Habits and happiness

I’m currently reading a book on the science of habits, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. One of the concepts it talk about is how habits form. It talks about the cycle: Cue – Routine – Reward. We do what we do because we are rewarded.

This extends to the workplace. If you do do work that you enjoy, it is because it gives you a sense of reward. Whether that been a feeling of satisfaction or the praise of your boss, client, whoever.

This made me think of the job that I left last year, and why I left it. I no longer enjoyed it. I had previously enjoyed it because I was learning new things, I got satisfaction from the projects that I created and I got praise from those around me. But in the last months of this job I was learning nothing, the completion of my work was interfered with, and if I did manage to successfully complete something, there was no praise, but that’s because it probably wasn’t that good due to the previous interference. It had become the opposite of enjoyable. So I left.

The most recent post on the Live Your Legend site dealt with how to stay a job, that you might not be enjoying, and find the positive to turn it around.

There were eight (or nine) points

1. Get interested in your colleagues.
Possibly I didn’t do this as much as I should have, but I have also realised since I left this job that the most creative people in the business were generally kept away from the creative decisions. And odd choice for a creative agency. I did become interested in the creative people (not in a creative position).

2. Become interesting and share what matters to you.
This is the flip side. But this also needs that people want to be interested, have the imagination to be interested. However I did share with those who were interested.

But generally I think I was mocked for sharing. Anything not mainstream and suburban didn’t really fit the vibe of a lot of people there. (See my previous post on scaffolding)

3. Find out your boss’s pain points.
I did this a lot, with both my immediate boss and the Managing Director, and I think I helped them solve a lot of the problems. The problem with this is that the other Partner, and at one point the then Client Services Director, did not see that these points needed to be fixed. They worked actively to keep things as they were. To berate me for wasting my time. To mock me if I achieved something (even though virtually everyone else at the company thanked me for it). And in the final months to actively stop me doing anything out of the ordinary.

I think what I’m trying to get across here is though the LYL post says there are ways of dealing with a bad job, my particular bad job had key members that fought as hard as they could to stop any change in the culture.

4. Discover the intersection between adding value & your interests
I actually did this. And manage to carve out a nice niche for myself. Until, again, I felt that this niche was got rid of (whether deliberately or not), thereby removing the thing I enjoyed most about the job.

5. Don’t get sucked into negativity
Again, very difficult. In the end I actually refused to go into meetings with a certain member of staff because I didn’t see the point. Nothing got achieved when he was in meetings. This was really near the end and I think this was the point when I thought “I have to leave”

6. Dress for success
In other words get noticed. And I got noticed. But that was a good and a bad thing. One partner loved my work. The other seemed to resent it.

7. Develop yourself outside of work
I definitely did this, and I continue to do so. In recent years I have gone to 6 TEDx events, travelled many countries, followed the LYL program, attended courses in Spanish, Javascript and Illustration, learnt new software, joined many MeetUps and started meditating.

8. Get outside your comfort zone
At this job I always took on tasks that I yet did not know how to do. I’m not sure this is ‘outside my comfort zone’, as I am comfortable doing this. I am comfortable learning new, unknown skills. I also was head of my department for about 50% of time I was at this job. Mainly because the various people in that position kept quitting (or was on holiday). This was definitely out of my comfort zone, and I think I managed it. But I doubt I could have done much more, as I think the culture of this company was to keep everyone within their defined box. They (or one of the partners) didn’t really like innovation.

Always leave a party when you’re still having fun…
I left way after I stopped enjoying this job. The problem was that I had enjoyed it, and I just felt there had been a shift in the politics at the top, where people were being made to pull their head in. Or more accurately, keep their heads below the parapet. It’s very hard to do many of the above points in a company like that.

Since leaving this job I have been freelancing, irregularly. I have more been concentrating on what I want to do next. Especially by following the LYL program and other activities that it suggests.

Getting out of that job was definitely the right thing to do. But making a firm decision on my next move is something that I feel has alluded me. I certainly have many options before me, and indeed have been encouraged to just choose one and run with it.

But I haven’t found that thing. That passion. Which I thought I might through all this exploration. (Although there are the naysayers who say “just do it, stop procrastination”)

Some days I feel I’ve moved in the opposite direction of where I want to go. I feel demotivated.

I recently found this list entitled “Everything is awful and I’m not okay: questions to ask before giving up”

I don’t feel that “everything is awful”, but I think some of the things on this list also help with demotivation. Especially as some days I stayed home all day, even if I am working.


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