from a Values Based Leadership perspective, I would argue that it is YOUR responsibility to find ways to be happy at work. Below are three recommendations to pursue happiness in your work environment:

Ask for Happy

What do you need to be happy? Ask for it! Tasks, people, professional development opportunities, flexible schedule, weekly feedback meetings, a heater under your desk, etc. The worst they can ever say is “No.” If you want it, and you think it will increase your happiness (and in turn your engagement), it is worth a shot. And, if your requests are not too out-of-the-box and are constantly being turned down, you may gain insight into whether the company is a perfect fit for you.

Before many of us even know how to “ask for happy,” we must “find one’s voice in the first place.” Kouzes and Posner, in The Leadership Challenge, talk about how, “at the core of becoming a leader is the need always to connect one’s voice to ones touch.” We cannot ask for happiness if we have yet to determine what actually makes us happy.

Add Your Sparkle

My first day of work at a previous job, I was given an office. It was on the large size, but had been used as a closet for the better part of 10 years. There were three bookshelves (two were broken and one was just plain ugly), piles of books, papers, notes, a few file cabinets, and other remains that had fallen into the “don’t want it, but maybe shouldn’t throw it away” category. I worked in this office equipment and supplies graveyard for just under two months before I spent an entire weekend cleaning house. I went through all the papers- recycled what we didn’t need and put little piles on coworker’s desks with notes that said, “You may want this… if not, please recycle!” I moved the broken bookshelves to the dumpster and donated the majority of the books to a local library. I rearranged my desk so I could see out the window and hung frames with motivational quotes in them. Monday morning came and I was excited to get to my office. I brought a vase with fresh flowers and a pack of colorful pens and finally felt like the space reflected my soul.

We spend approximately 2,000 hours in our offices every year. The more they reflect who we are and who we want to be, the greater our chance of finding happiness while we spend 2,000 hours returning email in front of a computer.

Think Happy Thoughts

In his book, Flourish, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman discusses the benefits of spending a few minutes at the end of every day completing a “What-Went-Well” exercise. This is essentially writing down three things that went well today, and why they happened. Just reflecting through this gratitude exercise has helped people get, “[…] in touch with their strengths, rather than just trying to correct their weaknesses.” Dr. Marilee Adams also discusses this through her use of “Switching Lanes” in her book, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. Her example uses a young girl who was competing for a gymnastics team. Before each performance she kept asking herself, “Will I fall this time?” And each performance, she found herself falling. The moment she changed her thought process to, “How can I do a great job?” she was able to start improving. Just thinking happy and positive thoughts can lead to a change in behavior.

You have been given the right to pursue happiness but only you have the choice to accept the quest. You can choose to expand that happiness by taking ownership over the aspects of your life you can control: ask for what makes you happy, add a bit of yourself into your environment, and think happy thoughts.

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Danielle Aaronson

Danielle Aaronson

Danielle’s mission is to inspire leaders to make intentional choices that move them to positive action. She speaks at conferences, management summits, and leadership programs as well as facilitates efforts with executives and senior leaders at organizations seeking to influence their culture. Her mantra, “be the change you wish to see in the world” has allowed her to strive every day to be the best she can be and help others recognize the potential they have to make a positive difference. @deaaronson

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