Increasing our Happiness at Work

I often suffer from the Sunday blues, that moment where, after a lovely weekend spent doing fulfilling and relaxing activities, the reality of the painful return to the 9 to 5 grind starts to settle in my thoughts. In an attempt to eliminate, or at least minimize my Sunday blues, I decided in the last year to focus on increasing my psychological well-being at work.

Happy Office

Since our plan to reach financial independence depends on about 6.5 more years of work, Mr. Mod and I are committed to demonstrate to our children that it is essential to find satisfaction in the way we live everyday. We want to give them the example that, even when you are working towards accomplishing a long-term goal that will allow us to reach a lifestyle that is generally more satisfying to us, the objective really isn’t about escaping our current situation.  


Falling into the escaping mindset

Indeed, the road to financial independence is very long and challenging. Those who pursue it dedicated themselves to this goal for several years and often devote considerable energy to optimize all factors to reach their freedom as soon as possible. Many view their financial independence as a ticket to freedom, to finally escape an unpleasant situation.

Escape from the 9 to 5

It’s often a mindset in which we fall. We’re tired & exhausted of running from one obligation to the next, simply to deal with all that needs to be taking care of just to go to work and we can’t wait to finally not have to do X, Y & Z associated to this life spent working. However, maintaining these thoughts and this negative attitude can become extremely exhausting and harmful to our present well-being. Worse than that, once we reach financial independence, we might face the harsh reality of realizing that it does not solve everything.

No matter where you go, there you are

This saying is important to keep in mind along this long journey. Some people, upon reaching financial independence, tend to dive into their projects with a focus on productivity.

“My first instinct was to dedicated all my energy to this blog. I had essentially traded my job for another. ” Free Translation from Déjà 1 an de retraite! Already one year of retirement! by Jeune Retraité (Mon premier réflexe a été de dédier toute mon énergie à ce blogue. Essentiellement, j’ai troqué mon emploi pour un autre.)

Although the first morning of freedom was pretty intense, luckily the rest of that first day got better.
To distract myself from the overwhelming task of figuring out the
meaning of life, I just got back to work instead. 
I had a lot of Mad Fientist tasks I wanted to complete so I threw myself into that. 
It felt great. It felt normal.”
Valuable Lessons from my First Year of Freedom – Madfientist

It isn’t necessarily bad to fully throw yourself into projects, however the mindset in which we approach this could have negative impacts reminding us of what work was like. It’s really good to have something to accomplish that is important to us, and to create projects that could not only better our lives but also other people’s lives. For example, le Jeune Retraité and MadFientist help their readers improve their financial situation and perhaps reach financial independence by writing and discussing this subject.  

They were both fortunate to have built and grew their websites before leaving their jobs, which gave them a wonderful project on which to focus once they were no longer employed. However, others who do not have such a project in their lives might find it more difficult when they find themselves no longer employed, even if that is by choice.

A member on the Mr. Money Mustache forums wrote the following post back in June:  Difficult FIRE decompression/transition, anyone?. The discussion that followed was really impactful. Many shared their personal experiences, once having left their jobs, of having to decompress from the harmful effects of having worked many years in toxic environments or in difficult conditions or even from simply living an unsatisfying life rhythm. Some discussed having anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder, and many shared what they learned with regards to the importance of working on your happiness way before reaching financial independence.  

Hope roadTherefore it is extremely important to put a conscious effort in pursuing happiness in our everyday lives, even when we are in the process of working towards an objective that can bring us more satisfaction than our current situation such as reaching financial independence. With a different perspective, lots of work and by making the conscious choice to pay attention to this, we can try to find resources and put things in place to help us improve our daily workdays.

This is probably why a recurring concept in the financial independence community has been the one of optimizing your lifestyle instead of finding a way to escape a life that does not fulfill us.

Live like you can never reach financial independence

‘’If your happiness is dependent on accomplishing certain goals, what happens if fate intervenes? What if you’re snubbed? If outside events interrupt? What if you do achieve everything but find that nobody is impressed? That’s the problem with letting your happiness be determined by things you can’t control. It’s an insane risk.’’ 
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday.

There is nothing wrong with persistently working towards a goal, however we are pushing this too far when we decide that our current happiness depends entirely on reaching that objective.

In her article entitled Live Like You’re Financially Independent (Even When You’re Not)Angela from Tread Lightly Retire Early discusses her decision to cut down her work hours despite the various impacts including less income, in order to spend more time with her son and to stop living a life that felt like a blur of trying to do it all.  That is an excellent way to find balance between continuing to pursue an objective while also finding a way to adapt your daily life to obtain as much satisfaction as possible.  

We have ourselves put in place various measures to reach a certain balance between work and our family life such as working remotely on occasion and planning leaves without pay to spend summers with our kids once they go to school (or perhaps before!) to enjoy the present on the way to financial independence. However, until fairly recently, I did not put a lot of effort in increasing my happiness at work.

It’s not that I hate my job, I still get some satisfaction from working with fun people and of working on projects which are useful to others. It’s mostly the 9 to 5 that drains me and I had fallen into the mindset of toughing out the situation in order to meet our objective. We can agree that overall this is relatively a great position to be in and I am thankful to have this job, but as mentioned above, “toughing out a situation” of which we get little or no satisfaction for many years, can have toxic effects even after we leave that situation.

I have therefore approached my research to obtain more satisfaction in my work by opting for the perspective that there is no guarantee that we can reach the objective of becoming financially independent. This doesn’t prevent me from actively working towards reaching that objective but it puts me in a better frame of mind to find how I can optimize my days in my job to obtain more satisfaction, especially if that would mean that I would have to continue with this lifestyle of working at this job for 5 days per week for 25 years or even more.

The steps I’ve taken to increase my satisfaction in my work day started with the conscious choice to be more engaged in the way I selected courses and training through my employer. This then led me to read The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, a book focused of positive psychologically specifically at work, and helped me take various steps to increase my happiness at work, such as negotiating a remote working arrangement with my employer.  

Happy office coffeeWhat are your tips to fight or eliminate the Sunday blues? How do you continue to find happiness in your work even though you might have, like us, the long term goal of potentially leaving that job by reaching for early retirement?

One thought on “Increasing our Happiness at Work

  1. Great post and great links:)
    All this talk about retiring early is good but I agree you also need to enjoy the present. Not only because financial independence may take longer but because you don’t know what the future has in store for you.
    So many things can happen that may derail the overall plan. I know because it happened to me when my husband past away.
    Live life to the fullest, stay positive and motivated. Some days will be easier than others but it looks like you have the right attitude:) Keep up the good work!

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