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How to Be Happy at Work

Happiness at work might seem like a lofty goal, but it is achievable. The first step is to remember that being “happy” at all times in any scenario is not entirely realistic. That’s why it’s important to focus on your attitude and approach first. When we stay connected to our strengths, our purpose, and our progress, even the smallest achievements can contribute to a greater sense of contentment.

How to Stay Positive at Work

Finding Meaning and Purpose in Work

One of the first steps in achieving a positive outlook on the job is to find meaning and purpose in your work. While this is something people crave, it is rarely discussed among colleagues. 

Robert Woodcock, Professor and Spiritual Life Officer at Pepperdine University, suggests reshaping your recurring patterns of thought, with the following questions:

  • What do I think about most when I am at work?
  • What thoughts energize me when I am working?
  • What am I feeling when feeling really good at work?
  • When do I lose track of time at work? What tasks am I performing when time passes quickly?

The answers to these questions might reveal one or more patterns – or "talents" – that, if used more frequently, will edge you toward a greater sense of meaning and purpose in your work. If you’re unsure of how to describe a thought, feeling, or behavior as a talent, consult the Gallup talent list.

The idea is to ultimately turn one of your "talents" into a strength, which is defined by Professor Woodcock as "a consistent, near perfect performance in something you love doing."

Developing Talents and Identifying Strengths

To develop a talent, it's important to identify some of your natural skills. Do you confidently and calmly orchestrate people, plans, and complex, multi-faceted projects? Are you always looking for a better way? Then you have the talent of Arranger (CliftonStrengths). To make the most of this talent, consider adding advanced training as a Project Manager or take a course in supply-chain management. 

You can also add new knowledge in the area of your talent. Find that podcast or book that will inspire you with fresh ideas. Remember that building on strengths produces exponential improvement, while focusing on weaknesses produces incremental improvement.

Application and Initiative

Next, find a way to deploy or apply your new skill or knowledge on the job. Create a project that will showcase your strength. This demonstrates initiative and follow-through, which helps your team and superiors know you can be relied upon.

Want to go deeper? Check out the CoreClarity approach that helps people tap into their talents on a daily basis. The intention is to work more productively, live more fully, and have more fun!

Measuring Your Progress


Seeking acknowledgement for the hard work you do isn’t just about getting praise; it’s about accessing productive feedback on your performance. Areas cited for improvement should not be viewed as criticisms, but opportunities to grow and (eventually) shine.

Requesting an assessment from your boss or team manager is a great place to start. Not only does this arm you with valuable information about where and how you might broaden your role at work; it shows the higher-ups that you value their input and take your job seriously.


Another key component in measuring your own progress – particularly if you’ve identified areas that could use improvement – is setting goals at work. 

At first, setting goals at work can seem daunting. After all, when we aim for something, it’s always possible we’ll fall short. For this reason, many people equate goals with failure, so they avoid the task completely. That’s a shame because taking time to define your goals and mapping out steps to reach them is the surest way to achieve an ongoing sense of accomplishment. This is vital for your focus and motivation – two major ingredients for feeling good at work!

To define and tailor the best goals for you, try the "S.M.A.R.T." method. Put simply, this means your goals are: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

Some of your goals might be long-term, others will be more immediate. Combining a bigger vision with simple, daily goals is an excellent way to stay on track and inspired.

Redefining "Work-Life Balance"

Another method of staying happy and positive at work is maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

The workplace has changed dramatically over the past decade – in no small part due to the growth of internet-based jobs. In some cases, this enables more work-from-home opportunities. This might sound like an ideal situation, but this can also mean round-the-clock communication and demands. 

Regardless of your work schedule, the best way to carve out time for your own health and wellbeing is to do so in a concrete manner. Make appointments in your calendar not just for items like the dentist and car tune-ups, but for the gym, social plans, a movie – any form of downtime that will help you recharge. If your job allows you to accrue personal or vacation days, use them!

When it comes to the concept of “balance,” remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. A clean 50-50 split might not be possible or even ideal for you, so focus on what is achievable and make adjustments along the way.

Staying Focused at Work

You might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but I was hired to do my job, not be happy about it!” That might be true, but consider that a positive outlook empowers you to do that job better. Keep in mind that adaptability can be more important than ability when it comes to generating new opportunities and greater job satisfaction.

By continually assessing and reassessing your goals, your work-life balance, and how you feel about your job, you will continually learn how to increase and sustain your positive feelings and stay happy at work, while you improve your job performance and increase your likelihood of advancement.