I don’t finish books. This is a shame, given my chosen profession of writing books, but there it is.
My shelves are piled high with books I’ve read thirty pages of. Even great books tend to die an early death in the face of the busyness of life. I’d love to think you’ll finish this blog post, but there’s a whole world of awesome things to do, like kite surfing, so let’s not waste any time.
There are two walls that stand between you and doing something you love with your life. The first wall is called attitude and the second is called expectations.
If you want to have a better job today, deal with both of those walls.
I can’t teach you a new skill in the next thirty seconds that your boss will be blown away by. I can’t change your character in the next paragraph. One post of words will not deeply impact your hustle on your dream or fix all your relationships, but if you want to have a better job right this second, that’s possible. All you have to do is choose your attitude and adjust your expectations.
Notice I didn’t say, “Change your attitude.” That could take years. Choosing it, though, takes a handful of seconds. Monday at work, choose to have a good attitude. Choose not to be cynical. Choose not to act like you’re doing them a favor by showing up. Choose not to complain. Choose to cheer for the accomplishments of your coworkers. Choose to treat customers like superstars.
Choose your attitude every day until eventually it chooses you right back.
It’s not about feeling happy or feeling committed to your work or feeling like being a good employee. Feelings are the flightiest things in the world, held to the whimsy of a thousand factors. Feelings will tell you the day is already ruined because you woke up on the wrong side of the bed or had a bad commute that morning. Don’t listen to feelings. Make choices. Today, choose a good attitude. This is the one thing you can do right this minute to actually shock your boss, improve your work relationships and dramatically increase your long-term odds of an awesome career.
The second thing you need to do is to adjust your expectations. What are you expecting your job to do for you? We all carry laundry lists of secret expectations, and when our jobs fail to meet them we fail to enjoy our work.
Do you expect your job to fulfill every creative wish you have? Do you expect work to bend around your dreams and hopes? Do you expect that this will be the last job you have, since changing jobs is such a hassle?
Take three minutes and write down what your expectations are for work. And then, take another three minutes and write down the real ones because you probably just lied to yourself a little bit.
Tom Magliozzi, the late cohost of NPR’s Car Talk show, theorizes that “Happiness Equals Reality Minus Expectations,” but I disagree. If you pull the thread of that thought, what it’s saying is that “The way to be happy is to not have expectations,” but that’s ridiculous. To have an expectation is to have a hope. To have a dream. To have a desire about something you want to happen. Surely, deadening our ability to hope is not the solution to our frustration at work. The trick is not to eliminate your expectations; the trick is to adjust them.
Write them down and then find the right home for them. You may very well have some expectations that belong at your job. You may also have a lot of expectations that belong somewhere else. Like a side job or a hobby or a different job all together. I’ve always wanted to write books of poetry. Was that the right expectation to place on my last boss, Dave Ramsey, a by-the-numbers financial guru? Probably not, but I still mistakenly did it.
When your attitude or expectations get out of whack you create a vicious cycle that cripples most Do Over moments. Your unspoken, unmet expectations give you a bad attitude. Your bad attitude makes you even more unreasonable in demanding that your job meets your expectations. You do enough laps around this circle and work becomes more miserable.
Want a better job right this second? Choose your attitude and adjust your expectations.