Do you feel stuck in your present job? Before joining the wave of the Great Resignation, pause and think! The grass isn’t necessarily greener somewhere else, so it’s worth considering what you can do to make your current job more pleasant and meaningful.
This book summary offers a range of strategies for improving your work life without changing jobs or career. Executive coach and leadership consultant Beverly Jones covers everything from how to increase your mental well-being, build your network, continue learning and enjoy greater engagement.
Find joy and meaning in your work.
Applicable, Concrete Examples, Engaging, Business, Money, Business Culture
Feeling stuck in a rut at work? According to executive coach Beverly Jones, even if you don’t love what you do, you can find meaning and happiness in your career. In this encouraging text, Jones outlines a range of strategies you can utilize to start flourishing at work. Drawing on behavioral science research, she covers everything from how to increase your mental well-being, build your network, continue learning and enjoy greater engagement.
- You have the power to make life-improving changes.
- Feel happier at work by pursuing the “Engagement Triangle.”
- Self-care, healthy habits and mindfulness boost your well-being.
- Start small to make headway on big changes, and celebrate little wins.
- Fine-tune your habits to improve your life.
- Choose settings and engage in activities that help you feel happy.
- Keep learning.
- Cultivate a diverse array of relationships.
You have the power to make life-improving changes.
According to Gallup polls, more than half of American workers feel stressed and frustrated by or stuck in their present jobs. This stands in stark contrast to the one-third of workers who feel engaged and are happy, energized and purposeful at work. If you identify more with the former than the latter group, know that, even if you don’t see a way out of your current situation, you can make practical changes to improve your work life without changing jobs or career – specifically, changes to your perspective, skills, approach to life, mental acuity and health.
“Happiness and success are similar in that you can’t pursue either directly. Each seems to emerge as a consequence of the way you manage yourself and your activities.”
Sometimes, changing how you choose to work gives you a boost. Even if your job doesn’t offer you much autonomy, you can change how you usually do things – even if it’s as small as approaching an assignment with a less-pessimistic-than-normal attitude or listening more closely to your colleagues. Your brain reads this simple change as a chance to “be inventive” – a vital component of human happiness.
Feel happier at work by pursuing the “Engagement Triangle.”
Happiness at work often hinges on three issues which form an “Engagement Triangle”:
- A well-honed sense of purpose – Work is more enjoyable and engaging when you feel part of something meaningful. This sense of purpose may stem from your company’s core principles, your team dynamics or your personal values and how you live those out on the job.
- Positive relationships with the people in your job-related sphere – When you feel strong, friendly ties to the people with whom you work, you feel happier and more engaged.
- Your performance, or how you approach your work – When your work makes the most of your strengths and provides learning challenges, you experience greater job satisfaction. The same holds true with autonomy: The more you have, the happier you will feel.
The Engagement Triangle affects your personal engagement and if you lead others, shapes your team’s engagement. If a team member seems disengaged, you might, for example, work to build a stronger relationship with that person and look for opportunities to give them fresh challenges, so they can experience success.
“The Engagement Triangle can help you plan your good days and feel better on your bad days.”
A well-crafted “statement of personal values” can help you pursue the three Ps. Think of this statement as a guiding idea that shapes how you pursue your work and interact. For example, hotelier Klaus Peters adopted the statement, “Treat everybody like Somebody” – a sentiment inspired by a hotel manager who treated him like an equal when he was a lowly server in the establishment’s restaurant. When crafting your mission statement, consider your values and standards, how you hope to help or serve others and the activities that give you the greatest sense of satisfaction.
Self-care, healthy habits and mindfulness boost your well-being.
Your well-being influences your happiness and success in the workplace. While people define well-being in different ways, many agree it encompasses four distinct realms: mind, body, heart and spirit. The body element includes eating, sleeping and exercise habits, and stress levels. Spirit includes your sense of purpose, values and moral/spiritual beliefs. Heart includes your relationships, resilience and sense of compassion, love and joy. Mind includes mental and brain health, mindfulness and curiosity. You can improve any of these areas with simple changes.
Mindfulness counteracts the negative and boosts the positive at work. Mindlessness can lead to missed opportunities, inflexibility, bias and feelings of helplessness. Mindfulness increases your abilities, creativity and happiness. Pair mindfulness with a meditation practice to improve your brain functions and lower your stress and blood pressure levels. Techniques for mindfulness include breathing exercises, taking a meditative walk, participating in a guided meditation or enjoying a fully present coffee or snack break.
