If you think that all you need to be happy at a job is to have a job, you’re right. In this economy, the paycheck-equals-happiness equation is 100 percent correct, especially if you are an unfeeling, insensitive, unenlightened boob.
But you’re a deeply feeling, highly sensitive, totally enlightened boob, so it’s different. You have to be happy when you’re at your job in order to be happy when you’re not at your job.
Face it — you’re deep!
Fortunately, there is news you can feel happy about. Dr. Srikumar S. Rao has published a new book, titled “Happiness At Work. Be Resilient, Motivated and Successful — No Matter What.”
You know Dr. Rao, of course. He is famous for “challenging the notion that work and misery go hand in hand.” At least, his PR man believes this is what he does. All I know for sure is that anyone who thinks work and misery do not go hand in hand has never spent time at your office.
But maybe I’m jumping to conclusions here. Maybe a delicate flower like yourself could be happy at work if only someone would tell you how. Surprise! That’s exactly what Dr. Rao has done. So, hold on! The happiness express is leaving the station.
Happiness generator #1 is to “start focusing on the process, rather than the outcome.” In other words, just because your incompetence and sloth have driven your company to the edge of bankruptcy, don’t let it get you down. Explain to your managers that even if your major, mission-critical project fails, the process that led to this failure was a total success. According to Dr. Rao, you must “accept the outcome, whatever it is, as joyfully as you can.” And you can be sure your manager will be joyful, too, as she calls security to carry your boxes and your body out into the street.
See what I mean — happiness is contagious.
“Stop labeling events as ‘Good’ or ‘Bad,'” is another Srikumar S. Rao prescription for happiness. He also suggests that you do not spend time and energy trying to convince yourself, or your bosses, to “think positive.” Instead, ask yourself “what if no ‘bad thing’ happens to you because you refuse to use that label?” The answer is: “you no longer have to put a positive spin on whatever life gives you.”
This is true. If your boss gives you a bad performance review because sales are down 50 percent, and the stock price is down 75 percent, and it really is your fault 100 percent, don’t try to spin it. Instead, simply say, “Boss, I no longer use labels.” [Don’t be surprised if your boss’ initial response actually includes a few labels, such as "idiot,” "imbecile” and "worthless, useless, brainless moron I never should have hired in the first place.” Just smile serenely and let your inner happiness radiate. The boss will get the message. And your health insurance will more than likely cover your visit to the emergency room, if you can get there before the company cancels your policy.]
“Realize that you are playing a role” is one of the most insightful of Dr. Rao’s suggestions. At work, some play the role of CEO. Others play the roll of intern. You play dead. Whatever your part in the farce that is your job, remember “you can set yourself free by recognizing that you’re merely playing a role that you have identified with and shift your focus to who you really are.”
Of course, there could be a small problem if you’ve played the downtrodden worker role so long that you’ve forgotten who you really are. Fortunately, your manager will be more than willing to remind you who you really are — a person who has just been fired. If so, roll out the red carpet. Unemployed loser living in a refrigerator box under the freeway is a role in which you can truly star.
Chances are, you are already feeling much happier in your work, which may be enough for you, but not for Dr. Rao. He will not be happy until he returns you to “the halcyon days of your youth when you thought McDonald’s was a four-star restaurant,” and “you preferred nickels to dimes because they were bigger.”
Frankly, it will not be easy to convince you that McDonald’s is a four-star restaurant, not after you’ve experienced Buffalo Wing Wednesday at the Smorgy Bob, but I can certainly understand why you prefer nickels. They’re what you get when you cash your paycheck.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.