Making it happen since 1988

Ants in your pants

By IMA on Sep 11, 2018

A state of restless impatience. The clock’s ticking, the dreaded deadline is creeping closer, time is of the essence. Finally, the email with the artwork. But why has the headline acquired a second full stop? That wasn’t part of the brief, has the rogue full stop brought anymore of its kind along? It needs amending. The unwanted briefing, to remove the unwanted full stop. The phone rings, the printers are pressing.

Working at an agency in client services can, at times, be stressful. A day filled with deadlines, distractions and dozens of emails. Not to mention the rounds of meetings, while trying to find time to focus, think strategically and creatively, work with clients and internal teams, and keep a smile on your face. It can be also at times be a struggle to manage heavy workloads while maintaining a social life outside work.

We spend up to a third of our time at work. It’s safe to say that our jobs play a significant role and can have a big impact on quality of life. Writer Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” It’s important to find a job that allows you to spend your days being motivated and positive, and to be able to manage stress at work, when stress just feels like the unwanted gift that keeps on giving.

How can we make sure we’re getting the most out of our days and find happiness at work?

The trick to being happy at work, doesn’t necessarily lie in earning more money, according to international leadership advisor and author Annie Mckee, but lies in ensuring that three basic human needs are met. Meaning or purpose, the feeling that what we do at work matters and aligned with our personal values. Hope or optimism, the sense that we can have a positive future when we understand our needs better and create a plan for ourselves. Friendships or positive relationships, the connection to others, which matters as much to our happiness as other aspects of our job.

Meaning or purpose.

“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you” – Richard Branson

It’s not always easy to find meaning and purpose in life, but it is easier to think about what you do best and what you like to do best. The latest lifestyle trend has moved from the Nordic ‘hygge’, to the Japanese ‘Ikigai’. Although there’s no direct translation to English, the term is believed to be the combination of iki ‘to live’ and gai ‘reason’. Meaning, ‘thing that you live for’ or ‘the reason for which you wake up in the morning’. It’s a life philosophy that encourages people to discover their purpose in life, what makes them truly happy in any small or big way, every day you wake up in the morning.

What’s the first thing that pops into your head in the mornings? Where the hell is Friday… any premature stress of the day ahead? There’s nothing worse than waking up already dreading the day. Waking up stressed and miserable isn’t a good way to live. Life is too short to be waking up unhappy.

Ikigai is a mentality that already residing in us. It’s something that you do best and like to do best, which can be something we’re yet to discover about ourselves. It can be something difficult to realise and achieve – not as easy as a dose of cosy socks and smelly candles to give that ‘hygge’ feeling. It’s something that truly comes from within. It can be described as an intersection between these four points; what are you passionate about? What are you good at? What does the world need? And what can you get paid for? The answer should then balance all four elements. What’s your ikigai?

Ikigai allows you to gain a sense of purpose which has some physical and mental health benefits. A sense of purpose can improve immune systems, lower stress hormones and allow people to deal better with difficult and stressful situations in life. What’s really going to bring you the greatest gratification will be the job’s ability to allow you to express your true identity, skills, and values.

Hope or optimism.

“Happiness Is Not Something Ready Made. It Comes From Your Own Actions.” – Dalai Lama

We live distracted, technology-driven lifestyles, conjoined with our phones, trying to juggle a million things at a time. Research has shown that multi-tasking doesn’t actually make you more productive and it can reduce the quality of your output and ability to make sensible decisions. The issue with our mind though, is that we often have little to no control over it. We’re constantly thinking, doubting, questioning, processing information, all day and night. Mindfulness can help to become more aware of thoughts and feelings, and instead of being overwhelmed by them, help to manage them better.

Mindfulness is the ability to cultivate awareness in the present moment, the key is keeping your mind focuses on one thing at a time. Mindful attentiveness allows a person to shift attention from inputs, thoughts, and triggers that are not productive and focus on that which is productive. Were you paying full attention in that meeting, or was your phone demanding it? When you give your full attention to something you’ll be more productive, and it will make you happier.

Start focusing on what’s important. Start a 100-day plan, set yourself targets and goals. Don’t overcomplicate and try to accomplish too many tasks or goals at a time, be realistic. Choose goals at work and in your private life, achieving these goals however big or small will give you a positive boost and a sense of control.

Many studies have shown that due to our ‘always on’ lifestyles, our work-life balance is suffering. Having a poor work-life balance was a particularly strong predictor of people’s happiness in a 2017 study, Happiness at Work. Being more mindful can be help with shaping emotional boundaries between work and life.

When our minds are in better balance, the serotonin levels in our brains increase, which reduces impulse activity and increases a sense of joy at work, lowers stress levels, improves team cohesion and problem solving, making us better at reaching our goals. When we’re more mindful, we’re more likely to be kinder and more compassionate towards others and more patient with the people we live and work with.

Friendships or positive relationships.

It’s crazy to think that most of use spend more of our time with people we work with than with our families. Research statistics have found that quality friendships have a direct link to job satisfaction and engagement, where job satisfaction grew nearly 50% when a worker developed a friendship at work.

Working in client services, pushes you to learn how to work with so many different people, with different personalities and oh so many opinions. Which can be a struggle at times, to align client and creatives visions, and being the mediator in the middle.

Perspective taking capacity is one of the Four Factor Model of Leadership created by psychologist Michael Cavanagh, which refers to an individual’s “capacity to understand, critically consider and integrate multiple competing perspectives into a more comprehensive perspective that enables adaptive action”. Getting a wider perspective of situations can improve problem solving, lead to better leadership and control of situations.

“Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.”  – Steve Maraboli

Since most of us spend a great deal of our lives working, it’s inevitable that work plays a key role in shaping our levels of happiness. And what a shame it would be if we don’t spend our days being as happy as much as possible, in our private lives and at work. Work on reducing stresses and struggles, painful pressures, ants in pants impatience. Find what you wake up for in the mornings, that brings happiness to your days, find your ikigai. Bring mindfulness into your day, make a plan, work on work-life balance. Learn to understand others and be with people that make you happy.