Happiness at Work with the Teachable Spirit

» Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in teachable spirit | 2 comments

Happiness at Work with the Teachable Spirit

What does it mean to be happy at work?

How do we transfigure the place we spend the majority of our time during the workweek with happiness?

Maintaining happiness at work can sometimes be the hardest place of all; the job is necessary to our financial welfare, but sometimes it just feels like drudgery to do the same thing every day. Often times we expect the world we work in to entertain us because that is what we have come to expect from our environment.

The park across the street from my office, Tacoma, Washington, April 2013.

The park across the street from my office, Tacoma, Washington, April 2013.

Happiness is a choice; a deliberate, conscious effort on the part of the teachable spirit to suss out what is needed to enjoy our surroundings. We cannot escape ourselves; therefore, it would be good to determine what makes us happy, what we enjoy, and how to create an environment that we can continue to return to without getting bored.

First, you have to figure out how to be happy alone.

As John Maxwell says,

Wherever you are, there you are. –John Maxwell

If you are not happy by yourself, chances are likely that you will not be happy with another person, whether at work or somewhere else. For me, that translates to the following:

  • spaciousness or openness
  • light and airiness
  • quiet and silence
  • solitude and lots of undisturbed time
Our staff left to right: Gina Karlsson, Criminal Justice instructor, Arin Sharkey, librarian, Thomas Perry, Department Chair, Amber Channel, Paralegal Instructor, Tim Sutherland, Criminal Justice and Paralegal instructor, Marta from Career Services, and me, GED Coordinator, Business and General Education instructor, April 2014.

Everest College linear program staff left to right: Gina Karlsson, Criminal Justice instructor, Arin Sharkey, librarian, Thomas Perry, Department Chair, Amber Channel, Paralegal Instructor, Tim Sutherland, Criminal Justice and Paralegal instructor, Marta from Career Services, and me, GED Coordinator, Business and General Education instructor, April 2014.

Sometimes, those elements cannot be found in a work environment, but if that is what you need, the teachable spirit understands that you will not be happy in a noisy, dark, centrally located, easily accessible location. You just have to identify what it is you need, and then hold that picture in your mind as your ideal.

Initially, when I started working at my current job, the location where I was able to access a computer was right by the door where everyone came in, centrally located, in a dark crowded room, with lots of loud conversation around me. Upstairs, there was an office that had all the elements I desired for a work space. I remember unlocking the door to that office, retreating into the corner, kneeling down on the floor, and praying that I would have the opportunity to work in that place.

The smiling face of our department chair and my office partner, Thomas Perry, April 2014.

The smiling face of our department chair and my office partner, Thomas Perry, April 2014.

In the mean time, a fellow employee moved into that office. When I came by one day, he invited me to move into that location with him, but I was not sure if that would be okay, or if I needed permission from my boss. However, assisting students to obtain the GED required that I have a location to lock all of the testing documents away from public access, as well as a computer dedicated to the student network, in addition to one for myself that was connected to the administration network. Subsequently, it became clear that this particular office had all the requirements I needed to perform my job, and I was given permission to move into that space.

Hesitating to share an office solely with a man; nevertheless, I moved into that space: an open, light, airy, quiet, place of solitude. Often, I was there for hours by myself as my office partner was off teaching, or conversely, he was there alone when I had other tasks to complete.

We were able to achieve comfort in that space because we were each happy by ourselves.

Second, we applied the rule of asking, “What makes you happy?”

Each of us paid attention to the nuances of the other’s needs and desires, and allowed the other person the opportunity to express themselves as long as it did not intrude on the other person’s sensibilities. For example, he likes to decorate; I do not. This works out extremely well because I never have to be concerned about the office space looking bare and empty. I have a few family photos on my credenza; he does the rest.

Students of the linear program at Everest, April 2014.

Students of the linear program at Everest College, April 2014.

