The one time in the year when all of us get an opportunity to take stock, reflect on the past year, and set the vision for our next year. It's an ideal time to have meaningful conversations about our careers and think deeply about how we would like to shape them.
We could reflect on something deeper: happiness at work. Is it in our control? Can we do something deliberately to make it a happier place for us and our teams?
We have all heard, "Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life." That, to me, is both aspirational and frustrating. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but there are times that I get bogged down, frustrated, and, in general, unhappy. So, "What mental models could one focus on to improve happiness at work." Here's a shortlist:
1. A little anxiety is normal. At times, we become harsh on ourselves when we have feelings like, "Am I doing well enough?" or "Will I be able to accomplish this task or project?" come to us, thinking that we should be mature enough and strong enough not to be anxious. It's important that we recognise and normalise emotions. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw said it best: "Everybody feels fear. If someone says he doesn't, he's either lying or he's a Gurkha." Tribute to Gurkha's aside, the meta point is- don't beat yourself up. Know that it's ok to be anxious about your future or an ambiguous or complex task, but it's not ok to let it govern your thoughts and actions.
2. Multiple philosophies, be it teleology, Buddhism, or Sri Sri Ravishankar, reflect a commonality: our future is not governed by our past. While there is debate about destiny and its role, there is no debate about wilful deliberate action. In other words, spend less time blaming our own (or others) past actions and being fatalistic about the future. Our actions define our future, not our past, not someone else, and not our destiny. Sometimes situations arise that are not in our control, but our response to them is always in our control.
3. Work for a nobler mission. Being driven by a higher purpose and being motivated by something greater always provides greater satisfaction, not that we shouldn't focus on execution excellence. The best example I can think of is the Vaccination Task Force, when a group of people came together and, in addition to their day jobs, went after a singular vision: "To make vaccination a ready choice for all and their dependents in 90 days." Later, it was billed as a 'Think Big' initiative, but in the moment, it was a purpose-energising group of owners. Maybe there is a lesson in thinking big here: you create a big impact when people driven by a common higher purpose come together.
4. Insist on the highest standards, not caring about whether someone’s looking. Quoting Jeff from the 2017 letter, "Building a culture of high standards is well worth the effort, and there are many benefits. Naturally and most obviously, you’re going to build better products and services for customers—this would be reason enough! Perhaps a little less obvious: people are drawn to high standards; they help with recruiting and retention. More subtle: a culture of high standards is protective of all the "invisible" but crucial work that goes on in every company. The work that no one sees. The work that gets done when no one is watching In a culture of high expectations, doing that work well is its own reward; it’s part of what it means to be a professional. And finally, high standards are fun! Once you’ve tasted high standards, there’s no going back."
5. Relationships matter. There's not a lot to explain here—everyone's a human with emotions, fears, joys, and constraints. Everyone’s trying to do their best. Recognise that and get to know them beyond just work.
6. Honesty and transparency. Sometimes we get caught up; this is the way to be if you want to be successful. Well, if that involves being fake and putting up an act (a), it won’t last (b), and it won’t work. Hence, it is always better to be who you are, as long as you are respectful and inclusive.
7. Hope, faith, and optimism - Barrack Obama famously said, "I don’t believe in apocalyptic—until the apocalypse comes. I think nothing is the end of the world until the end of the world." The quote drives home the point—no situation is ever truly as bad as it seems. Things will get better; just take deliberate action, work for something more than just the next promotion, insist on the highest standards even when no one's looking, care for each other, be yourself, and keep the faith!
Being happy at work is a goal that can be attained, not an unattainable ideal. It takes more than just liking your work to be happy at work; it takes creating a culture where relationships, purpose, authenticity, and optimism all come together to make for a rewarding work experience. Accept your feelings, exercise self-control, work towards a greater good, establish high standards, cultivate connections, be truthful and open, and hold onto hope and optimism. We may greatly influence our work lives and help create a more upbeat and empowered workplace culture by implementing these mental models.
(The story has been written by Abhinav Singh, Vice President of Customer Fulfillment, Supply Chain & Amazon Transportation Services, Amazon India.)