If you're unhappy at your job, you don't have to be working in rocket science to know lots of other people are, too. A recent Gallup poll found most workers hate their job and their boss. Only 30% feel engaged at work.
What would it take for American workers to be happy? According to reality TV star Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs fame), there's a fairly simple solution.
But before we get to what that is, let's take a look at the things that make us so darn miserable on a daily basis.
There's too much to worry about
American workers live in a constant state of worry — about everything. As we get older, those worries only seem to increase.
We may fret about being able to afford a home and family when we're younger, but that changes to worries about stability and health as we age.
There doesn't seem to be a time when we're just completely at peace, because there's always something to get anxious about.
We're always trying to keep up
From the moment we're old enough to realize other people have things we don't, we start comparing ourselves to other people. As we get older, many of us go through our working lives feeling competitive with friends and co-workers.
We want to make at least as much money and have at least as much stuff as everybody else — maybe much more. At work, we try to claw to the top of the pack and stay there.
But no matter how much we achieve, we're never satisfied with ourselves.
We don't make enough time for ourselves
Since Americans live to work, it's very hard to find time to do things that we enjoy. How often have you sat back and wondered why we work five days a week (or more) and have only two days off (or less)?
Also, why do we work 50 weeks out of the year and get only two weeks of vacation (if that)? And then, why do more than half of workers not take all of their vacation time, according to a survey by ProjectTime Off?
It's hard to come up with the answers. We can't figure out this next thing, either.
We tend to be loners
Generally speaking, working Americans are lonely people. Sure, we have our spouses, our families, our co-workers and our friends, but we're not as social as we'd like to be.
Government studies have found that volunteering and involvement in community groups have been declining for years.
Humans are social beings who should be around others, having fun and laughing, but we don't get to do those things as often as we would like — and certainly not as often as we need.
People around you are unhappy
Since the majority of American workers are unhappy on a regular basis, that means that you're surrounded with unhappy people most of the time, and not just at the office.
Evenings out with friends have turned into groanfests about the boss, about workloads and about trying to get everything done. We all end up feeding off one another, making us all even more unhappy without even realizing it.
Pretty miserable, right?
Forgiving and forgetting doesn't come easy
People make mistakes. It happens. And while we might be quick to accept a colleague's apology, there's always a part of us that is going to remember what that person did, and that grudge won't ever go away completely.
If you're holding on to multiple grudges at work, it makes sense why you're unhappy. Those things tend to creep into your thoughts at the most inopportune times and raise your blood pressure.
There are other things that cause that, too.
American workers don't feel much control
Human beings have control of the things they say and the things they do. But workers don't feel much control at all.
They're at the mercy of someone else, like the boss or the owner or the shareholders. Whoever "the man" is, basically.
For the most part, we can control ourselves, but we don't have control of the outside world that has negative effects on us. And just when we think we do? We're quickly reminded that we don't.
We don't live in the moment
One of the biggest causes of anxiety is not living in the present and not being in the moment. If you keep thinking about the past or keep worrying about the future, there's no way to truly be happy.
Still, it's nearly impossible to live in the moment when so many things have happened and so many things could happen next — like a layoff or a demotion.
Which bring us to the next reason we're so unhappy.
American workers don't want to fail
No one wants to admit they failed. No one wants to experience the feelings that come along with failure.
But for American workers, it's all about success. While failure might be a part of life and work, it's something that can make us very unhappy.
If failure is not an option for you, you're going to constantly be chasing success. How tiring.
We care too much about what others think
Americans put a lot of stock in what other people think. Workers wants to be accepted by colleagues and feel that co-workers and managers are not only proud of them, but are impressed by them.
So we're constantly trying to impress other people. If someone has a less-than-great opinion of us? Forget it. That's going to require some serious extra effort (and worry, and anxiety).
Speaking of stess and anxiety, when's the last time you checked your bank account?
Our paychecks never go far enough
The majority of working Americans have no idea what it's like to not live in debt. Whether it's mortgages on our homes, loans on our cars, student loans or credit card debt, we owe someone else money.
Living in debt causes extra anxiety and stress that we carry with us day to day. Raises are hard to get, and when they do come, the debt still just seems to accumulate month after month after month.
You haven't slept enough in weeks (OK, months)
The people at Gallup found 42% of Americans get less than seven hours' sleep a night. Why so little? If you work, you're probably too stressed out to sleep.
There are too many things to do, pushing bedtime until after 11 p.m. — or later. And once we lay in bed, our minds start racing, and we start thinking about all of the things on this list.
Many Americans suffer from insomnia. Being tired all of the time makes workers unhappy.
Aside from not getting enough sleep, Americans are always on the go.
American workers are crazy busy
Is your life nonstop? Not only at work, but at home, too? There's hardly ever a moment that you don't have something to do.
We have extremely hectic schedules that don't allow us much time to decompress. Just when we think we're done for the day, we remember that we have to catch up on work emails, or take the trash out, or call Mom back. It never ends.
But what if you could find an answer to solve it all?
Mike Rowe might be on to something
You might recognize Mike Rowe from his show, Dirty Jobs. In a recent interview with Tucker Carlson, Rowe discussed why he thinks Americans are so gosh darn unhappy.
He talked about how Americans are told that working less is the answer.
“Most of the commercials on TV ask a tacit question, you know, how could you be happier?" Rowe said. "And the answer, of course, is retire a little sooner, or work 35 instead of 40 hours."
But he doesn't completely agree.
It all comes down to 1 thing
Rowe thinks Americans whose work makes them feel they have a purpose is the answer to changing the unhappy vibe.
He talks about putting in a "hard day's work" in a job where you feel like you matter.
"If there is one enduring lesson from Dirty Jobs, it’s the fact that those people as a group are having a better time and were more connected to their work than the vast majority of people I know who make great white-collar livings," Rowe explained.
So there you have it. The key to happiness in working America, according to Rowe, is finding your purpose.
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