Feeling more at home in the work environment led me to purchasing a microwave and an electric kettle for heating water. Traveling the distance to the kitchen to heat my lunch seemed unreasonable when purchasing an appliance solved the problem. And so it went: we each contributed to our environment until the place felt comfortable.

Hans Zeiger, State Representative in the 25th District, came to take a tour of our school, March 2014.

Hans Zeiger, State Representative in the 25th District, came to take a tour of our school, March 2014.

Being in the same office together made our work easy when we needed to consult each other; we just applied the courtesy and respect of asking,

When you have a moment, I need to discuss…

whatever it was that needed our collective attention. Sometimes the conversation led to something more personal, such as talk about family members, or our pets (we both have cats), and this process became more enjoyable over time.

Speaking to my peers in a staff meeting at Everest College, February 2014.

Speaking to my peers in a staff meeting at Everest College, February 2014.

Third, we found ourselves consulting each other about how we could improve our environment.

Our conversation ranged from sorting, recycling, and disposing, to organizing and rearranging. This was not limited to physical aspects, but also included happy images of how we could improve relationships among staff, reorganize program structures, and how to approach people in regards to their needing to improve in a particular area.

Experimenting with music came next. He started with a variety of styles, which I commented on frequently, stating whether I liked one or not, whether it brought back memories, and the like. He brought in some CDs one day, and begin to play different genres; some he just wanted to share with me, and some were memorable to him. Finally, we settled on music along the lines of a group called, The Secret Garden, which typically highlights a piano and violin, tending to the minor key, with somewhat of a Celtic bent.

The view from my office window, Tacoma, Washington, May 2013.

The view from my office window, Tacoma, Washington, May 2013.

Employees and potential students who find their way to our office comment on the environment; first of all, no one can help noticing the two story window that takes up the north side of the office. Most noticeably, what strikes people upon entering our office is the peace and harmony that registers as a palpable sensation on the awareness. Without exception, comment is made about what a beautiful office it is; some make mention of the peace, some of the view, and all visibly relax into the harmony.

The teachable spirit understands that what makes people happy in a work environment starts with what makes YOU happy. As two people sharing an office enjoy the ambiance of that space, subsequently caring enough to allow each other the opportunity to work out their own enjoyment at work, they can each come to treasure their time together in peace and harmony.

Waiting for the bus outside my office door and the ride home from work, July 2014.

Waiting for the bus ride home from work outside my office door, July 2014.

What I loved about my job in the first place now seems to me like the bare framework of happiness, which has evolved into this masterpiece of:

  • conversation and pleasant music
  • peace and harmony
  • comfort and tranquility
  • a welcoming environment to all visitors

Creating happiness in the work environment begins with determining how to be happy alone, to applying the rule of asking, “What makes you happy?” to consulting each other about improving the work environment, which has led to creating a wonderful space that generates creativity and welcomes all who join us in our office. Transforming our environment over time, we came to appreciate what the other person enjoyed, allowing our individual tastes to mingle into a collective synergy that meets our need for peace and harmony.

While I still like to go home on the weekend, during the workweek, I experience as much happiness in the office as I do at home. The potentially boring tasks are transfigured by the energy we have spent in remodeling our environment from the inside out, creating a sanctuary for the teachable spirit to work together in happiness.

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2 Comments

  1. Jean, I love how you make us think about happiness by asking ourselves important questions such as, “What does it mean to be happy at work?” “What can we do to make ourselves happy?”

    Another important point you made is. “If you are not happy by yourself, chances are likely that you will not be happy with another person, whether at work or somewhere else.” This is critical in building relationships with others.

    If you are waiting on them to make you happy, it will never work. This is a never ending loop: You are waiting for others to make you happy and others are waiting for you to make them happy. When will it start?

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post.

    Claudette

    • Thanks for your comment, Claudette. Happiness seems so illusive, especially when we are searching for it. I found that when I was not looking, and instead focusing on what was good for the other person, I arrived at being happy myself. Curious, isn’t it? Now I love my job even more because I share this happiness with my office partner.

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