10 Ways To Be Happy Even When You Have a Super Crappy Job

Don't let your crappy job rob you of your happiness

Most people I know hate their job.

And even those who don’t exactly hate their job, admit to resenting it in some way. This is so messed up because we spend so much of our lives at work. Our jobs give us money and we need money to live. I recently read a statistic that said the average person will spend about a quarter of their lifetime on this earth at their jobs.  I know, bananas!

So why exactly do we hate and resent our jobs so much?

Truthfully, there are tons of reasons, more than I could ever begin to name.  But here are just a few possible reasons why you hate your job.

1.  You, an adult, literally have to ask for permission to take time away from the job to handle important life tasks and responsibilities.

2. You, a perfectly reasonable person, have to spend inordinate amounts of time with people who are sometimes not very reasonable, or friendly, or bright, or professional, or kind.

3. You, a person with much to offer the world, is often “supervised” by people who are not as talented or insightful as you.

4. You, a creative person, have to reign in your talents and prioritize the boring unexciting demands of your job routine instead of the all the ideas that race around your mind.

5. You, a person with relationships, hobbies, and interests, spend at least 40 non-negotiable hours of your peak productive time a week meeting the demands of your employer while your needs and desires sit on the back burner.

6. You, a person with material needs and obligations, never seem to make enough money at your job. If things arise  in your life that require more cash than you have on hand, you cannot negotiate with your employer to pay you more just because you need it.

Any of that sound familiar?

After many years of working for myself and pursuing independent research in a doctoral program,  I took a job with a large organization so that I could relocate back to my hometown of New York City, a move I’d been wanting to make happen for awhile. I couldn’t move my practice to NY straight away because of state licensing issues and I wanted so badly to be back in New York that I just couldn’t wait for things to sort themselves out.

So I took a job in the meantime while I figure out my next steps.

On very good days, I am thankful to have stable employment with great benefits which currently allows me to keep a roof over my head and food in my tummy while being in my most favorite city in the world. On these days, I am proud of the interesting work I do and for the opportunities and challenges that encourage my growth and development.  

But on bad days, I am resentful of both the large and small indignities of my job and plot how quickly I can leave it.  And I am not alone. To say that most people at my job don’t want to be there is an understatement. And while I am totally grateful and the job has its perks, it’s been a very long time since I’ve worked a full time job. There are supervisors, “chains of command,” office politics, and job hazards to deal with.  And I have to admit that it has been a bit difficult readjusting. Personally, what’s been most difficult is not really owning my own time and no longer being able to do with it as I please.

In the five months that I have been working there so far, I have found a handful of coping strategies to help me maintain my sanity and stop myself from completely succumbing to negative thoughts and bitterness. And I’m sharing them with you here, just in case you are allowing your job to rob you of your happiness:

1 Bolster yourself with your morning commute

I take two different trains during my morning commute. It takes about 45 minutes on the subway followed by a 15 minute walk. So all together I have an hour between  the time I leave my front door and the time I am walking through the front door of the office. In that hour I usually listen to audiobooks on self development, business, politics, and any other subject that I’m super interested in. I’m a very mental person and I love ideas. So beginning the day with a surge of ideas get my brain moving and I am reminded of how big the world is and that my job is a temporary place. Other times I listen to music to psych myself up, like my own soundtrack or theme song. I choose to listen to songs that build me up, and remind me that I am not my job.

2 Don’t seek validation from your job

I have much to offer. And so do you. But my job description calls for me to contribute only a small bit of my knowledge and gifts at work and there is little to no room for me to veer from that.  Also, the higher ups do not see, nor are they interested in my full potential. Not only is this  incredibly frustrating, it can be downright demoralizing. But at the end of the day, the only thing my employer owes me is pay for the work that I do. That’s it. Full stop. Expecting more only leads to disappointment. Your crappy job is your way to put food on the table and a chance for you to work out challenges and pushing yourself. It is not the source of your self-esteem or validation of your worth as a person.

3 Take ownership of your actions (wherever you go, there you are).

I know of many people who work in an office environment in which their coworkers are not very pleasant, are super competitive, and dismissive. My current work environment is one of these places. There is a deeply ingrained dysfunctional work culture that regularly takes down those at the very top and absolutely crushes those on the bottom.  It is not fun. It can feel dehumanizing. But worse, it can make perfectly lovely and reasonable people begin to act like the very sour coworkers that they despise. This is how culture works and recreates itself.

If you have a similar work work environment, be conscious of this. Fight against adopting the personal destructive habits of an unhealthy place. Because the only thing that you will have to show for it is getting further ingrained in an unhealthy work culture that drains your spirit and your humanity. This sucks, don’t do it.

Instead be mindful of your thoughts and actions. Call yourself on it when you find yourself behaving and thinking like others around you. Remember, your abundance comes from within.  And sometimes you have to guard it at all costs.

4 Manage your work space well at your crappy job

Maintain a neat and orderly physical work environment to the best of your ability. Walking into a chaotic office or trying to find things under a heaping, unruly mound on your desk makes an already undesirable situation almost insufferable. So don’t do this to yourself. I have found that disorganization and overwhelm can  be a very slippery slope.

Awhile ago, I read this book on work space organization and it completely changed the way I thought about how I arrange my desk and work space. Set up your space to accommodate your most redundant and essential tasks.  And if you’re a visual person, like I am be sure to have inspiring pictures, desirable colors, and quotes in your view so that you can see them when you need some momentary inspiration. I for one, have a bunch of yellow accents on my desk because that is my happy color.