Start small to make headway on big changes, and celebrate little wins.
When it comes to making big changes in your life or career, the “sugar grain” method – named after the author’s slow shift from drinking sweetened to unsweetened tea by removing a few grains of sugar each day – can help. The method comprises four steps:
- “Develop a vision” – Consider your ideal life and career and what big goals might help get you there.
- “Identify micro-goals” – Break each big goal into specific, actionable small goals. If you want to get physically fit, for example, you might set a micro-goal of walking for 20 minutes a couple of times per week.
- “Commit to sugar grains” – Plan out tiny actions that support each micro-goal, such as buying new walking shoes.
- “Record your grains” – Keep track of your progress. Evidence of your successes keeps you moving forward.
The sugar grain method works because it lowers the barriers to change by making it easier to build momentum and form new habits. It allows you to grow in nonlinear ways and shift your identity over time.
Fine-tune your habits to improve your life.
Good habits help you to make choices that benefit your life. Less-than-great habits undermine even your best intentions. If, for example, you feel exhausted and disorganized at work, your nightly habit of junk food and binge-watching TV until the early morning hours exacerbates these issues. To identify the habits that may not serve you well, record your daily activities for a week. Shift your existing habits to more productive ones. Forming a new habit is a three-step process:
- Cue – This is the prompt for the new behavior you want to turn into a habit. It might be an alarm on your phone or a physical reminder, such as leaving your walking shoes near your front door.
- Routine – This is the action you take in response to the cue – the new habit itself.
- Reward – This generates a sense of pleasure about your new habit. Pausing to reflect on how doing the new habit makes you feel can create this sensation.
Regular consideration of how your new habit or habits move you closer to the person you wish to be or the life you wish to lead help you stick with building them. Using the sugar grain method – including breaking bigger hoped-for habits into smaller ones and tracking your progress – allows the transformation to occur slowly but steadily. Find support for your goals by spending time with people who share the habits you want to adopt.
Replace bad habits with better ones by identifying what motivates your unhealthy behavior. Find better habits that fulfill those needs in healthier ways. For example, your daily trip to the office cafeteria for a cookie might be less about sugar cravings than a desire to socialize. Identify the cue for the bad habit, and create a new routine connected with that cue.
Choose settings and activities that help you feel happy.
Hobbies play an important role in helping you have the energy – mental and physical – to do your work. Almost anything can be a hobby. Pick whatever feels fun to you. Make sure your hobby engages you; it should not be something passive, such as binge-watching Netflix.
Along with leisure activities, studies show that spending time in nature is one of the best ways to boost your happiness and health. You can get natural benefits in a variety of ways: Go to a park; put a plant on your desk; get a pet; go for a walk, or seek out a sunny spot to work. Adding color to your workspace, keeping your desk tidy and choosing a comfortable chair, likewise, support your well-being and productivity.
Another happiness-building activity is showing kindness to others. When you help someone, you feel a greater connection to your community. Learning to focus your attention on tasks that demand your highest level of skill and attention also gives you a deep sense of satisfaction.
When you master a novel skill, you feel a rush of the feel-good hormone, dopamine. Learning new things makes work more enjoyable, helps ensure a successful career and makes you a more interesting person. Learning allows you to keep up with developments in your profession and adapt your skills as needed.
Nurturing a growth mind-set – the belief you can develop knowledge and abilities over your lifetime – helps you handle the unexpected and regard setbacks as learning opportunities rather than failures. It helps you develop grit – the ability to keep going in the face of difficulties – by teaching you the value of practicing to improve. Learning bolsters your sense of purpose and autonomy and keeps you from becoming bored.
“Learning is fun. It can transfer routine work into a continuing adventure. And constant learners tend to be interesting to other people.”
Keep a list of possible learning topics, ask questions of knowledge experts, embrace micro-learning opportunities throughout your workday – such as TED Talks and daily newsletters – schedule longer, deeper learning sessions during the week and pursue broad and narrow learning topics. Read books to gain knowledge from wise people throughout the ages. Reading also helps you hone your writing skills.
Cultivate a diverse array of relationships.
Loneliness is epidemic in the United States. According to a 2020 survey by the health care company Cigna, more than half of Americans are lonely and as many as 72% of 18-22-year-olds experience feelings of isolation. Friendship isn’t an option for human beings; it’s a biological need. Relationships are the fuel that allows people to feel happy, stay healthy and perform well.
