Four Tips to be more Comfortable in your Workplace
(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)
This article follows on from the previous one which walked you through a self-assessment to determine whether you are at least reasonably happy at work. If you missed last month’s article, you catch it up here. This offering focuses on what you can do to create for yourself a supportive mental environment in the office. Hopefully, the summer has provided you with the opportunity for a break and some time out to leave your professional preoccupations behind. If you took the happy-at-work test, I trust the result was rather positive. As you return to the office, here are four tips to maintain high spirits at work.
Tip #1: How you see it is how it is
The thoughts you entertain about your work environment determine how you feel about it. This is not a new point but one we nevertheless seem to often forget. Research shows that constructive thoughts and positive emotions however make us more creative, better at problem-solving and generally able to perceive our circumstances from a broader standpoint. As such, I want to suggest that having a positive mental and emotional environment is fundamental to optimising our wellbeing and performance at work. Conversely, we have all experienced how negative thoughts and emotions distract us from our tasks, reduce our innovative capacity and generally cramp our style.
It’s so easy to let the many irritations of the workplace get to you. While none in itself is so bad, it is the accumulation which will end up weighing you down. So pay attention to what thoughts you indulge in and notice how you feel as emotions often have a physiological dimension you can use as a tell-tale sign. Then re-orient your thoughts so they are more constructive, for example: “I don’t want to attend this committee because we only go round in circle and never achieve anything” can become “while I am not looking forward to this committee because it does not achieve very much, the hour will soon pass and I can resume working on more interesting matters afterwards.”
Tip #2: Become your own advisor
The example I have just given may seem easy and straightforward but many of you I am sure have tried to manage your thoughts beforehand and found that reframing your thoughts is rather tougher than it sounds. At the same time, have you noticed how easy others find it to counsel you in times of distress? Or that you yourself find it effortless to give others good advice even though you struggle to follow your own? That is because of the phenomenon of “psychological distance”: we analyse situations better and make better judgment calls about problems when we are not emotionally entangled and have some perspective.
So how about taking a step back? In fact, imagine you are not you, maybe your best friend, or a trusted colleague, someone uninvolved, with “no skin in the game”. In so doing, you can become your own advisor: someone who can see clearly what is going on and whose balanced viewpoint can form the basis for a more constructive mindset and, as a result, emotional reaction. The trick is to step out: if you were somebody else considering your situation, what would you advise yourself?
Tip #3: Leverage your strengths
Let’s now consider a bit more the kind of advice which will be beneficial to you, shall we? In my opinion, the worst advice is the one which feels irrelevant. You know how people often start advisory sentences with the phrase “If I were you”? And yet, many then proceed to advocate a course of action which is totally at odds with your character. That, to me, is bad advice: not because it is poor per se but rather because it is not something which you would find natural to put into effect.
So whatever suggestions you get your advisor to make to you, make sure those respect your authentic self. In particular, let me point you towards your strengths. When the going gets tough, life is complicated enough with respect to the difficulties specific to the issue without adding the challenge of using skills which are not your top ones. Rather, let your advisor consider which of your (many!) strengths will be the more relevant and appropriate to today’s challenge.
Tip #4: Be inspired
Let’s recap. In order to navigate the sometimes stormy waters of the workplace and hang on to your happiness at work, it is important to have the capacity to reorient negative views towards more constructive thoughts and therefore elicit more positive feelings about the difficult situation you find yourself in. The key is to step out of yourself, distance yourself from the challenging situation you are facing and become your own advisor. Lastly, when you give yourself advice, focus on using your strengths to face your challenge.
For the fourth tip about keeping a positive mindset, let me invite you to incorporate into your advice not just what you know about your preferences and strengths but also what your role models do and how they do it. Thinking about the people we respect and admire is another way to tap into fresh ideas for handling a difficult situation. And please, don’t think you have to be exactly like your hero to emulate them: indeed, ask your advisor to help you figure out how to appropriately adjust your role model’s behaviour to your own context and capabilities.
There you have it: a few suggestions so you can face your workplace’s inevitable ups and downs with more equanimity. Develop your capacity to step outside the situation you find challenging, become your own advisor and give yourself good ideas based on your strengths and inspiration from those individuals which you respect and admire and represent your role models.
As always, if you have any question or comment or want to discuss your personal circumstances, you are welcome to email me by clicking here.
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