Work takes up a large part of our lives and so our attitudes at work to a large degree determine our happiness.  If we spend our work day feeling anxiety and pessimism than the unhappiness that causes can carry over into nonworking hours. 

    In Greek mythology a cruel king of Corinth named Sisyphus was condemned for eternity to roll a rock up to the top of a hill in Hades after which it would roll back down again.  Lets imagine that we were told that our task at work for today was to push a rock up a hill.  What happens if the rock rolls down when we get it to the top?  We're likely to feel frustrated.  What if we get it to the top again and it rolls down again.  We are likely to get angry.  What if our boss tells us that we are running out of time and if we don't get that rock up to the top of the hill and keep it up there in the next hour we will be fired.  We are likely to be angry at our boss.  In fact we are likely to develop paranoid feelings toward him.  Lets imagine that we don't have other skills and we are lucky to even have a low paying rock rolling job.  Then we are likely to feel a lot of pressure to get that rock up there.  We are likely to rush as we push the rock and get anxious and nervous in the process.  In addition we are likely to be angry that we get so little pay for so much work.  We may develop a feeling of hopelessness as everytime we push the rock up it rolls down again and become depressed as a result.  What if another guy is pushing a rock up the hill and he gets it up there.  We are likely to feel very inadequate and low self esteem as a result.

    There are often similarities between jobs in real life and the job I described above.  We often feel under pressure to get the job done quickly and that leads to anxiety building up during the day.  We may feel anger and frustration when we are unable to achieve our job quickly.   We may be angry at ourselves and feel low self esteem because we are failing to achieve our goals.   We may feel angry that we are frustrated in achieving our ambitions and because we are not making more money.  We may be angry because our boss doesn't appreciate our efforts or value us the way we feel we deserve to be valued.  In addition to anger the threat we face is likely to cause anxiety.  Anxiety that our boss will fire us can translate into paranoia toward our boss.  In addition despair resulting from difficulty in achieving our goals despite our best efforts may lead us to feel depressed.

    Lets say we then go home and decide to use self help and to be happy.  After building up anxiety, anger, paranoia, low self esteem and pessimism all day we may find it difficult if not impossible to be happy. 

   Whether or not we are happy people depends to a large extent how we react to the stresses of work.  In this case part of the answer may be finding another job.  Some people may be better suited for rock rolling while we may be better suited for something else.  In most if not all jobs however there are going to be pressures that can lead to unhappiness.  One way to cope might be to take small breaks in which we take the time to relax and try and make ourselves happier during work.  When we are rushing to get things done we are unlikely to take the time to work on improving our mood.  A little time for making ourselves happy may be worth the small amount of time taken away from work.  Although at work getting the job done as soon as possible may appear to be the most important task, our task of being happy may be more important.  We can rush our lives away and wake up one day in an old age home and regretting that we didn't stop and smell the roses.  In addition it has been my experience that anxiety grows while I rush.  The way I cope with this is by slowing down and reminding myself that rushing will cause me to make mistakes so that the task I am performing will take longer to get done and that the anxiety it causes me will make me tired and unable to put in as many hours to get the job done.

    If we view work as drudgery and toil that will make us unhappy.  The following is advice from Mary Poppins on how to approach work.  You've been taking reading the advice of a Unicorn all this time so you may as well listen to what Mary Poppins had to say.


In ev'ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
you find the fun and snap the job's a game
And ev'ry task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark!
A spree!
It's very clear to me

That a...
Spoonful of sugar
Helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar
Helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

A robin feathering his nest
Has very little time to rest
While gathering his bits of twine and twig
Though quite intent in his pursuit
He has a merry tune to toot
He knows
A song
Will move the job along

For a... spoonful of sugar
Helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar
Helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

    One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of pressure in jobs is arbitrary.  Someone sets up an arbitrary deadline and pressures everyone else to meet it.  If the deadline isn't met, the world still turns and life still goes on.  Also rushing frequently makes tasks take longer since when people rush a job they don't take the time to do it right.  A favorite saying of a former boss of mine is:

    There's never enough time to do a job right but there's always enough time to do it over.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that we usually have the choice of dealing with pressure by rushing a job while we're working or spending time after work to get it done.  Although we may not want to do either, it's easier to be happy if we choose the latter approach.