The rise in loneliness poses a problem for people’s health and well-being. Loneliness increases your risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other mental and physical ailments. Relational ties help decrease anxiety and boost confidence and self-esteem. Be aware: You can’t expect to build these healthy connections with others virtually. Replacing conversation with emails and texts can leave you feeling more lonely.
“Any busy workers, even those in lively offices, may drift into loneliness without noticing that it’s happening.”
Working with others in an office each day is not a surefire way to avoid isolation. You must be proactive about cultivating relationships. To counteract loneliness, come to meetings early to socialize with colleagues, look for opportunities to greet and thank co-workers, and, when you feel a connection with someone, suggest activities, such as taking a walk together, that would allow you to form a closer friendship. When appropriate, consider forming mentoring relationships within your organization. Whether you are the mentor or mentee, you gain opportunities to teach and learn.
While networking sometimes makes people feel uneasy, remember that its benefits go both ways: You and your networking partners share connection, information and support. Someone you meet might help you find a new job or opportunity, and you might do the same for them. Forming diverse networks broadens your perspectives. These contacts can challenge old assumptions and increase your potential for innovative solutions.
About the author
Executive coach and leadership consultant Beverly Jones works with leaders at federal agencies, NGOs, universities and companies of all sizes.
Beverly E. Jones is a master of career reinvention. She started out as a writer for TV and radio, shifted to leading university programs for women while earning her MBA, and then went to law school. Now she is an author, speaker, podcaster, and coach. Throughout, Jones has mentored and supported professionals of all ages to enjoy successful careers. Jones serves as a fellow at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service. She has been quoted in numerous media, including the New York Times, CNN, NPR, Money, and Forbes. Jones and her husband, journalist Andy Alexander, live in Washington, DC, and Rappahannock County, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter at @beverlyejones.
Beverly Jones knows how to help you create a career that is more enjoyable, successful and resilient.
Bev works with leaders to spark new engagement and productivity in their teams, and she helps her coaching clients to grow and thrive at work. As an executive coach, she often focuses on enhancing performance, managing time and energy, improving communication, or navigating transitions.
Based in the nation’s capital, Bev works with clients spread across the country, including accomplished leaders at major federal agencies, NGOs, universities and companies of all sizes. Bev is a popular speaker and facilitator, and she creates workshops and other events around the needs of her clients.
Bev’s new book, “Find Your Happy at Work,” is a roadmap to helping you find more joy, meaning and success at work, at the same time you motivate your team. Her book on building career resilience, “Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO,” is available around the world, from Africa to India and Europe, and in languages including Simple Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese. Her popular podcast, “Jazzed About Work,” is found on npr.org and many other platforms.
In her own career, Bev is a master of reinvention. She started out as a writer, next led university programs for women, and then trail-blazed her career as a female Washington lawyer and Fortune 500 energy executive. Throughout her varied work life she has mentored other professionals to grow and thrive.
When she’s not working or supporting nonprofit activities, Bev is usually found in Rappahannock County, Virginia, in the garden of the farmhouse she shares with her husband, former Washington Post ombudsman Andy Alexander, and their two dogs.
Table of Contents
- You Can Make Work Feel More Like Play
- Feeling Upbeat Helps You Succeed
- Three Keys to Finding Satisfaction at Work: Purpose, People, and Performance
- Transform Your Career with a Strong Purpose Statement
- Sometimes Crises Lead to Growth and Deeper Engagement
- Journal Your Way to a Happier, More Productive Work Life
- Taking Care of Yourself Promotes Happiness
- Health and Happiness Goals Lead You to Well-Being
- Move Forward with the Sugar Grain Process
- Capture the Power of Small Victories
- Mindfulness Can Help You Feel Calm and Clearheaded
- Neuroscience Has Made Mindfulness a Hot Topic
- Learn from Ben Franklin, America’s First Self-Help Guru
- Change Things Up by Managing Your Habits
- Create Better Habits
- Improve Each Day by Cultivating Gratitude
- Enjoying Your Free Time Helps You Thrive at Work
- Feel Better by Spending Time in Nature
- Managing Your Attention Is a Basic Skill
- What Is Positivity and How Do You Get It?
