Work isn’t what it used to be—it’s more. Beyond showing up just to “pay the bills,” a majority of people in the workforce (including 92 percent of millennials) want to feel connected to what they do, and with good reason: How you feel about your job has a significant impact on your happiness and life satisfaction.
It may be tempting to allow your title, schedule, or coworkers to dictate your connection to work, but the truth is that you have more control than you may think. The secret? It’s less about what you do and more about how you do it. Here are five ways to love your job a little more, no matter what it is.
1. Get Connected
A Wharton study shows that purpose drives motivation. Finding your “why” helps you see why you do what you do—making your work feel more worthy. At meQuilibrium, we teach that there are three levels of job connection, each one more powerful than the last:
Level 1: You’re there for the pay and benefits.
Level 2: You value the pay but also enjoy the work and social connections.
Level 3: You need the pay, like your work and coworkers, AND feel that you contribute to something larger than yourself, such as your organization, industry, community, or even the world.
As your connection to work grows, so does your ability to cope with day-to-day stress. While the goal is to get to a Level 3 connection, most of us are at a Level 1 or 2 connection. With a Level 3 connection, you see the larger purpose in all of your efforts. Even the most tedious tasks become more bearable when you can relate what you’re doing with helping your teammates, satisfying customers, or being a role model for those you love.
Here’s how: To reach a Level 2 or Level 3 connection, begin by connecting with your coworkers. When chatting in the kitchen or between meetings, try to find at least one thing you have in common. Instead of eating lunch at your desk, join people in the break room or kitchen. Invite a colleague you don’t know well to go on a coffee run. Then, expand this connection towards your organization. You bring a specific set of skills, talent, and insights to your job. How do you make your company’s mission possible? The more you recognize this, the more you can see your value at work.
2. Follow the Progress Principle
The “progress principle” suggests that making progress in meaningful work is the single most motivating force in our lives. Motion stimulates your brain, so even small, everyday wins can make a big difference in how motivated you feel.
Here’s how: Break big projects into manageable steps to create more small wins for yourself. For example, if you have to prepare a presentation for an important meeting, start by creating the document or adding the meeting to your calendar. Cushion your goals with extra time so you have a better chance of exceeding your expectations.
3. Aim Higher (Than You Think You Should)
Whether you feel like your job title is “below you” or imposter syndrome (the feeling that you don’t deserve the success you’ve earned) keeps you frozen in place, don’t limit yourself: Working for the job you want, rather than the one you have, encourages growth.
Here’s how: Studies show mastery boosts motivation, so treat your job like a craft you want to hone. Speak with people from other teams about what they do to increase your understanding. Make a list of specific ways to develop in your current role, even if it’s just for you. Stay focused on your potential and challenge yourself to learn something new each day.
4. Take Five
Breaks are no joke: Studies show that employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who do not.
Here’s how: You don’t have to leave your desk to recharge. Keep a list of mood-boosters handy for when you need a quick lift. Try these examples (and check out this list with more ideas):
Stretch your shoulders: Raise both of your shoulders at the same time. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat.
Clean your desk: Clear everything off your desk, wipe it down, and add back only what you’re currently working on.
Laugh out loud: Share a joke, funny video, or happy story with someone.
5. Practice Positivity
Positive social connections are one of the biggest predictors of happiness at work, and research shows that positivity literally multiplies.
Here’s how: Micro-affirmations—small acts that comfort others—can trigger a domino effect of positivity. Offer to take a task off of a coworker’s plate. Send thank you notes. Take the new hire out to lunch. The more positivity you spread, the more likely you are to have a positive workplace culture—which benefits everyone.
Elior Moskowitz is the Content Coordinator at meQuilibrium. A frequent Cup of Calm contributor, she also writes for various major business journals and lifestyle publications. Elior holds a B.A. in Psychology and English, with special training in both positive psychology and mental health counseling.