It’s Friday at 5 p.m. I run out of the office with arms waving madly over my head. I’m free! Freedom is pure joy.
Aside from the clock striking 5 on a Friday, I feel pure joy in these other situations:
Greeting my son first thing in the morning. Check out this smile.
Drinking my latte in the morning.
Cuddling in front of the TV with my husband, Evan. (Binge-watching rules.)
Working? You read that right.
Working brings me pure joy. Being completely immersed in writing this article, making plans for my website, building partnerships, envisioning the value I want to create and bring to the world is exhilarating.
This hasn’t always been the case for me. I’ve had to work quite a number of years to find this sought-after happiness in my work.
And unfortunately the purpose of work is rarely to feel joy.
We’re taught that work is “work.” Work has to feel difficult. It’s an obligation, something we’re tied to, something we must do to put clothes on our backs and food on the table.
With this approach and mentality, work becomes more and more of a struggle. We head to work, and everything is a bother. The commute is inconvenient, our boss is a pest, and opportunities for growth are lacking. (Is it 5 yet so I can run out to happy hour and have a glass of wine or two or three with my friends?)
Sometimes this is the case. The workplace can be toxic, and that can take a massive toll on us emotionally and mentally. Other times, we’ve outgrown a company and need more challenging work. The struggle is real.
But work itself does not have to be a struggle. What if we looked at work through rose-colored glasses? (i.e. like that guy you’re dating, or that vacation you’re taking in a few months.)
Don’t laugh. It’s possible!
How can we access joy through our work? How can each day be more purposeful, more fulfilling, more exhilarating, whether we’re at our dream job or not?
Find Your Mission. What Gives You Purpose?
What is your mission? If you don’t know, you’re not alone. We’re told to pick a major in college and do what we’re “good at.” How could we make these big decisions at the age of 19?
Sometimes, the work in which we end up is random. Other times, we think we know what we want, and it turns out it’s not what we want at all.
Although we may fall into certain work for whatever reason, there are events and experiences that we’ve all had that resonate with us strongly. These experiences can guide our work lives.
For me personally, I found meaning in my struggles. In my teens and twenties, I had difficulty identifying my “thing.” I didn’t have just one passion and a clear-cut career path.
In my late twenties, I fell in love with business and figured out what my key driver was: creating and helping others find more meaning in their work lives.
Your mission doesn’t have to result from a personal struggle. But, to find something that matters to you, look deep within. What issues do you deeply care about? What do you naturally gravitate to? Then ask yourself why you gravitate to these issues.
Now, how can you bring these things into your work life?
For example, perhaps you care deeply about building a more sustainable environment, but you work for a company that doesn’t necessarily prioritize this. Can you initiate a project that can bring greater value to your organization, while allowing you to work on something you love?
If the work you’re doing is in complete misalignment with your values and your mission, start thinking about the options you have to make a transition.
Your mission doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to believe in the cause. Once you believe in the work you’re doing, you start to feel the joy.
Stop Worrying. You’re Not That Important
In addition to finding joy through a mission, we also find joy when we feel good about ourselves.
I’m a big believer in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Taking action leads to motivation to continue doing big things.
I used to worry about what others thought of me all the time.
As a kid, I wanted all my friends to like me, and I wanted my parents to constantly shower me with compliments. I got an A! Now tell me how brilliant I am.
This of course translated to my career once I started working. During meetings, I worried about how I sounded. Does it seem like I know my stuff? What will people think?
For a period of time, I shied away from speaking up in meetings. As an opinionated person who truly enjoys engaging with others and getting ideas off the ground, this was really difficult. I wasn’t succeeding. I wasn’t adding value. I was hiding.
Although it can be difficult to break away from this pattern, I found that focusing on what others think of you is a recipe for stress and even failure. It takes a toll on our confidence.
So, how can we build confidence so that we can feel joy through our work?
First, remember that you’re not that important. No one is looking at your every move. Only you care about you that much.
Second, focus on the goal and what you’re trying to achieve. This leads to greater motivation, and greater discovery about yourself and your work. You curiosity grows. Your mind expands. Your creativity builds. It’s a recipe for success.
Taking action and building your confidence can be easier when your work is tied to a mission.
Dr. Stacey Radin, CEO and Founder of Unleashed has built a nonprofit that helps young girls find their voices and become leaders through this exact model. How does she do it? She gives them a purpose: puppy rescue.
Young girls are fighting for a cause bigger than themselves. They’re focusing on social justice issues and as a result become change-makers and leaders.
If you don’t yet have a mission, that’s ok. You can find meaning in your current work by focusing on those around you. Perhaps you care deeply about your team and helping them succeed can give you purpose. Or, the mission of the company resonates with you, even if it’s not your own personal mission. Let that guide you for the time being.