- Feel Better by Doing Something Kind
- Build Positivity by Creating Rituals
- See Things More Clearly by Mapping the Big Picture
- How to Get Moving When You Don’t Feel Motivated
- Your Calendar Is More than a Meeting List
- Your Calendar Should Reflect Both Your Priorities and Your Energy
- Align Your Priorities with Your Attention
- Learning Helps You Enjoy Work, Keep Growing, and Find Opportunities
- A Smart Path to Career Growth: Read More Books
- Improve Your Writing to Boost Your Performance
- Learn to Move Past Bumps and Stumbles
- Your Problems May Be the Start of Something Good
- Grit Gets You through the Tough Spots
- Burnt Out? Maybe You’re Lonely
- We All Need Positive Relationships
- Networking Matters, and It’s about Relationships
- Your Network Provides Circles of Support
- Networking Isn’t about Being Selfish
- LinkedIn Networking Tips from an Expert
- Broad, Diverse Networks Take You Further
- Quit Taking Things So Personally
- Embrace the joys and Benefits of Mentoring
- Self-Confidence Starts with Action
- Get Past Boredom
- Break Up the Tedium with Memorable Moments
- Transparency Can Lead to Trust
- Physical Space Can Promote Happiness and Productivity
- Manage Money to Create Career Flexibility
- Time to Redesign Your job? Or Add a Side Gig?
- Ten Key Takeaways for Finding Your Happy at Work
Appendix: Jazzed About Work Podcast Guests and Episodes
If you hate your job and want change, the starting point is with you! Get unstuck, move past boredom, and discover how to flourish at work. This book is for anyone stuck in a rut, burned out, or just plain tired.
Has your career plateaued? Do you sometimes dread starting work? Are you bogged down by frustration, tedium, loneliness, or uncertainty? There’s hope.
Find Your Happy at Work, the latest book by acclaimed executive coach Beverly Jones, gives you a road map to quickly create more joy and meaning in your work, even if you don’t love your job.
Yes, aspects of your career are beyond your control. But Jones says you have more power than you realize. Throughout 50 fast-paced chapters, Find Your Happy at Work offers practical strategies to help you feel more enthusiastic and gratified on the job, whether from in the office or from home. These include:
- A simple model for creating career engagement that will improve your performance at work and help you develop deeper relationships with others.
- Techniques for addressing workplace challenges like difficult colleagues, boring tasks, daunting projects, and gloomy environments.
- Strategies for strengthening your network, building expertise, and laying other groundwork for a resilient career.
This book will provide encouragement, inspiration, and useful advice for those who want to be happy in their work, and throughout their lives.
Read an Excerpt
When you are happier, you’ll be more productive.
Optimistic and motivated workers achieve more than their negative, disgruntled peers. Career success is only one thing at stake here. You devote a huge portion of your life to your occupation. Your relationship to work impacts everything—your health, your family life, even the way you see the world.
This book can help you become happier in your work. As an executive coach, I’ve worked with thousands of professionals and know positive change is possible, even in the dark times. Transforming your relationship with work may be easier than you think.
Even if you’re feeling trapped, remember that you own your career. You can change your work life if you want to. The starting point is with you, today.
The book first looks at the basics of career happiness. This is not an academic treatise, but please know everything I talk about is rooted in behavioral science. Research says that every one of us has the power to adjust our attitude, enhance our skills and intelligence, reinvent the ways we approach life, and even change how our brain operates.
-Beverly E. Jones, from the Introduction
Feeling upbeat helps you succeed
A simple definition of “happiness” is that you’re feeling good. You’re cheerful, you’re enjoying life, and you hope your contentment can continue.
While people experience happiness in different ways, the positive emotions of happy people commonly are accompanied by a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Long- term happiness often includes a sense of being connected with other people and a feeling of contribution to the greater good. In contrast, when you’re unhappy, you feel miserable. Maybe you have a sense of isolation, or you’re overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. Your mood is gloomy, which can sap your energy and drive people away.
Taking care of yourself promotes happiness
Finding fun and satisfaction in your career is possible even when things aren’t going well in the rest of your life. For some people work serves as a refuge from discomfort, grief, or conflict at home.
But it’s difficult to do your best work and harder to achieve happiness when you aren’t in good shape physically, mentally, and emotionally. True happiness is rooted in every part of your being.
There’s a constant interplay between your mind and body. Your thoughts and emotions reverberate throughout your physical self and influence the way your brain operates. So even a single positive step, like creating a gratitude list, has the potential to trigger a significant shift, bringing new awareness and helping you let go of stress and feel better.
