The Happy Work Guide: 8 Steps To Freedom From Toxic Work
If you're like any of the ambitious professionals I work with, you’re likely experiencing discontent at work.
You’re clocking 10 hour plus workdays (and even working weekends). You carry your laptop on vacation if you do go for one.
Long commutes, office politics, sales pressures, competition – don’t make it any easier.
There’s so much emphasis to be out there – hustling and grinding to get those numbers. Be it more customers, sales or funding.
And to get work done, manage people and client relationships.
You know for sure, the exhaustion and pressure is not sustainable.
You wish you could take a break from this. But you have a home on a mortgage, school fees to pay, a house to run and other financial responsibilities. And you don’t know where to begin to make a change.
You can start by taking one small step at a time towards claiming back your happiness at work.
So, are you ready to roll?
STEP 1: PRESS THE PAUSE BUTTON
First up, slow down.
In the frenzy of our busy lives and work, we often lose connection with ourselves.
We’re unable to listen to that little voice of guidance within us.
Slowing down helps us to begin restoring that connection.
So give yourself permission to pause. Take some time off.
You don’t need to apply for a vacation. Taking a weekend off from any work at home or office is good enough.
Spend some time in silence and notice your thoughts. Listen to what they are saying to you.
Listen to silence it has so much to say. ~ Rumi
Now, if that's too much for you, worry not. I’ve lined up a few fantastic activities for you. So, read on.
STEP 2: PULL OUT THAT JOURNAL & WRITE
As you tune out the noise and din of the world, it’s a great time to pull out your notebook and begin journaling.
Journaling is a fabulous practice to bring clarity and perspective.
Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can be by yourself.
Writing pen to paper v/s writing on a digital device is likely to help you connect better.
So pull out an empty notebook, a journal or recycled sheets of paper to get started.
Use this exercise as a brain dump. Pour in all your worries, thoughts, ideas, emotions.
Allow yourself to express.
Write about how you're feeling. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed and trapped at work.
Or if something about yourself or another annoys you. Write it all down.
You may feel angry towards someone or even towards yourself. Pen that in your journal.
Write as much as you want to and for as long as you want – after all, no one’s watching! It’s all freewheeling, so no censoring.
You may even feel like writing about the things in your life that you feel grateful about. Things that make you happy.
There’s no specific formula to write. Write whatever comes up for you in the moment.
As you're writing, at some point you may feel the pen takes over and the writing begins to flow without much thought.
That’s when you'll begin to get the biggest breakthroughs and clarity. Though this may happen after several days of writing.
As you write, you may experience realisations or get clarity about certain things.
For example, you may get the clarity that you love your job and workplace. All you need to do is speak up for yourself. You need to ask for a work-from-home option while doing the work you love.
Or journaling may give you the courage to acknowledge that you're working in a toxic environment. You realise it’s time to take action to find a new job that’s aligned with your values.
Ensure you keep your writing in a safe and private place.
After completing the writing for the day remember to tear or burn your journal pages. So you can let go of the emotions in your writing. That way you’re also assured that your writing is confidential and private. Don’t skip this.
Knowing that your writing is for your eyes only, gives you the courage to be bold and candid, making it more effective.
STEP 3: GET UP & GET MOVING
Many times we keep our emotions inside ourselves.
We don’t feel and express these emotions. These stay repressed in our body and could build up as anger, sadness or other negative emotions.
Moving your body can help you release and express stuck emotions.
It’s one of the easiest ways to raise your vibrations.
It’s no wonder that we feel good when we go for a walk or do a workout. And you don’t need to sign up for the gym or hire a trainer.
All you can do is go for a run in the neighbourhood park or do a dance in your room. Even a little stretching and walking can take you a long way.
For the longest time, I found it challenging to get up from my work desk and get moving.
A few years ago with much hesitation, I took to walking. At the time I believed walking was time-consuming and too much of an effort to make. I thought it was a waste of my precious working hours!
But, as I continued my daily walk in the park, I experienced an incredible amount of clarity and joy. I felt free and happy.
A walk in nature walks the soul back home. ~ Mary Davis
Walking became a fantastic tool to detangle situations in life and work. I got new ideas for my business and content creation. I got fresh perspectives on situations where I felt stuck.
