Work Wednesday: Respect Your Work… Especially in Front of Your Kids

"Coffee and Notebook" by Engin Akyurt

There are three things that a person needs to be successful in whatever occupation they pursue.

Firstly, they need the right work. They need a job that suits their temperament and their talents. A genuine people person will thrive in a job that involves directly serving a customer or selling a product they believe in. On the other hand, an introvert would find such a job a living hell. A person with a knack for language would be better off programming, writing, or communicating then they would be selling or building. If a person’s work does not match their temperament, they will not be able to put enough energy into it, or get enough out of it, to really succeed.

Secondly, they need compensation sufficient for their goals. That is to say, that the work has to offer enough money for the person to live the lifestyle that they want, support the hobbies and experiences that they want, and have some money left over for savings. This requires a lot of self-reflection to attain: most people don’t even really have a good picture of the life they want to lead, let alone understand the means they need to attain it.

I have discovered that most people need a lot less than they think they do, rather than more – because most people try to attain what they think they should want, rather than what actually makes them happy.

If their work is not enough to earn what they need, they also have be able to figure out what they can do to move into work that will get them into the right kind of work with the right kind of money. When people are not earning what they want, it takes a lot of discipline in order to get the knowledge and skills they need to move up.

Thirdly, they need a positive attitude about their work. However, what most people mean by a “positive attitude” about their work is either unsustainable, or unrealistic. There is so much jargon built up around the idea of a positive attitude, that it’ is an idea that needs to be unpacked.

A person doesn’t necessarily need to believe that their work is changing the world or making a difference; many people can meet those sorts of needs through hobbies, charitable work, their family, or religious devotion. If a person finds work that actually does make them feel like they’re creating a legacy, that is great news, and they are very lucky.

Likewise, a person doesn’t need to be constantly upbeat and happy. If someone is genuinely happy to be at work, then they are also lucky. However, most people don’t enjoy their work so much that they can have a smile on their face all day everyday. A person who forces themselves to appear happy when they are not comes off as inauthentic and untrustworthy. In the long run they will have a hard time getting along with their co-workers and their customers. Nobody wants to work with a phony. A good starting point on the mood that you present, if you can’t be happy, is instead to make it a rule to be focused on solving your work problems at work in goal-oriented steps, leaving non-work problems at home as best as you can, and alway talk about what you are doing to solve a problem instead of complaining about it. This, however, is more about maturity than about having a positive attitude about your work.

Similarly, some people equate the idea of a positive attitude with being pleasant, polite, communicative, and assertive. That is far too low a bar, however. That is something everyone should strive for whenever it is possible to be so without being a pushover. In fact, I would fo so far as to say that there are definitely times where tactical rudeness, reticence, or just letting people make their own mistakes is a better strategy for success than being nice. But being pleasant and polite should be a person’s default position everywhere and all the time.

A genuine positive attitude is a lot simpler than that.

A positive attitude is about understanding that your work is taking you places that you want to be in your life, even if it’s only doing so by giving you the money to support hobbies and other pursuits. It is also understanding that a job worth doing is worth doing well, both because you job is taking you where you want to go, and because doing a good job at your work will set a positive pattern elsewhere in your life.

Success is a habit. If you are meticulous and competent in one part of your life, it will start to spread to other parts.

Accordingly, a positive attitude manifests Itself by looking for new ways to work smarter, get more done, and set goals so that you are constantly improving the quality of one’s work in small increments.

Aside from setting goals and honing your workflow, the best way to remain engaged in your work – and to remind yourself that it is a positive force in your life – is to talk about it in a way that shows confidence and pride. It’s very common for people to see their jobs as a negative in their life. To complain about having to go to work, and either saying little about it, or focusing on what they didn’t enjoy about their work day. In doing so they are making their work harder, bringing down their own mood and mental health, and setting themselves up for failure

I strongly encourage people to both practice gratitude in the mornings, and at the end of the day, when talking about what they did with their day with their family, to discuss either how they moved closer to a goal, or something they accomplished. Trying to think of one thing that you are proud of or doing well to talk to your family about can make a huge difference not only in how you see your work, but in how your children appreciate your work, and the work ethic they will develop later in life.

Ultimately, kids are the best life coaches in the world. If you show an interest in your work and talk about it in a way that makes it seem important, your children will see it as important as well. They will come to expect to hear about their parents accomplishments. They will take an interest. And that in turn will serve as a positive feedback loop to keep the parent engaged with their work.

That is my challenge too many clients who are struggling with having a positive attitude that keeps them engaged with work. I asked them to think of one thing that they could call Ann and cheeves meant at the end of every day, and share it with their family over dinner overtime, looking for things to be proud of tends to encourage them to build up momentum. I look for new and better challenges, and new and better achievements to share.

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