How to Harness Happiness When Work Projects Bring You Down

Help paper clips sayingI had finished a team project for a job I was working, feeling good with the results and pleased with myself. I was happy. I’d confidently moved on to the next project. Then a month later while checking my email one evening (big mistake!), I learned that one member of the team hadn’t fulfilled her part and so the whole thing had to be redone. I had to go back to the project, help her finish her work, and then tweak my portion to make sure it fit together with the whole. I was not happy. In fact, it ruined my entire evening.

While watching MasterChef that night, all I could think of was that project and how tight my schedule already was, and how I didn’t have time—or energy—to revisit something I’d already completed and had approved. Those home chefs were slicing and dicing food, while I was slicing and dicing conversations I really wanted to have, but knew I couldn’t. I really wasn’t happy!

As I went to bed, thoughts still swirling and overtaking any semblance of peace I’d had before I read the email, I stared at the ceiling and wished for sleep to overtake me, but knew my mind wouldn’t cooperate. I replayed the email and the months of work I’d done with the team. I tossed and turned. I sighed heavily and glanced at the clock multiple times. Then a tiny dose of insecurity began to sneak into my thoughts. What if the issue wasn’t the other team member? What if the team didn’t like my work and this was just an excuse? What if, gulp, they didn’t like me?

That only opened Pandora’s Box. Now I began to think about my entire career. Maybe I was just terrible at it all. Maybe I should give up. I began to compare myself to others who were so much better at the work.

It was a dreadful night.

The next morning, dragging out of bed—which also made me unhappy—I realized how quickly happiness can come and fade. One email moved me instantly from having a good day to wearing me out, frustrating me, making me lose sleep, and all manner of other negative issues.

I grabbed a cup of coffee, went to my office, and gave myself a pep talk: “It is what it is. Don’t overanalyze or read too much into it. It probably doesn’t have to do with you—even though you are dealing with the consequences. Just make the most of it, see the positives where you can, and go from there.”

I dove in and got through the project “renovations.” Although I’d have rather not had to deal with it, I was pleased with the way it turned out. And felt my happiness return.

Happiness can be fickle. It comes and goes like the wind, and many times I find myself pursuing it because, well, happiness feels good. I’d much rather be happy than cranky—even in the midst of emails that mess up my schedule, workload, and mental capacity.

One thing that would have helped me maintain my happiness? Well, actually there are a few things:

(1) Don’t check work-related emails in the evening. Nope, don’t do it. We have the power to choose not to go there. So don’t. What’s there in the evening will still be there in the morning. And it will allow us to maintain focus as well as a sense of peace and calm in those hours with family and friends before we head off to bed.

(2) Don’t go down the “what if I’m the problem?” road. Where will it get us? Nowhere but Unhappyville. Take the issues at face value, face them straight on, and then move on.

(3) Isolate the issue. One restructured project does not an entire career or life make. Or break.

(4) Focus on the good. Thank God that we have a job that gave us a project that needs to be reworked. Philippians 4:8 (NIV) puts it this way: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” And the reward? Peace. And happiness.

So the next time I’m tempted to glance at my work email, perhaps it’s best to refocus my thoughts and wait so that my companion “happiness” will stick around a little longer.

What are some ways you’ve maintained happiness in the midst of rough work projects?


Newsworthy note: My book Your Best Happily Ever After releases August 1! It’s filled with great ways to catch and keep happiness. Available at online retailers and bookstores. Check it out!

photo credit: <a href=”″>Office Rescue</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;


About gingerkolbaba

I'm on a journey to awaken my soul and embrace joy in every moment. I don't always succeed, but I learn from the adventure of the pursuit. I love a good laugh, a ready smile, a dog's smooch, great food (vegetarian, thanks), growing faith, and remembering that love is all-powerful.
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2 Responses to How to Harness Happiness When Work Projects Bring You Down

  1. Judy says:

    Meet with friends who make me laugh and remind me to not take life too seriously. I have the opportunity to focus on them and their problems. They help me talk through mine, and they like me. 🙂

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