Part of managing you work space is paying attention to your physical presentation. Be neat and take pride in your appearance. Look good for yourself because when you look your best, you are closer to feeling your best. Maintain your work clothes. Be sure to buy cuts, colors, and accessories that flatter you and accentuate your physical assets while detracting from your problem areas.

And if you have time and want a laugh, check out the video below. Its an oldie but goodie, insanely hilarious and over the top but I think it has some takeaways that we all can use. The extremely snide narrator points out Barbara’s sloppiness, disorganization, and lack of preparedness throughout the course of a day from the moment she wakes up to the time she goes to bed. Poor Barbara.  Don’t develop a reputation for being like Barbara at work!

And aside from your personal and physical appearance, be mindful to manage your relationships with others. Be purposeful about setting healthy boundaries and expectations. Show others how to treat you by exhibiting the behaviors you expect from them.  Try not to let the poor behavior of others rattle you too much. Make extra efforts to be professional and courteous with such people. This is not always easy and you won’t be able to do this 100% of the time, but be purposeful and make the effort. This is super important for both your immediate mental sanity but also in the long run. You know that you are not destined to say here, so rise above those that are.

5   Perform your crappy job to the best of your ability

Your job is crappy. You are capable of so much more.  Prove to yourself, your coworkers, your supervisors and the universe that you can not only meet the challenges in front of you with grace and style, but you can exceed them.  Take pride in the work you have now even if it is not exactly what you want to be doing.

And once you have mastered your crappy job,  be on the look out to develop new skills and be more efficient. At the very least, the more efficient you become the more room you free up in your mind for things you actually want to be thinking about.

But by all means, do not allow your crappy job to stagnate you. In nature, if you are not growing, you are dying. If water does not flow, it becomes stagnant. So move, grow, and thrive.

6  Develop a rich life outside of your crappy job

Work. Home. Sleep. Repeat. Work. Home. Sleep. Repeat.

This is no way to live and you owe yourself more. The less developed your life is outside of work, the more you look for your crappy job to fulfill your inner needs. That will not end up well. You are a multifaceted beautiful piece of work and you deserve to shine and grow in multiple arenas.

Develop yourself.

Host dinner parties. Train for marathons. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Join a club. Play the saxophone. Sing in the choir. Learn a language. Write a novel. Start a YouTube channel. Go talk to that interesting looking person who you see every morning in the train station. Make connections.

Do interesting things that give you something to look forward to and provide you with the opportunity to channel your energy, develop new skills, and use different parts of your brain and body.

7  Make allies (or at the very least try not to make enemies) at your crappy job

I don’t care if its the receptionist, the janitor, a person who works in another department. The guy who sits in the next cubicle.  The person who occupies the highest level job in the building. Whomever. Make friends and play nice with as many people as you can at your crappy job.

If this is exceedingly difficult to do, find someone with whom you can at least exchange smiles. Even if this is infrequent. A friendly face is worth its weight in gold.

Do your best to minimize hostility in your workplace. Go the extra mile to form and maintain relationships. You don’t have to be best friends with folks, but at least try to remember names and exchange greetings. Once in awhile, volunteer to do things so that others don’t have to do them. Bring in food to share with your coworkers. Give compliments. Thank them. Be helpful. Allow them to shine. Be empathetic. Treat them like human beings.

When conflict does arise, make sure to address it directly and professionally. Do not hold grudges and make sure you show that you have moved past it once the issue is resolved.

8  Take time off from your crappy job

Go on 2 week long Caribbean vacations if you can. If you can’t do that, go on week long vacations. If you can do that, go on a weekend road trip. And if you can’t do any of this stuff, take mental health days. If you can’t do that, go on walks during your lunch breaks.

9  Plot your escape from your crappy job

When I was a little kid, I was really interested in stories about escaping slaves. I would read about how they didn’t just wake up one day and run away. They did not take their freedom lightly because they knew if they escaped haphazardly, they could be captured. And being captured meant being beaten or even killed. In other words they would make their situation worse if they did not plan well. So they did things to help ensure their success and survival.

They did their best to save food for the journey and gather information. Escaped slaves were selective about who they shared their plans and waited until the time was right.  They learned how to read the stars for guidance, and make connections.  And perhaps most important of all, they had specific destinations in mind.

You are not a slave and neither am I.   But I do find this metaphor helpful. We can plot your escape too. Life is too short to work a crappy job for very long.

So figure out what your specific destination is and make a plan for yourself on how to get there. Learn new skills in your current job that will serve you well in your next destination. Learn how to read the signs so that you will know when it’s the right time to move on. Lay the groundwork so that you will be ready when the right time comes along. Make connections with people who are also moving in the same direction or may already be there.

10 Save money (invest in your future)

Your time is your life energy. It is very precious and irreplaceable. When you work a job, you exchange your life energy for money.  For a great perspective on this, read this book.

Respect your earned money.  Save it. Spend it on things that improve you and bring you joy. Invest in your future. Make sure you are taking advantage of any discounts that are afforded you because of your job. Some employers provide discounts on gym memberships, commuter benefits, savings club cards, access to credit unions, etc.

So those are my tips for getting through a crappy job. I hope they were helpful. In the comment section, please share what helps you get through your job. I’d love to hear from you.

And also, if you need some assistance figuring out how to move on from your crappy job, please be sure to check out my available coaching programs to help you make your next breakthrough.

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