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  • Writer's pictureTeresa George

Pitching My Tent - How To Choose Happiness When Work Gets You Down

Have you ever been discouraged at work? Maybe it was having your ideas dismissed or your contributions ignored. Or you’re stuck in a dead-end job. You may be unemployed and demoralized by the job search. About 70 percent of Americans are unhappy at work and are looking for other jobs, according to a major study.

Or maybe you’re having some success, but it’s drawn the envious eye of your boss. About 75 percent of workers say “their boss is the most stressful part of their day,” according to Harvard Business Review. Over half of workers say they have a toxic boss.

While it may not make it any easier, there is some comfort in knowing that toxic bosses are a scenario that’s thousands of years old.

The Bible’s King Saul was a toxic boss to army enlistee David. Saul and his army were cowering against the enemy force led by Goliath, a giant of a man. Along comes David, a short, stocky teenage shepherd boy. David volunteers to solve Saul’s problem in an unmilitary-like approach. He downs the giant with a stone from a homemade slingshot. The enemy army runs in fear.

Relieved, Saul lavishes David with gifts. But he quickly begins to see his star employee – David – as his sole rival. Saul becomes so paranoid, he tries to kill David. David flees, but Saul sends an army after him. That begins a cat-and-mouse game through the mountains that drags on. Instead of being the hero, now David is the hunted. Deep discouragement begins to set in. Then David makes a crucial decision to change his focus. He says in essence, “I’m looking to God. Nothing can shake me. I’ve decided to be happy even while I’m being hunted.” Then he adds, “I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.” (Acts 2:26, Message Bible)

He could’ve easily camped out on discouragement and self-pity. He could’ve dwelt on the fact that, with his boss, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Instead, he decides to be a happy camper and pitch his tent in the land of hope. He isn’t going to wait until conditions improve to choose happiness.

Research has shown that David was on to something. Just deciding to be happy makes us happier. Tom G. Stevens, PhD., is the author of the book We Can Choose to Be Happy. "Choose to make happiness a top goal," Stevens said in an interview with WebMD. "Choose to take advantage of opportunities to learn how to be happy.  For example, reprogram your beliefs and values. Learn good self-management skills, good interpersonal skills, and good career-related skills.”

Sometimes it’s a simple shift in focus. What we think on, expands. It’s so easy to dwell on what went wrong. But the longer we think on it, the bigger the problem seems. After a hard day, sometimes my husband, John, and I can complain. That’s when one of us will often start a round of “Gratefuls.” We alternate back and forth about what each of us are grateful for –like a good meal or seeing an awe-inspiring sunset while walking the dog or a little victory for one of the kids.

It’s not about chasing happiness but simply choosing to be happy in the moment.

America’s initial First Lady Martha Washington decided as much. “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself,” she said. That was even more remarkable considering her life was marred by one tragedy after another. She became a widow at 25 with four children. Then two children died before age 5. Her daughter died at 17 from an epileptic seizure. Her surviving son lived the longest before succumbing to camp fever at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War. She and Washington were never able to have children of their own. In light of all that, her determination to be happy was intentional and brave.

Resolving to be happy can pay off in enormous ways. Happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy ones, and happy sales people can raise sales by a whopping 37%, according to a Forbes article.

Being happy also has health benefits including less aches and pains, better immunity, improved heart health and even life span. In one study, respondents who wrote more positive emotions in their autobiographical essays lived seven to ten years longer. So being happy could extend your life by a decade!

So, when the day’s setbacks have you down, make a conscious choice to choose your campsite carefully, and then pitch your tent in the land of hope.

What are some ways you pitch your tent in the land of hope?

How do you stay happy?

Let us know in the comments!




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