4 stages you need to go through to be happier at your job

Although most Americans are generally satisfied with their jobs, Pew Research Center finds a third of them views work as "just a job to get them by."

Sure, research shows that the more you earn the less likely you are to care about having work-life balance. But regardless of where you are in your career, if you find yourself overwhelmed and dreading each day you have to work, Fortune 500 company leadership advisor Annie McKee says it's time for your wake-up call.

"Too many of us are in denial about the impact of stress on our effectiveness, our well-being and our happiness," McKee writes in her upcoming book "How to Be Happy at Work: The Power of Purpose, Hope, and Friendship."

"Tuning in to your wake-up calls before you're miserable is a skill that you can practice and get better at," she writes. "Hearing a wake-up call is the beginning of your trek back to happiness."

McKee, who studies the impact of happiness on an individual, team and organizational level as the director of the PennCLO Executive Doctoral Program, has identified four stages to becoming happier at work.

Stage one: "Get me the hell out of here"

Realizing you may not be happy with where you are in your career is one of the most emotionally challenging parts of this journey McKee describes.

"When you start to notice some of the difficult and even destructive emotions that have become habitual, you might react by trying to stuff those feelings away," she writes.

But McKee cautions those who feel the immediate desire to quit immediately, because you will likely need to find a way to be happy at your current job.

"When you recognizes and admit that you're unhappy at work, you might be inclined to make a big change — give up on your dreams, find a new business partner, tell your boss off or quit your job," McKee writes. "This is where emotional self-control comes in."

Stage two: "Figure out what you like and hold steady, even when it's tough"

McKee notes that "when we are stuck and unhappy, we can easily lose sight of what matters to us," but this is where patience and resilience come in.

"Charting a path to happiness at work means focusing not on what makes you miserable but on what you like to do, the kind of people you want to work with and the kind of company that inspires you, even if things aren't always perfect," McKee writes.

She adds that it's important to remember that unless a job can allow you to be yourself and have "impact in a way that makes you feel that your efforts are worthwhile."

Stage three: "Honestly assess your work situation"

Although you might feel stuck or hopeless in your situation, you are still in control of what you do, think and feel. McKee recommends you take a step back, keep an open mind and think about any underlying explanations to why you find your boss or coworkers annoying.

Your action alone isn't meant to solve your situation, but it will temporarily allow you to separate what's going on with you personally, with them and the organization as a whole.

"You can only change your behavior, of course, but making the distinction will help you determine whether you stay where you are or move on," McKee writes.

Stage four: "Run toward the future, not away from the past"

When you're in a tough situation like this, it's easy to want to quit or shut yourself off from what you're feeling.

"We all know these people: they are physically present at work, but their minds and hearts are somewhere else," McKee writes.

But you don't want to be one of these people. Instead of running away from your problems, McKee suggests that you be intentional about planning for your future.

"Trust yourself: if you've heard the call, and you commit to moving toward a dream rather than running away, you are ready to craft a personal vision and a plan to get there," she writes.

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