‘Happiness comes when you believe in what you are doing, know what you are doing, and love what you are doing’, Brian Tracy.  However, we know that only a third of the workforce is engaged at work and that the UK has the lowest level of productivity in G7 industrialised countries (ONS survey 2011).  One explanation is that people are working below their capacity, because the structure of work has changed.

This situation is not good news for society, if we accept Maslow’s concept of self-actualisation or reaching your potential.  In other words, the place where you start giving back and helping other people to progress in their lives.  And, even worse for the individual, because happiness also depends on how we relate to other people and participate in the bigger picture.  This can result in a feeling that your life lacks meaning and purpose and is a downward spiral.

However, all is not lost.  We know that taking into account circumstances beyond our control, such as health or genetic predisposition, 40 per cent of our happiness is based on the action we choose to take (Sonja Lyubomirsky).  Therefore, you have more control than you initially thought you had.  If you feel stuck, in your current job, take stock and create your own career development plan.  Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where do you want to be in 3 years’ time? Enjoy thinking about this and imagining the details.  In terms of your satisfaction, this is ‘as good as it gets,’ and if you were to give it a score, it would be 10 out of 10.  Create a goal by wording it in the present tense, for example ‘It’s 1st June 2018 and I am a HR Manager, working for a charity in London.’
  2. Work back and create goals at these milestones; 2 years and at 18, 12, 6 and 3 months, and ask yourself the same question.
  3. Now, assess where you are in terms of your current level of satisfaction. How far away are you from achieving your 3 year goal?  Is this a realistic timescale, or do you need to tweak the above milestones?
  4. What have you done already to achieve your goal? What’s stopped you doing more?  Do you have the resources to achieve your goal or are these dependant on you taking other action to get these resources?  Think about your strengths and skills.  Do you need to learn something new in order to achieve your goal?  Spend time exploring the current situation.  Is your goal achievable?  Is it within your control? Does your goal affect anyone else?
  5. Next, draw up a list of all the things you could do to address the current situation, for example obstacles like I don’t have enough time or money. These are the things you’ve identified in above.  Make a note of what you could do.  Now, take another perspective.  Think of someone you respect and admire.  Ask yourself, what they would do, to achieve a similar goal.   And, what wouldn’t they do.  Ask yourself whether you need to revise your goal and/or milestones.  If so, do it now before moving on.
  6. Look at your list and decide what action you’re going to take. And create a plan.  For each action write down the date and time when you will start and finish the task.  Check that the action you take is relevant to your goals.  If not, go back to number 5.  Find someone, you can be accountable to, who will check your progress.
  7. Having completed your plan, consider how committed you are to taking these actions.  Ask yourself, what could stop you.  Do you need to go back to number 4?  Otherwise, create a plan B that you can resort to if you need to.

Now, it’s time to get started.

By having your own goals, you’ll progress personally and also professionally. You’ll feel energised and excited and this will give you a sense of meaning and purpose.  And, this will bring you into contact with other people.  As a result, your level of happiness will be enhanced.  When things go awry, and they will as this is real life, get back up and find another solution.  By doing this, you’ll become more resilient and stronger.  Keep going.  By developing a strong positive mental attitude you’ll find your working life is more tolerable, as you work towards your goals and you might even enjoy it.

Yes, employers have a responsibility for ensuring better engagement with their employees and improving working structures, but as far as you’re concerned this is outside of your control.  You now know, that you can make positive changes without waiting for your employer to take the initiative. Go for it!