Life is too short to be unhappy at work.
The drive to achieve goals and further your career pushes you to be and do your best. But when ambition is coupled with hypercompetitiveness and a single-minded focus on winning, you get into trouble.
You become blind to the impact of your actions on yourself and others; relationships are damaged and collaboration suffers; you start chasing goals for the sake of hitting targets; and work begins to lose its meaning.
Too many people believe that if they are successful, they will be happy. That is backward.
Doing what you think you should do rather than what you want to do is a trap that all risk falling into at some point in work life. True, some of the unwritten rules that shape your career are positive, such as completing an education so that you can help your family.
But too many of your workplace norms force you to deny who you are and to make choices that hinder your potential and to achieve your dreams.
To be successful in most companies, people have to obey shoulds about how to dress, how to talk, whom to associate with, and sometimes even how to have a life outside work.
61% of people feel they have to cover in some way to fit in at work: They actively hide or downplay their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or other aspects of their identities, personalities, or lives.
Women do not talk about their children to avoid the motherhood penalty. African-Americans avoid one another so as not to be seen as part of a marginalized group. White men report covering things that set them apart, such as depression or a child who struggles at school.
Many hide anything that makes them look weak or vulnerable – difficulties at home, feeling burned out – because they feel they should be strong all the time.
People react to the very real pressures of the ‘always on’ 21st-century workplace by spending every moment working or thinking about work. They do not have time for friends, exercise, healthful food, or sleep.
They do not play with their children or even listen to them. They do not stay home when they are sick. They do not take the time to get to know people at work or put themselves in their shoes before jumping to conclusions.
Overwork sucks us into a negative spiral: More work causes more stress; increased stress causes our brains to slow down and compromises our emotional intelligence; less creativity and poor people skills harm our ability to get things done.
Work is meant to be a primary source of fulfillment, a deep and abiding enjoyment of daily activities fueled by passion for a meaningful purpose, a hopeful view of the future, and true friendships.
Humans are wired to seek meaning in everything they do, whether they are sitting in an office, hiking in the mountains, or eating dinner with the family. Passion for a cause fuels energy, intelligence, and creativity.
You want to fight for a cause you care about. You want to create and innovate. You want to fix problems and improve your workplace. You want to learn and grow.
To be really happy at work, you must feel that your responsibilities and opportunities fit your personal vision, one that speaks to your values, desires, and beliefs.