    One cognitive error people make while at work is assuming that the fact that a job is taking them a long time to do means that they are not doing a good job and they should be getting it done faster.  This false assumption leads people to feel low self esteem.  A job may take a long time to do because there are a lot of obstacles to overcome in order to get the job done.  I remember when traveling in the Midwest I would look at mountains and they would look a lot closer than they actually were.  I would drive towards those mountains for a long time and then look at them and they still appear to be far away.  It would be ridiculous for me to feel low self esteem because I didn't make it to the mountains faster.  Sometimes things appear to be closer than they actually are.  Sometimes we may think a project should take less time because we aren't aware of all the obstacles that we will run into when we try and accomplish it.  Just because it's important to get the job done fast and we want the job to be done fast doesn't mean it's our fault if there are a lot of obstacles in the way.  It's important to accept that there are likely to always be a lot hidden obstacles we are likely to run into when working on a project and the number of obstacles and problems that we face has nothing to do with our self worth.

    One way to cope with anxiety is to accept that jobs are likely to take longer than we would like and decide to keep methodically chipping away at it instead of rushing it.  We can all learn from the Aesops fable of the Tortoise and the Hare in which the tortoise raced the hare and won.  A saying that relates to this is

Slow and steady wins the race.

   I have found it helpful to remind myself of this saying because it gives me the motivation not to rush by telling me I am more likely to win if I approach things in a slow and steady manner. 

  We can decide that instead of being anxious about our job we are going to follow Mary Poppin's advice and treat our job as a fun activity that we enjoy doing.  While we work we can praise ourselves for whatever progress we make.

    Other helpful approaches are to take breaks and during those breaks to relax,  and work on correcting whatever negative attitudes we are feeling. 

    It find ourselves creating anxiety by telling ourselves "You're not working fast enough, you're not working hard enough, you're not spending enough time working, terrible things will happen" we can use positive displacements techniques by telling ourselves "You are doing a good job", "you are spending your time at the moment doing what you are supposed to be doing and so on".

    One thing I have a habit of doing myself is criticizing myself during the day for not doing more job related work.  I think this self criticism actually causes me not to want to work. A vicious cycle is then created. 


Criticize self during work for not working harder

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Spend more time on things other than work Work becomes unpleasant and so don't want to work


    Self criticism and creation of anxiety while one works makes work an unpleasant experience and so creates an incentive not to work.   It's important to replace such self talk with rewarding self talk.  One can reward oneself with self praise for working, or for little accomplishments at work.  One can tell oneself "You're doing a good job".  It's important to remember that lack of quick success does not necessarily imply incompetence, it could imply that the problem one is attempting to overcome is a difficult one.  It's important to remember that rushing doesn't get the job done, but putting in the hours gets it done.   The more pleasant a person makes their work experience the more hours that person is likely to work.

    One way to motivate oneself to work is to offer oneself rewards for doing so.  Lets say one likes to go on walks.  Than one can offer oneself a walk if one does two hours of studying.  The advice to motivate oneself with rewards in this way was given to me by a very accomplished person who when she sets her mind to it works harder than anyone else I have ever met. 

    Approaches to coping with stress from work are discussed further on the stress page of this web site.

    At many work places the company spies on employees.   This is discussed in detail on the Big Brother is Watching You page.

   A friend of mine who is an employer gave me some advice about starting a new job that I think is very good.  He advised me:

When you start do more listening than talking.  Take a while to learn why things are done the way they are before assuming that you have a better way.   Show respect for the judgement of those who made decisions before you started as to how things are done.

The Highpoint Insurance Company has a brochure which has a section with very good advice.  The Brochure says:

Be Friendly:

We spend nearly half our waking hours at work.   Our jobs shoudl have two rewarding components: a sense of satisfaction fromt eh technical work, and a sense of companionship with our co-workers.  Someone who does every technical assignment perfectly but doesn't contribute to the work and the happiness of others has done only half the job right.  We should all take responsibility for making every employee feel good about being with us and working hard, just as we need to make every agent and every customer feel good about choosing us to do business with.

c o p y r i g h t   ( c )   1 9 9 9 - 2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises.  All rights reserved

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