Feel Good About Your Workday in 7 Steps
And if you don’t enjoy your work or find some meaning in it, the ruts can come more often and be more serious, affecting you physically, mentally and spiritually.
Every once in a while I find myself in that place. I’ll become aware that I haven’t been into my work or that some physical issue has been nagging at me for a few weeks. Usually it’s one of my shoulders, and I can feel it when doing yoga or just reaching for something. Since I study mindset, I don’t see anything as random. I know body follows mind, and almost every time, I realize I’ve gotten stuck in a bit of a rut. When it happens, I know it’s time to get outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself—in some way stretching beyond what I knew I was capable of.
We often don’t realize that’s when we really come to life—when we’re experiencing ourselves being fully expressed, when we’re using our talents and skills full-on, when we’re shining most authentically, and pushing ourselves toward our full capabilities.
The problem is that you can get stuck in a routine and forget that’s what you need to strive for every day. And if we’re not challenging, growing, stretching all the time, and we’re staying comfortable, we’re going to feel stagnant—something humans are not meant to be. The mental weight of that can cause health issues (in fact, I always see my shoulders aching as a metaphor for carrying a weight in some way).
The last time it happened, I sat down to figure out the activities that energize us in our life and work, making us feel ready to tackle our dreams. The result was a list of 7 simple steps I try to take every day to ensure I’m in thrive-mode. I keep the list in a few different places (including the kitchen counter), so that I see it all day long, and keep working it. Here it is:
7 steps to Waking Up Your Work and Life
1. Serve. We feel good when we’re contributing to something meaningful that’s greater than ourselves, whether that means family, community or an activity on a more global scale. Every one of us has innate gifts and talents that, when we use them, help make the world a better place. And when you do, you can feel yourself spring to life. You feel at your most authentic or in a “zone.” But too many of us let those gifts lie dormant. It’s way too easy to forget those abilities are there, let alone putting them to work, in the hustle and bustle of routines. If you’re not using them daily already, get those skills and talents that only you have out of the closet and put them to use! Whether that’s making people laugh, bringing people together, writing to inspire, teaching, organizing, healing, helping people improve their lives—whatever you do best. You don’t have to be perfect (no such thing), you’re honing your skills as you go. Remind yourself daily to implement them into your work.
2. Stretch. In order to grow and get a sense of what we’re really made of, we need to stretch beyond the boundaries we’ve put up for ourselves. We humans don’t like to go beyond our comfort zones (a result of our brain trying to keep us in our learned safe zone), but the truth is, we gain confidence and feel great when we challenge ourselves. Especially when we get amazing results we didn’t expect or find that we’re stronger and more resilient than we thought. In those areas of your work and life you’d like to grow, try pushing just beyond your current abilities a week at a time, a month or a few months at a time. It’s hard, it’s demanding, it can be uncomfortable. But doing that continually is how an athlete masters her sport, and how we master ourselves.
3. Grow. There is so much power in knowing you can learn and improve your life in any area you choose, a way of forward-thinking that psychologist Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success calls “growth mindset.” You are never stuck with what you already know. Keep learning and improving. Take courses, read books, attend seminars. Do one thing toward building your human capital and expanding your skills and intelligence every day.
4. Specialize. Have one thing that you do better than everyone else, preferably something you love and that has meaning for you. Work on it daily in some way. Being a specialist can also mean greater earning potential.
5. Socialize. Surround yourself with like-minded people who mentor, support and encourage you and who make you smile. It will empower you in your career, and also lead to greater well-being. Since it’s one of the most important tools for a better life, you want to be intentional and strategic about who you spend your time with. Gravitate toward people you enjoy, who want to see you succeed, and not people who want to drag you down. In career circles, make sure the people you’re around are always moving forward themselves.
6. Accomplish. No matter how your day goes, try to accomplish one meaningful thing that you’re proud of. Every small victory we have triggers the release of the happy chemical, dopamine, which fuels you to want to achieve another small victory. Not only can it motivate us internally, but it can create an upward spiral of accomplishing that makes those small victories morph into bigger successes. It also just makes you feel good about your day.
7. Find Beauty/Feel Awe. Studies show that what we look for in life is what we see. What we expect is what we get. So if you look for scarcity, poverty and negativity, your brain will be tuned in to help you find it, and that’s what your reality will consist of. The same goes for looking for joy, beauty, kindness and prosperity. Your brain will tune in to whichever you focus on, so why not choose the one that will support a richer, happier healthier life?
At the same time, try to cultivate some awe and wonder in your day. The kind you felt as a kid when you discovered the ocean or sand or snow or climbed a tree for the first time. “[Awe] happens when people encounter a vast and unexpected stimulus, something that makes them feel small and forces them to revise their mental models of what’s possible in the world,” writes Jake Abrahamson in Sierra Magazine, and it can change the trajectory of your life in profound ways.
I admit, I don’t have all of these mastered, and don’t get to every one every day, but I look at this as a daily nutrition plan for my workday—kind of like making sure I’ve covered all the food groups. Tapping into as many of these as possible really can make you feel more engaged and in tune with your most authentic self.
Here’s a challenge: Do you think you could implement at least 3 of the steps for just three days? If so, try if out, see how it feels for you, and let me know your results in the comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback or your own tips for turning out your best day.
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