Walking made me productive. I love that the quality of the solutions and ideas I got from walking were incredibly rich.
It’s no surprise now that I look forward to my daily morning walk in the park.
So what activity gives you joy? Is it running, walking, yoga, cycling or swimming.
Take your pick and get going.
Feel like dancing to your favourite music allows you to sparkle and shine? Go ahead and do that.
You don’t need to run a marathon. Just get your body moving.
Bonus Tip: Walking coupled with journaling can be a terrific combination to bring clarity, confidence and new ideas.
STEP 4: MAKE FUN A PRIORITY
I understand, at a time when you’re going through a tough time at work, it can be challenging to have fun.
That's the last thing on your mind.
But goofing with friends, playing with your kids or watching a comedy show can bring much-needed lightness.
Light moments can pull the plug off the stress. They can help you relax, bring clarity and get a better perspective.
Transitioning from the corporate world to launching my coaching practice, was a challenging phase in my career.
During this time I enrolled in an IMPROV Comedy class, purely as a distraction from the stress.
Comedy helped me switch to a world of fun. It helped me unwind and see the lighter side of things. It reduced the seriousness of my troubling situation at work.
From fumbling with a single line on stage, I went on to perform stand-up comedy in front of audiences of hundreds.
Comedy gave me confidence and self-expression. That conviction and energy worked as fuel to help me launch my independent coaching practice.
It helped me tide over a stressful period in my career, with much ease.
Laughter after all is the best medicine.
Never underestimate the importance of having fun. ~ Randy Pausch
So what are the fun things you can do to bring lightness and joy into your life?
You may love doing some DIY craft, playing with the kids in the park or simply throwing a ball for your dog.
Or calling your friends over to binge-watch your favourite comedy shows may be a great idea.
Or spend an afternoon playing board games with your cousins.
Go and do the things that are fun for you, so can feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
That way you make space for clarity, new ideas and breakthroughs.
STEP 5: IMPROVE YOUR SELF AWARENESS
Self-awareness is a critical component of success. It can be incredibly useful when you’re going through a challenging time in your career.
It helps you focus on your strengths while accepting your shortcomings.
Are you wondering 'so how can I begin to improve my self-awareness?’
Journaling is one tool that can help you introspect and raise your self-awareness.
Here are a few other tools and techniques to get you started.
A. Get 360 Degree Feedback
This is a simple, yet powerful self-awareness technique I’ve used for years with my clients and for myself.
Connect with a few friends, family and people who’ve worked with you in the past.
Choose people from diverse circles. Select those who you feel would be objective enough to give feedback with an intent to help you.
Ask them to answer 2 simple questions.
i. What would you say are my strengths?
ii. What improvements do you think I should make in my life?
Remember to include people who know you well and associates who’ve worked with you in the last 2-3 years. Exclude people you’re currently working with, as it may be awkward for them to give honest feedback. A minimum of 10-12 respondents works well for this exercise.
The strengths from this feedback fill you up with confidence and power.
They will help you understand how you can shine your light and will lift your self-awareness.
The areas of improvement will give you an understanding of where you need to make amends.
This information can be crucial to give you breakthroughs as you cope with a challenging time in your career.
B. Know Your Myers Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI) test is a popular and powerful test to help you understand yourself better.
It’s a test that gives insights into how you perceive the world and make decisions. According to the Myers-Briggs test, there are 16 distinct types of personalities.
I’ve found the MBTI to be the most effective while working with clients and for myself too.
Knowing that I’m an INFJ type by the MBTI has helped me accept that I’m an introvert.
I’m able to allow myself to be an introvert in a culture that has a bias towards extroverts and pushes you to be one.
I’m able to accept that I need more time alone than most other people, as it replenishes my energy. So I make it a point to factor that into my calendar, without guilt.
As an INFJ I have a hard time doing work that I’m not passionate about, so I ensure I choose work that interests me.
I don’t beat myself for disliking chores or routine tasks, I delegate or automate as much as I can.
Understanding my MBTI personality has made me feel strong, clear and confident. It’s easier for me to make decisions as I know what works for me and what does not.
You can take a free MBTI test at https://www.16personalities.com/ to know your MBTI type and further deepen your self-awareness.
C. Discover Your Zone of Genius
You can introspect further by zeroing down on your zone of genius.
