I have a smart, well-educated friend who always seems to find a way to love her job.
I also have a smart, well-educated friend in the same industry who seems to find a lot to complain about in her work life.
The first one is at the peak of her career, overseeing a large team, and is in demand in her field. The second hasn’t progressed very far and has lost her job more than once. And I can’t help but think attitude has a lot to do with the difference.
After all, attitude is infectious and powerful.
It comes down to this: You cannot control what happens around you. But you are in full control of how you choose to experience it. For example, you can choose to see the worst or the best in people. You can choose to feel overwhelmed by what’s on your plate or to feel energized and excited about your work. You can dwell on what you dislike about your job or appreciate what you love.
When you find yourself in a negative thought loop at work, consider how a mental shift could transform your experience—and the experiences of those around you.
Here are a few mental shifts I’ve learned to embrace:
1. Shift the thought “What are people asking me to do today?” to “What is the most important thing I need to do today so that I move the needle for the business?”
When something pops up—an email, LinkedIn message, or calendar invitation to discuss a topic of importance to someone else—reacting quickly often comes naturally. Especially because you want to be courteous and prompt. And, quite honestly, because it’s easy work.
At NakedPoppy, the clean beauty startup I co-founded, I receive enticing messages all day long. It’s difficult to not want to respond instantly!
But, of course, email could keep me busy all day. So I force myself to decide in the morning how my day is most productively spent. Urgent messages aside, I create a 5 p.m. block on my calendar to achieve “inbox zero.” This is designed to happen after I’ve accomplished my stated goal.
This approach is difficult for me. I love being responsive and have to force this mental shift on myself all the time.
Ask yourself the question, “Have I already accomplished the most important thing I need to do today?” Until the answer is “yes,” focus maniacally on that.
2. Make the mental shift from complaining about your job to finding what you love about it.
Do you know many successful people who constantly complain about their work? I don’t.
Whether you work 30 or 60 hours a week, we all spend a lot of waking hours at work. Surely, there’s something to appreciate about your job. Gratitude has a way of putting imperfections in perspective so you can focus on doing excellent work and exuding positive energy.
This mental shift affects those around you. People with positive attitudes are far more likely to be liked, respected, and promoted.
3. Shift the thought “That was my idea!” to “More power to her. I’ll get noticed too if I do great work.”
Office politics can be toxic, draining, and distracting. And they can easily arise when one person feels like her idea was taken by a coworker, who then gets credit and praise.
When you believe someone got ahead at your expense, it can be hard to let it go. But the sooner you let go, the sooner you can make this mental shift. Focus on succeeding through great work.
Knock that presentation out of the park. Come up with a stellar research report. Execute that project beautifully. Focus on future results—not on who got credit for your idea last week.
And remember that everybody loves a team player. Do good work, support your colleagues, and let your results speak for themselves. It’s a much happier way to be successful. Organizations appreciate people who do good work and celebrate the success of others.
4. Make the mental shift from “I’ll just do it myself” to “Is there someone else who can do it better or for less?”
It’s smart business to lean into your strengths and let others take advantage of theirs. It’s also smart to delegate to the lowest-cost resource.
If you’re a leader or manager, hand off tasks to more junior team members whenever possible. Not only does this free you up and save the company money, but it also helps those team members learn and grow.
5. Make the mental shift from “This person is annoying” to “This person is operating with good intentions.”
If you assume good intentions, chances are you’ll discover good intentions.
I’ve found myself temporarily let down when I discover that a team member failed to keep me in the loop. If I don’t thoughtfully rationalize—think about how busy they are, for example—I might feel unhappy. But that’s almost never their true intent.
When you feel poorly about an interaction with someone, don’t assume they intended to make you feel that way. Chances are, they didn’t.
6. Shift from “I don’t have enough time” to “I have enough time to do everything I need to do today.”
When work, personal, and other responsibilities pile up, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But if you focus on what actually needs to get done, you’ll find yourself ruthlessly prioritizing to accomplish what matters most.
Whenever you say, “I’m too busy” or “I can’t get everything done,” you’re letting time manage you instead of the other way around.
This mental shift can change the tone of your day from stressed to empowered. Take control of your time in this way and I predict you’ll ease stress and increase both your productivity and your happiness.