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How to Be Happy in Your Work, Even When the World is Falling Apart

by Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., author of ENJOY!: 101 Little Ways to Add Fun to Your Work Everyday (originally appeared in the Brazen Careerist)

As each day brings more and more bad news about the economy and the latest business failure and layoffs, I’ve been thinking about how this is an ideal time to put more fun in your work and your life. Consider it an antidote to today’s doom and gloom, just what the doctor ordered to rejuvenate yourself.  

To this end, think about the principles of happiness and how you might apply them to your own situation today. Whether you are still employed, recently lost your job, or are looking again, this can be just what you need to bring back some joy and lightness into your life.  If you are like many professionals working too hard or trying to juggle a multitude of projects to be even more competitive in today’s tough times, these principles are a good way to better enjoy whatever you are doing and put aside your feelings of stress.

I’ve outlined the 12 principles of happiness below. Remind yourself to think about them each day, so you act in tandem with them; perhaps keeping them on a list you can see regularly so they stick in your mind.  This way experiencing happiness becomes a way of life—an overriding outlook composed of qualities such as optimism, courage, love, and fulfillment, so you enjoy every day, no matter what happens. In turn, this focus on being happy will help to drive away fear and other negative feelings towards work and your economic future. 

1.  First cultivate love, which Baker calls the “wellspring of happiness” and the polar opposite of fear.  To do so, remind yourself to experience and express appreciation for the work, friends, and significant others you do have in your life. Focus on what you have now or will have, so you feel gratitude, not on what you don’t have or used to have, causing you to feel a sense of loss.

2. Be optimistic. You can put painful events behind you, such as by learning from whatever difficulties you encounter. Optimism can also help you overcome any regrets for the past and lead you to feel confident about whatever the future will bring.

3. Cultivate courage by actively embracing challenges as a way to overcome feelings of fear.

4.  Remind yourself that you always have the freedom to choose whatever the situation.  For example, if you feel stuck where you are, consider the different ways you might remake yourself to do something different; consider how you might bring your current skill set to bear on the needs created by today’s economic situation.

5.  Be proactive, since this enables you to shape your own destiny, rather than waiting for other people or events to make you happy. Think about what you might change, what you might do differently, to reshape what you are doing now.

6. Gain security through liking and accepting who you are, so you have an inner sense of assurance, since everything else in life changes. Security has to come from within, not from outer attributes, such as money or popularity.

7. Take steps to be in good health, because you need to feel in healthy to be happy—and at the same time, feeling happy will contribute to your good health.

8. Have a sense of spirituality, which doesn’t mean you have a particular religious faith, but rather that you are open to experiences beyond your everyday life.  This sense can then help to give you a feeling of strength and purpose, so you are better able to weather the reverses that are happening everyday.

9.  Take steps to embrace and express altruism, since this brings great satisfaction through giving to others and feeling connected to them; it helps provide you with a sense of purpose. By contrast, people who are not altruistic tend to be too self-absorbed to be truly happy.

10.  Cultivate a sense of perspective, too, so you are better able to making distinctions between big and small problems and prioritizing what’s more and less important, rather than being rigid. This view also enables you to put difficulties into a larger context, so you remain attuned to the big picture.  For instance, you might see the current economic uncertainty as a time of change preparing you to move on to newer, different, and more satisfying work opportunities in the future.

11.  It also helps to look on whatever happens with a sense of humor. Even during bad times, humor will help you lighten up and move past those difficulties.

12.  Finally, having a sense of purpose gives meaning to your life. You feel a sense of satisfaction that you are doing what you were meant to do.

Now that you know the 12 happiness principles, think about how you might apply them in your work and life.  You may recognize that you are already using many of these principles, but now pay attention to how and when you are using them, so you appreciate yourself for what you are already doing. In fact that’s the first principle: love or in this case, showing appreciation for yourself.

GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar/workshop leader, specializing in business and work relationships and professional and personal development. She has published over 50 books on diverse subjects. Her latest books on business relationships and professional development include: Enjoy!; Disagreements, Disputes, and All-Out War; 30 Days to a More Powerful Memory; A Survival Guide to Managing Employees From Hell; A Survival Guide for Working with Bad Bosses; and A Survival Guide for Working with Humans. You can learn more about Gini at



Disagreements, Disputes, and All-Out War

30 Days to a More Powerful Memory

A Survival Guide to Managing Employees from Hell

A Survival Guide for Working with Bad Bosses

A Survival Guide for Working with Humans