How to find peace at work

Your thoughts define how you feel

Workplaces can be stressful. Infuriating even. Feelings of peace and contentment are often elusive in the office. The following mindset changes will help you keep your Zen at work:

1. Enjoy the here and now

This is the hardest concept for high achievers to come to terms with. We always strive for our next goal. After we reach it, we immediately set another one. We keep moving the finish line further and further. Going after the next big thing.

There is nothing wrong with pursuing worthy goals. The problem appears when you say to yourself ‘I will be happy when…’ When you get a promotion. When you pay off the mortgage. When the kids are older.

I have some bad news. You probably will not be any happier after those things happen. External events have a small correlation with your happiness. People adapt to positive experiences. Researchers call this phenomenon hedonic treadmill. You keep running, but you are staying at the same place.

Postponing happiness to the future creates stress and discontentment. You never feel you have achieved enough. You always compare yourself with someone more successful. Wouldn’t be a shame to live a great life and not even notice?

What if you told yourself that you have arrived? You need to find happiness here and now. Initially, you feel anxious. Your life is by no means perfect, and there is so much more to achieve. How can I tell you that this is it?

But, once you accept that there is nowhere else you have to get to, you can pause and enjoy the great things in your life. You become fully present. You can feel contentment and peace.

And from that place of inner peace, you can start creating whatever you want in your life and career. Not because you need to or you should. But because you want to and it is fun.

2. Avoid your triggers

People think the more willpower and self-discipline they exercise at work, the better. Some believe that avoiding stressful situations makes them a coward. The opposite is true. You have a limited amount of willpower for each day. If you challenge yourself too much, by the afternoon, you will feel overwhelmed and start making mistakes.

We can all be like the toddler who has a tantrum once she comes home from nursery. There was too much discipline during her day, and now she needs to let all the tension out.

The smart thing to do is avoid having to use willpower or self-discipline as much as possible. Know and avoid your triggers. Evade that cynical colleague if you want to be more positive. Say no to this extra project if you want to be less stressed. Do not have sweets in your house if you are on a diet.

The most important part of self-discipline is saying no to the things you do not want to do. It is hard to do if you are a people-pleaser. Focusing on the things you want to do, saves willpower. Helps you gain more pleasure from your work and become better at it. You have more impact. If your job consists of too many tasks you do not want to do, you may need to consider a change.

Please note there is a difference between the things you do not want to do and the things you do not feel like doing. If you wait until you feel like doing something important that requires effort you may never get to it.

For the tasks you want to do, but may not feel like it, like exercise, for example, create structure and routine. Turn them into a habit, so you do not have to think about it. For one-off events that you may not feel like doing, like a difficult call, do them first thing in the morning. That is when you have the largest reserves of willpower.

3. Accept & Let Go

Workplaces are often unfair. They are run by humans. Logic does not always prevail. Sometimes, it is worth fighting for a worthy cause. But, at some point, you need to accept and let go.

‘The person who has the power to make the decision will make the decision.’ Marshal Goldsmith

You may not take that job, even though you believe you were the best candidate. You may not agree with your department’s hire-freeze. Use your influence if you can.

But, after the decision is made, do not waste time complaining about it. It is unproductive and draining for you and those around you. You could be investing this time working on your next step. Having a positive impact.

4. Do not work yourself up

Thoughts are not facts. They are just thoughts. You can always jump from a train of thought if you do not like the place where the train is going. The moment you think that a colleague or a client did something frustrating, stop. Do not throw fuel on the fire with thoughts of victimization and self-righteousness. You will only work yourself up.

Jump off that train of thought. Try to think the complete opposite to see what happens. Think they were justified in their actions from their point of view. They probably were. It is not one or two thoughts that get us upset. It is usually a lot more.

I do not suggest suppressing your negative emotions. This can actually have a negative effect on your wellbeing. I suggest being aware that your thoughts rather than external circumstances make you upset.

Most of the times, observing your thoughts and emotions without judging, is the right thing to do. They are useful information. However, you do not have to follow your negative thoughts blindly. You are not helpless to your mind. You can always come back to a more peaceful place if you choose to.

5. Take care of the goose and the golden eggs will follow

Some of us wear our busyness as a badge of honour. Pride ourselves on being online 24/7. Replying emails on the weekends. Staying late in the office. Not taking holidays.

Do not be one of those people. You will soon get burnt out. Become irritable. Start resenting your job. Your performance will deteriorate. Creativity takes life from rest and play.

You are the goose that produces the golden eggs at work. You need to take care of the goose, or it may not produce eggs for much longer. You know what you need to do. There has been endless research about how to take care of yourself: sleep, nutritious food, exercise, meditation, massages, talk therapy, journaling, play, contact with nature, time with loved ones.

Select one of the above and focus on improving it. When you succeed, start with another one. Combine more than one to get even more benefit. Yoga combines both exercise and meditation. Sports can combine exercise, play and time with loved ones.

Conclusion

The way we feel depends more on our thoughts and less on external circumstances. It is in our hands to pursue and keep our inner peace at work.

Recognize that you can only find happiness in the here and now. Avoid your triggers. Accept the things you cannot change. Jump off your train of thought when you do not like where it is going. And take care of yourself.


Caterina Kostoula is an Executive Coach and a Global Business Leader at Google. Follow Caterina Kostoula on Medium, Twitter or LinkedIn.