Gay Hendricks in his popular book The Big Leap introduces the concept of the zone of genius and encourages you to find yours.
When you work from your zone of genius, you’re operating from the natural abilities that are innate to you and get you into a state of flow.
Here’s where you find boundless inspiration and create unique and distinguished work.
So, what’s your zone of genius?
What makes you unique? What kind of work puts you in a flow that you lose track of time? What would you love to do if money was no concern?
Take some time out and answer these questions so you can nail your zone of genius.
Are you working from your zone of genius or do you need to make some changes? Think about it.
D. Connect With Your Mentors
Another fantastic way to raise your self-awareness is to connect with your mentors and your previous bosses.
People you trust and look up to.
Talk to them about your work situation and get their perspective and guidance.
You’ll get a deeper understanding of yourself as you open up and listen to them.
You may choose to go with their advice or not, but it’s always good to hear alternative perspectives.
Surround yourself with people you love, trust and support you.
Those who encourage you and are your cheerleaders as well as candid to give honest feedback and guidance.
STEP 6: GET CURIOUS
Reading can be immensely useful to get clarity and perspective when you’re going through challenges.
It opens you up to new points of view and can provide breakthroughs to your situation. While grappling with challenges at work, consuming uplifting books or podcasts can be helpful.
Go online or talk to your friends and colleagues to line up some inspiring books and Podcasts.
Take some time out to read them. Enrich and empower yourself.
Here’s a pick of some of my favourite books that can help you while dealing with challenges at work:
The Law of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money and Miracles By Marianne Williamson
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
Discover Your Dharma by Sahara Rose
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time & Energy Management for Ambitious Women by Kate Northrup
Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis
The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
Here's my Podcast pick.
The Gentle Business Revolution by Andy Mort
The Highest Self Podcast by Sahara Rose
Business Tao with George Kao
Good Ancestor Podcast by Layla F Saad
The Hella Rich Podcast by Nadia De Ala and Allison Carpio
Unlocking Us by Brene Brown
The Visionary Business Podcast by Andrea Ranae
Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations
STEP 7: PEN YOUR AHAs FOR A CLEAR PICTURE
Congratulations! You’ve done some good work so far. Give yourself a good pat on the back.
Now take all the insights, breakthroughs and knowledge you’ve gathered from implementing steps 1. to 6. and put it all together.
How could these improve your situation at work and help you bring happiness to your work? What changes, action steps or amends do you need to make? Think about it.
Journaling your aha moments and thoughts can do wonders to bring clarity.
As you journal you may get a clearer picture of the steps you need to take ahead. For example:
- You may get the clarity that you need to stay in your current job and work on your business idea as a side hustle until it’s ripe to launch.
- Perhaps you realise that you need to maintain clear boundaries with people at work. You need to stand up for yourself so that you don’t get passed up for a promotion.
- Or maybe you realise that it’s time to shut down your business and take a break.
- Possibly, you're still grappling with your situation at work but feel clear and ready to work with a guide or therapist.
Make a note of your realisations and findings and stay with them for a few days. You may get new ideas and breakthroughs as you stay with your findings. Pen them in your journal.
STEP 8: NAIL YOUR 3 ACTION STEPS & GET GOING
By now you may have some idea about the direction you need to move in.
Whether it’s changing your attitude, leaving your job or working with a guide.
With the clarity you’ve got about your path ahead, make a list of 3 action steps you need to take to move forward.
Spruce up that resume, make that call, test that business idea - make a note of the specific action steps you need to take.
Taking action boosts your confidence and courage.
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Focus on those 3 action steps first. And then do the next 3. That way, taking small steps you’ll keep moving forward.
Ready, Get Set, Go!
So start by pressing pause. Take some time off for yourself.
Journal out all your worries and thoughts. Move your body and shake off all the stress.
Go have some fun. Introspect and raise your self-awareness. Get some feedback, take a personality test and zero in your zone of genius.
Enrich yourself with an inspiring book or Podcast episode. Make a note of your aha moments.
Bring it all together, put down 3 action steps and go take them.
Take one step at a time to bring back happiness into your work.
Got a question? Let me know in the comments below.
Would you like to connect for a consultation? Write to me at email@example.com
Struggling in the hustle and grind culture? Make a start to end this struggle by redefining what success means to you.