How To Be More Mindful At Work
Yoga Journal|January/February 2016

Meditation teacher and the best-selling author of Real Happiness shares ways to find fulfillment at work—even in jobs we may never love.

Sharon Salzberg

IN PREPARATION FOR WRITING my most recent book, Real Happiness at Work, I interviewed a lot of people, many of whom work dramatically different jobs—from a Wall Street executive to a carpet cleaner to a public-school teacher to an undercover policewoman, and more. My goal in writing about happiness at work was not to assume or argue that we all can find work we love or a job that is particularly fulfilling. Rather, I wanted to identify the ways in which we can find peace and meaning, or a sense of purpose, in our day-to-day professional lives, even in a position we don’t necessarily think of as our dream job. Why the search for meaning? It’s considered the strongest factor in one’s happiness at work, ranking even higher than position or status, according to survey findings from The Energy Project, a consulting firm that focuses on workplace fulfillment. And lest you think your own happiness is a selfish thing, it’s not—it becomes an inner resource out of which you can care for others.

Yet many of us feel like Tracy, who works as a secretary and told me how she struggles with separating her identity from her job: “It’s a huge challenge to not see myself as just a secretary,” she explained. “I do my best to be of service at a job that was never a great fit, but it’s wearing me down.”

Like Tracy, we struggle at work to find meaning and figure out who we are in relation to our jobs, as they are often the cause of disappointment, stress, competitiveness, and sometimes even downright despair. And while we cannot change those times when we are condescended to by our boss, disappointed by a failure, or overwhelmed by an astronomical workload, we can change how we relate to these experiences by cultivating certain skills that allow us to find meaning in the process. Meditation, I believe, is one of the most essential tools to help us do this.

Meditation helps us cultivate foundational skills like awareness, connection, and resilience. It’s certainly possible to find meaning at work without formal, seated meditation, but I’ve seen that for many, a regular meditation practice makes it easier. The two qualities most closely aligned with meditation that bring meaning into one’s work are mindfulness and compassion.

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