Happiness (and misery) is contagious

Posted: 6 March, 2012 in inspiration, Staying positive

Having dinner with friends on the weekend I was told by someone I haven’t seen since I quit work how proud she was of what I’d done. As the group started sharing their feelings about work I realised I had taken a step this year that no-one at that table would ever do. Even though everyone seemed to hate their job, or such a large part of it, that it made going to work a painful and dreaded experience, they all believe that having a bad job was better than having no job at all.  I started to feel a bit stupid for taking such a daring risk (not that I thought it was that daring until this conversation). But then I realised that a few months ago I would have been joining in the collective whinge about my work and truly hating the position I was in. And it would have made me miserable.  Instead of starting to question my decision, I relaxed and listened to the comments around the table, which served as a loud reminder as to why I had quit. Then I was able to sit through the “I hate my job” chatter, smiling, and feeling so grateful for the life I have today and my determination to see if there is something better out there.

Later in the night I realised it’s not just me who has benefited from my decision.  I find myself being so much happier, grateful, kinder, and generally easier to be around because I’m so content with things at the moment.  I’m able to have a night out like this and focus on the people I’m with not the problems I’ll be facing when I get back to work on Monday.  I’m able to lend a helping hand if someone needs it. I’m able to volunteer more time to the committees I’m on.  I’m more likely to say yes to lunch invitations because I’m not wasting so much of my day feeling miserable about work.  And people around me are picking up on that change, telling me how much happier I am now and how much more relaxed I look. I knew I was miserable but I didn’t know I was affecting (or infecting) others with that misery. I didn’t realise how much we unconsciously communicate to people when we’re feeling low or high. Without saying a word we can let an entire room full of people know how much we hate our job or a particular task we’re assigned to do. At the same time, if we’re happy in our work everyone knows that too.

When asked to a social event or other after-hours activity I would usually decline saying, “I just don’t have the time”. But what I really should have been saying was, “I just don’t have the energy“.  When we spend so much of our energy on getting through a day at a job we hate, it leaves us exhausted. This exhaustion is not just work related. When we spend any time doing something we hate, it leaves us spent and angry because it takes so much of our energy – energy we wish we could spend on something else, something we love. When I’m working on something I love doing my energy level is always up. There is no exhaustion, only exhilaration.

Don’t get me wrong – my life is not on the path of “perfect happiness” (I’m not sure there is such a thing), but I’m much happier today than I was two months ago and I’m glad I have more energy for the people and work that I love.

(See Barbara Winter’s website and her Joyfully Jobless Newsletter for a great insight into one woman’s life of living without a job.)


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