How to make your work more joyful and less miserable today 

January 26, 2023

by Ravi Raman

You know the feeling, sleeping walking your way from meeting to meeting. Getting lost in your phone instead of working on that document. Retyping your to-do’s instead of actually doing them. The problem is rampant, and high-performers are not immune. I’m no longer surprised when I coach a contributor at one of the world’s top technology companies, and hear about this malady.

While this is clearly an issue for owners and leaders (how can you move your business forward when no one is paying attention or engaged?). It’s also a major issue for any team member since it feels terrible to drag yourself through your workday. It also – inevitably – leads to poor performance over time and worse, being shown the door

Even more shocking is that only 32% of U.S. workers are engaged in their work, which means about 68% are not engaged, according to Gallup’s latest employee survey . The trend has worsened since the pandemic, and younger workers seem to be impacted more than experienced folks. 

Don’t make a tough job even harder!

Software continues to eat the world while AI (through Open AI, Bard and other emerging systems) looms large and is poised to obviate many roles that were once considered robot-proof. Knowledge work also comes with the unique challenge of requiring a quality of attention, focus and creativity that is slippery in nature, hard to pin down and muster on demand – and yet – required! 

One of the reasons why I started coaching was that I saw far too many talented professionals – many of whom were my friends and colleagues – suffering from their work. For a time, I was too. Through dumb-luck, wisdom and a bit of coaching for myself, I realized that work didn’t need to be a struggle. On the contrary, when work stops being a suffer-fest: performance improves, ideas flourish and missing connections get made. 

So then, the big question is: 

How can work be more of a joy and less of a drag?

Find joy in the middle of misery

Here’s a counter-intuitive fact about the human mind, when you give it a chance, the mind can produce an experience of joy and a pleasant feeling while doing literally anything, and I do mean anything! 

Instead of changing your job to feel better, try first to find a way to relate to your work – and your life – in a way that joy can flow naturally from the inside-out. I’m not saying there is never a time to change careers ( I did! ). I’m saying that a starting point is to connect to the joyful state of mind that is already within you, and then choose what to do for your work!

It really is possible to find a joyful state of mind, even if you hate your job.

An experiment (or challenge!) for you:

Choose a repetitive work task or event that you really despise (or at minimum just find super boring). For the next few weeks engage with the task with a level of present-mindedness and curiosity that you have never had before. 

For example, if you really don’t enjoy team meetings, show up to them as-if you have never been to one before and are supremely curious about what they are all about! Eliminate any distractions and pay attention in the meetings like there is nowhere else you would rather be.

As you are doing so, pay attention to how you feel about the task (or in this case, the meeting). Do you have to suffer through it….or on the other hand does it start to have a neutral to even slightly joyful feeling to it?

Through this experiment, you can discover that even drudgery can be enlivening (or at least interesting) and that what used to appear like it was creating misery is nothing more than a chance for your mind to get fully engaged and present. This matters since a present and engaged mind feels pretty darn good!


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