Rule 1: do what makes you happy

If there could only be one rule about how to stay happy at work I would say it is: don’t forget to do what makes you happy.

I know this sounds simple, but I find it isn’t. All jobs have stuff that’s urgent and we often let this dictate our priorities. We keep pushing the things that are personally rewarding to the end of our To Do lists.

Our company holds management classes for people from all of our divisions and this week I was invited to speak to a class that was focusing on leadership. It was after dinner on day two of the class. The setting was informal—thankfully no PowerPoint charts needed—and I opened with a few top-of-mind remarks about my thoughts on leadership. Then we were off to the races! I spent the next two hours answering the participants’ questions. They asked me lots of great questions and it was just fun—for me, there’s few things more fun at work than spending time with folks discussing a topic that I am very passionate about—leadership.

Why am I sharing this with you? It’s hardly unusual that someone speaks to a management class within the company.

I was exhausted when I left my office to travel two hours to this event. I could have laid down on the floor of the conference center and gone to sleep. I have a million urgent things on my plate right now—and I could have easily used the six hours this took to tackle my never-ending To Do list; I have e-mails breeding like rabbits!

I knew this would be the situation when I committed to do this event. But, I also know that this is one of the top three things that makes me happy at work—I love the energy I get from being with the folks that attend these classes because it takes me out of my day-to-day work. During the couple of hours that I am with them, I am present just in this moment. I have to be—they’re all very smart and I have to pay attention!

I always get more out of these sessions that I put into them, even when I have to juggle my own deadlines to fit it in. So, even though I knew it would be very hard to carve out the time to do this, I remembered what makes me happy at work and I did it.

I drove home at 11:00 PM and I was happy that I did this for myself—and it reminded me that I have to keep me motivated and happy at work.

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