The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
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Passage of Time

The Passage of Time:
Make Your 2,000 Hours Count

The passage of time doesn't slow for any of us,
even if we're too distracted to notice.

Congratulations! You made it through the holidays. You jumped back into "normal" life. You survived the first week of the new year. It's 2013. So... now what? How will you look back on this year twelve months from now? Will the year fly by? Will this be a better year than the last?

If you're like most people, you're thinking a lot about changes in your personal life at this time of year. Resolutions are almost always about finding happiness in your life outside of work. Here's something to consider: If you work full-time, you spend over 2,000 hours at work each year. Maybe this is the year you think about how to find more happiness at work too?

The new year represents a fresh start at work, just like it does at home. It's an opportunity to press the re-set button. To have a do-over. With so much going on and so many life distractions, it's easy to put your head down and just keep going. You may look at the past year with a feeling of "good enough." You may just plan to keep doing what you're doing, without thinking about what could be different or better. Work is just work, after all. Well, sort of. At 2,000 hours, you spend about a third of your life at work. That's... a lot.

The passage of time doesn't slow for any of us, even if we're too distracted to notice. My suggestion this year is to take notice. Take advantage of the new year to explore how to be happier at work. Sometimes it just comes down to asking yourself the right questions. Today I share the three questions I think are most essential to answer if you want to be happy at work. And by happy, I mean more successful and more satisfied... without taking a single bite of your soul for breakfast.


Three Essential Questions

1.  Am I using my best talents at work?

The Theory: You're more successful and satisfied when you use your natural talents at work.

The Roper Organization has surveyed over ten million people in recent years, asking them if they were using their talents at work. Only one third "strongly agreed" that they were using their best talents at work. One third. What a shame for both the individuals and the companies that employ them. The reason Roper asked the question in the first place? If you're not using your natural talents, you're less likely to be successful, less likely to be engaged in your work, and less likely to be satisfied. That's not good.

Using your best talents at work is a fast track to all things good. So what are your talents? Your talents are things that come easy to you. You're using your talents in those moments when you shine. If you're not sure what your talents are, consider these questions. What do you do really well at work, big or small? What makes you smile as you work? What do you get the most positive feedback about? What do people consistently ask for your help with?
What To Do
The trick to being happy at work isn't really a trick at all. Use your natural talents. You can learn your way into good performance at almost anything, but it isn't the same as doing what comes naturally to you. How much of your job taps into your talents? Can you use your talents in new ways in your current job? Are there other jobs that make more sense given your natural talents? Be creative and find ways to use your best talents at work. The pay-back? More success. More satisfaction. Oh, and more happiness.

2.  Am I (honestly) doing my best work?

The Theory: You feel better about your work when you know you're doing your best.

Sometimes we focus our attention brilliantly. We know we're doing our absolute best work. Other times, we work hard, but it isn't really our best work. We may be overwhelmed with to-do's or burned out from pushing too hard. We may feel over-invested or bored. We may just be feeling a little lazy.

You can't really feel gratified, or satisfied, by doing less than you're capable of doing. It isn't about blowing the doors off of your performance with every effort. It's about consistently doing your best, whatever that is, in any given moment. Only you can answer this question. It isn't about anyone else's assessment of your contribution. It's yours, and yours alone.
What To Do: 
Be honest with yourself about your level of performance at work. Do you feel good about your contributions? Could you do better? Should you do better? The big question: Would you be proud to have someone you really care about measure your value (or potential) based on what you're producing or how you're behaving at work today? If you can answer "yes" to that question, keep doing what you're doing. If your answer is "maybe" or "no," change it up. This aspect of your happiness at work is totally within your control. Bringing your highest potential to work makes a huge difference in how you feel about your job. 

3.  What do I want tomorrow, that I don't have today?

The Theory:  If you don't know what you want, you rarely get it.

Even if we're successful and satisfied at work, we have things we'd like to change. If we don't know what we want, and we can't explain to someone else what we want, it's sheer random luck if we get it. Luck isn't a great life strategy.

Why not be thoughtful about what you want and then work on a plan to get it? You'd be surprised how willing others are to help if you know with certainty what you want. Get clear. You need to know what you want, know how to explain what you want, and think about how to convince others why what you want is good for you and your company. It's worth taking the time to figure this out.
What To Do:
Take stock of what you want. Do you want more or different responsibilities? Do you want to learn something new? Do you want more flexibility? Do you want more projects? Fewer projects? Better projects? Spend time on this. Once you know what you want, think about how it can benefit your company too. Then ask for it. When you get what you want, you'll look back and wonder why you didn't do it sooner. Don't waste time by not moving in the direction of what you want. What are you waiting for?

Bottom Line

Over the course of your lifetime, you'll spend a lot of time at work. You can enjoy work, or you can tolerate it. You can feel like your job is a good fit, or you can be unhappy. It's easy to point a finger toward your boss or your company or your clients and make that the reason you aren't satisfied at work. Those are all valid challenges. But the truth is, your satisfaction is much more within your control than you think. Particularly when you make choices at work based on your answers to the questions presented here.

Bottom Line:  The more you use your natural talents, the more success and satisfaction you're likely to find. When you do your best work, you feel better about yourself and your job. If you know what you want, you're much more likely to get it. All of these things combined make you happier at work. They make your 2,000 hours count.

When I was a kid, I was always looking forward. I'd say "I can't wait until..." My Dad would shake his head and say, "Careful. Don't wish your life away." Over the years, I've definitely caught myself wishing my life away, wanting the days of a work week to hurry-up-already so the weekend could come. I wanted to speed the passage of time to get to the good parts.

With today's busy schedules, it seems that time passes more quickly than ever. Suddenly, Dad's advice seems so wise. Why wish my life away? Why not just find a way to be happier for every minute of it, including my time at work?

I'll say it again. The passage of time doesn't slow for any of us, even if we're too distracted to notice. This year, take notice. Make your time at work count. All 2,000 hours of it. Be happier at work. You can thank me later for the added bonus... of being happier at home too.

More soon,
Lisa