It takes just three words to increase your happiness at work whether you’re already working at your dream job, learning from a stepping-stone position, or currently filling one of those do-what-you-have-to-do-to-get-a-paycheck roles.
It seems like we live in a society of complainers, people who focus on — and share — what’s wrong. It’s common to hear your peers, friends, and families whining about long work days, bad bosses, commuting woes, dead-end jobs, disappointing performance reviews, workplace bullies, lack of mobility, getting passed up on promotions, budget cuts, and so on. Many of us get caught up in the ongoing cycle of criticism and ride the complaint bus — every day. And, in some cases, throughout each day.
If you find yourself surrounded by workplace whiners and then also complain a lot about your job, you’re hurting your chances of being happy at work. In Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD and co-founder of the Happiness Studies Academy, explains that what we choose to focus on largely determines whether or not we enjoy what we do — within a relationship, at school, and in the workplace.
It’s hard to shift other people’s thinking, but you can help yourself increase your own happiness at work with three simple words — What went well?
Learning to recognize what’s going well at your job can greatly impact your happiness. Exploring the positive elements of your work, even in challenging situations, will help you acknowledge the benefits of your current situation and grow your overall appreciation of it, leading to increased happiness.
In order to switch from our natural tendency to have negative thoughts, we need to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well, explains Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD and director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. Seligman introduced the “What-Went-Well Exercise” to mental health professionals, counselors, life coaches, and university students. Many practitioners use some form of it to help people focus on what’s going well in general. It also is effective to grow one’s job appreciation and increase one’s happiness at work.
In order to get the most out of this practice, take a few minutes before the end of every workday to ask yourself “What went well?” and write down three to five things. Start a journal, whether electronic or handwritten, or e-mail yourself your thoughts with the same subject line plus the date. As you write down what went well, intently think about the experiences to fully appreciate them for a second time.
While it may be awkward the first few times, you will soon get used to focusing on the positive elements and recalling things that went well for you during the workday.
You spend a lot of time on the job and even more time thinking about it. You owe it to yourself to increase your happiness at work, which will not only help you enjoy your job, but also positively impact your health and overall wellbeing — and help you thrive.