Self-confidence starts with action
A lack of confidence can hold you back and make you miserable at work. When you’re not sure of yourself, you might hesitate to connect with other people. You’re less likely to go after challenging projects. When leaders or clients sense your lack of as surance, they may hesitate to offer challenging assignments, even if you’re the most qualified person.
When you feel confident, you believe in yourself. You recognize that you have the ability to wrestle with problems and find a way to succeed.
Self- confident people don’t waste time comparing themselves with the competition. They understand their own strengths and values, and when a challenge comes along, they jump in and stick with it.
4 realms of well-being
Body: Exercise and fitness, Sleep and rest, Nutrition, Stress and tension, Energy and vitality, Movement, Comfort
Spirit: Purpose and mission, Where you find meaning, Values and morals, A sense of connection, Goals that go beyond self, Courage and determination, Fairness and justice, Transcendence and spiritual health
Heart: Feelings and emotional health, Love, Relationships, Self- worth and acceptance, Calmness and coping, Optimism and resilience, Gratitude, compassion, and kindness, Stress management, Joy
Mind: Acuity and mental health, Thought and self- talk, Beliefs and values, Perceptions, Focus and attention, Mindfulness and awareness, Curiosity and learning, Brain health
“Find Your Happy at Work is for anyone who has found themselves stuck in a job– bored, insecure, or simply consumed by a nagging feeling of being undervalued and overlooked. Beverly Jones provides a superb and insightful playbook of how to take control of your challenges and truly engage in your work, be inspired, productive, and yes, happy.” – Kerry Hannon, author of Great Pajama Jobs, Never Too Old to Get Rich, Great Jobs for Everyone 50+, and Love Your Job
“Beverly is filled with so much knowledge about how to approach your own career, and she is adept at delivering advice in a way that is easily consumable and relatable. Navigating a career today is no easy task, but Beverly has helped me and many others find clarity and purpose through it all.” – Ryan Lytle, Social Media Strategy Leader at Adobe
“Reading a career tip chapter by Bev Jones is like having a wise counselor with a gently authoritative voice sitting next to you offering the best advice that money can buy and that you can realistically follow. A pure pleasure.” – Ira Chaleff, author of Intelligent Disobedience
“Beverly Jones delivers on this book title’s promise. Find Your Happy at Work is filled with practical, bite-sized tips to help each of us move past our work doldrums and find more meaning, and happiness, in our day.” – Scott Shute, author, The Full Body Yes and Head of Mindfulness and Compassion at LinkedIn
“Happiness is not only possible, happiness is here with Beverly E. Jones’s new book Find Your Happy at Work! An inspiring and authentic series of proven strategies to affect positive change in your workplace and with oneself. Extremely helpful and practical, meeting today’s complex challenges as America goes back to the office.” – Earl Johnson, author, Finding Comfort During Hard Times
“Take her advice and you will find yourself more valuable, more purposeful, and as a result, happier at work.” – Kevin Eikenberry, coauthor of The Long Distance Teammate
Beverly Jones delivers on this book title’s promise. Find Your Happy at Work is filled with practical, bite-sized tips to help each of us move past our work doldrums and find more meaning, and happiness, in our day.” – Scott Shute
Beverly is filled with so much knowledge about how to approach your own career, and she is adept at delivering advice in a way that is easily consumable and relatable. Navigating a career today is no easy task, but Beverly has helped me and many others find clarity and purpose through it all.” – Ryan Lytle
Reading a career tip chapter by Bev Jones is like having a wise counselor with a gently authoritative voice sitting next to you offering the best advice that money can buy and that you can realistically follow. A pure pleasure. – Ira Chaleff
“Find Your Happy at Work is for anyone who has found themselves stuck in a job– bored, insecure, or simply consumed by a nagging feeling of being undervalued and overlooked. Beverly Jones provides a superb and insightful playbook of how to take control of your challenges and truly engage in your work, be inspired, productive, and yes, happy.” – Kerry Hannon
“Happiness is not only possible, happiness is here with Beverly E. Jones’s new book Find Your Happy at Work! An inspiring and authentic series of proven strategies to affect positive change in your workplace and with oneself. Extremely helpful and practical, meeting today’s complex challenges as America goes back to the office.” – Earl Johnson
Take her advice and you will find yourself more valuable, more purposeful, and as a result, happier at work. – Kevin Eikenberry