How to Instantly Take Back Control of Your Career Happiness

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln

No career is all rainbows and unicorns.

Between the endless meetings and pressing deadlines it can feel like our day is consumed by the needs of others.

Even our dream career can put us through the wringer if we don’t set boundaries and maintain a positive outlook.

How can you deal with those stressful days and long nights without feeling deflated?

How can you find gratification in an unrewarding job?

Here are a few ideas to help create more career happiness instantly.

1. Keep a gratitude journal for a week

Do you come home and compulsively complain about your day?

Do find yourself righteously pointing out all the annoyances and inequities about your job?

If so, follow Bob Newman’s advice and STOP IT! (funny video by the way!)


Recognize the good moments.

Break out of the negative tunnel vision by using a gratitude list.

Research shows that gratitude improves emotional well-being and physical health. Focusing on what we’re grateful for shifts our perspective to notice more of the good.

Every night write down 3-5 things you appreciated about your day at work. It could be an interesting conversation you had, an accomplishment you’re proud of, or simply getting that prized front row parking spot.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” – Frederick Keonig

2. You create the boundaries

We all have busy seasons at work but if we’re not careful that season can linger and become a constant flurry.

I’m all for hustling and prioritizing work when needed, but at a certain point we have to set clear boundaries between work and personal life.

In an episode of This is Your Life podcast about work-life balance, Michael Hyatt states, “If you’re working more than 55 hours a week, it should be a clue to you that something needs adjusted, because you’re probably sacrificing some aspect of your life that you really can’t afford to sacrifice if you’re in it for the long game.”

No amount of money or success is worth damaging our relationships, health, and overall well-being.

Consider these ideas if you struggle to find time for health, leisure, and relationships.

Ask to work remotely

Working beyond the typical office space is more and more common. Ask your employer about working from home or in a more optimal location if they don’t already offer the option.

By working outside the cubicle you’ll save time and gain more freedom in your routine. You’ll avoid the commute to work, engage in less unproductive meetings, and can more conveniently schedule self-care into your day.

Calendar in fun and health

If you live by a calendar be intentional about scheduling time for mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual nourishment. I believe in spending at least 15 minutes per day on a self-nourishing activities in each domain.

Schedule your hour at the gym or block off a few 30 minutes breaks for relaxation, meditating, catching-up with a friend, or reading a good book. When you’re asked to work extra hours you can say no because you’ve already booked that time.

Actually use a vacation day

According to a Muse article, nearly 57% of Americans don’t take advantage of their vacation days, which means they’re missing out on deeper sleep, higher work productivity, and feeling more positive about their jobs.

If you don’t feel like you can pull-off a week long hiatus from work, get creative and schedule a few three day weekends or take some “mental health days” (random days off you deserve for your well-being). Oh yeah and make sure to unplug from work and actually use these vacation days for self-nourishment.

3. Positive emotions are contagious

It’s easy to get sucked into the negativity vortex at work.

When morale is low and people are overwhelmed by stress, venting and complaining start to have a negative ripple effect.

You may not be able to change other people but you can do your part to bring a positive attitude to work.

How could you have more fun and be playful? My friends used to play pranks on each other to add amusement and fun to their work day. Whether it was gift wrapping someone’s desk for their birthday or filling each other’s cars with balloons, they were definitely laughing and having fun.

I don’t recommend pranks unless you’re certain it won’t be offensive, but the point is to create enjoyment and pleasure.

Your attitude will affect others. If you want more happiness on the job, find ways to generate positive emotions.

“Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity.”

– Zig Ziglar

4. Work toward a bigger purpose

One thing that helped me through the quagmire of former dead end jobs was having a vision for my future.

Without an inspiring vision for what’s next we feel stuck and discouraged.

A vision gives us a bigger purpose for why we’re working and helps us engage in our day with more intention.

In other words, have a clear big picture goal to help you see beyond the unfulfilling daily monotony.

What are you working towards – a promotion, more passion, a better lifestyle for your family?

As long as you’re working toward a bigger purpose, dead end jobs won’t exist, because you’ll only be there as long as you need to be.

Keep the big picture in mind. If you aren’t intentionally growing and evolving your work will become stale.

A great question to answer is the Dan Sullivan Question. If you were reading this article “…three years from today, and you were looking back over those 3 years, what has to have happened in your life both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy with your progress?”

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James

5. Commit random acts of kindness

When we’re sulking and feeling sour it’s not our first instinct to do something kind for someone else.

We tend to turn inward and focus on what’s not fair and why we don’t have what we want.

Instead of killing kindness and wanting everyone to be miserable with you, try doing random acts of kindness. Research has shown that helping our co-workers leads to greater well-being.

Be intentional about doing something kind and savor the positive feelings that come along.

Remember these points to get the most out of your acts of kindness.

1) The greater the variety of kind acts the better – Committing a wide variety of kind acts has a greater impact than doing the same thing over and over again.

2) Commit more acts of kindness in a shorter period – Respondents in studies showed higher rates of happiness by committing more acts of kindness within a shorter period of time, as opposed to spreading them out across numerous days.

3) Do something you wouldn’t normally do – Showing kindness in a way you usually wouldn’t is an important factor. Think of ways to show kindness that isn’t a natural part of your daily life or normal responsibilities.

If you’re ready to take back control of your career happiness you need to break out of the victim mentality.

It’s time to shift your perspective to what’s working, and to focus on what’s in your control and what you have the ability to change.


  • Grab yourself a journal and list 3-5 you appreciate every day.
  • Start setting boundaries to nourish your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
  • Be playful and laugh more often.
  • Create a vision of an inspiring future.
  • Do as many acts of kindness per day as possible.

Photo credit:  Rising Damp