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When feeling 'okay' about your job is not okay

Woman with blond hair in black dress and white trainers and face in hands sitting on red sofa, looking miserable

You see, it's never just one big AHA moment that throws you from happiness into unhappiness.

It can, of course, if there are BIG life events happening to you.

But most of the time? It's insidious.

Unhappiness sneaks up on you.

You may just be going through the motions. You get up, go to work, work, eat lunch at your desk, work some more, go home, eat, do home things, go to bed, repeat.

And that is perfectly fine.

Until it no longer is.

And if you have to pinpoint the moment that it all started to change you can't.

When I ask 'what made you want to transform your career' the answers are wide-spread.

  • The commute.

  • That awful boss.

  • The lack of work-life balance.

  • The office politics.

  • The culture.

  • There's too much work.

  • There's not enough work.

Believe it or not, but it's GREAT if you can pinpoint what is wrong.

Because sometimes it's all ... fine. Okay, in fact. Nothing to write home about. But, you know, fine.

Until you start thinking about doing this for another twenty years. And your gut screams 'NO!'

And THAT is when feeling 'okay' about your job is not okay.

So, what IS happiness?

This is how Martin Seligman (the 'godfather' of positive psychology - the study of happiness) says it:

A full life (which I translate as 'happiness') consists of:

  • Experiencing positive emotions about the past and the future

  • Savouring positive feelings as a result of pleasures

  • Discovering and using your key strengths, and

  • Use your strengths in the service of something larger than you that you value

In other words - it's about doing things that make you FEEL good (pleasure) and that are meaningful (purpose).

What I've learned about happiness is this:

1. It's not about how you evaluate your happiness after the event, but right now

'It's OK', you say. 'It's a good job. I get paid well. The colleagues are nice enough'

But if I asked you at 11 am, just after you've come out of a meeting in which that awful colleague undermined you (again).

Or, at 3 pm when you've just had your monthly 1-1 only to find that the job you were hoping to do was given to someone else.

If you come home exhausted every night, with no visible progress towards your goals being made.

You may find that that if the latter regularly happens your evaluation of your job ('I can't complain') is at odds with your day-to-day experience (it's bl***y awful).

Your journey to happiness starts with acknowledging that what you SHOULD think is not what you ACTUALLY think.

2. Happiness is a choice

I believe that you can CHOOSE to be happier.

You see, your emotions are a part of you. They are triggered by things that happen. They can be an indication that something is wrong. You should most definitely pay attention to them.

Doesn't mean that they should RULE you.

YOU are in charge. You can learn to manage your emotions. Which means that you can choose to respond differently to situations.

You can choose to be more positive. To practice more positive emotions.

I always recommend starting a journal. To record your (negative) emotions. To blow off steam. To make a decision, every morning, to return to a higher level of happiness.

Try it! See what you think.

3. Pleasure and purpose

You need a balance of both:

  • Pleasure - When was the last time you laughed out loud? Read a GREAT book? Had an AMAZING meal with friends or your partner? If pleasure is missing in your life, then what can you do or plan, that redresses that balance? What pleasures can you introduce?

  • Purpose - What makes you feel 'in flow'? As if time just flies by? What challenges you and makes what you're doing feel worthwhile? What is IMPORTANT to you? If you feel that you're contributing to something bigger, whilst using your key STRENGTHS you'll feel a sense of purpose that is equally as important as feeling pleasure. What can you do to increase that sense of purpose?

4. What you WANT

And finally (you KNEW I was going to say that, right?) it's about finding out what you WANT.

Easier said than done, right?

Because you've been so used to listening to your sense of duty. Of doing what's got to be done. That you've un-learned to listen to your gut, to - what Martha Beck calls your Essential Self.

It's what we'll do in my Career Freedom programme.

Listening to YOU. To what YOU want.

So that you can make that happen. So that YOU can be happier.

What are YOU going to do to be happier?


Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful career transitions into work they love! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.

Follow her on LinkedIn, or better still, why not book a free Introduction Call?

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