Technology is designed to make life easier, but it also has the side-effect of speeding it up. From smart phones and emails to self-service checkouts and ready meals, it seems that ‘busy-ness’ has gripped the nation. The mythical lunch hour now lasts, on average, just 18 minutes, probably grabbed on the go or eaten at your desk.
Here's an interesting question though: the chances are you're living life fast, but are you living it well? Stress-related illness is at an all-time high. Last year there were 53 million anti-depressant prescriptions written for people who need help in feeling good. And the bad news is this phenomenon isn't going to go away.
So what can you do? You can continue to look externally for things that will make you happier and reduce your stress – whether that's handbags, shoes, spa days, sunbeds, Prozac, or gin. A far better idea is to look internally because the long term solution to happiness and flourishing within your own life lies within.
Of course, it's easier to feel great if you're doing a job you love. Whether you're engaged in your work depends on whether you view it as a job, a career or a calling. If you're doing a ‘job’, you'll feel it in the pit of your stomach. Going to work will be a chore. You're doing it because it pays the bills and you get that feeling of angst when the alarm goes off at stupid o'clock.
A ‘career’ is a necessity, but you see opportunities for success and advancement. It's up the evolutionary scale from a ‘job’ and you're likely to feel you're moving in the right direction. You're invested in your work and you want to do well.
A ‘calling’ is where the work is the end in itself. You feel fulfilled and have a sense of contribution to the greater good. Work is likely to draw on your personal strengths and gives your life meaning and purpose. And, whisper it quietly, even if they didn't pay you, you'd probably do it for free anyway.
Whether you're engaged in a job, a career, or a calling has less to do with your work than you might imagine. A calling orientation can have just as much to do with your mindset as it does with the actual work being done. Let me remind you of the classic story of the man who was sweeping the floor at NASA . When someone asked him what his job was, he replied, “I'm helping put a man on the moon.”
You might be lucky. You might have crafted yourself that perfect career that is your calling. For the rest of us, we have to put a modicum of effort into creating positive feelings from within, so here are some simple tips to make your career feel like more of a calling:
• Take someone for lunch who you rarely see but speak to on the phone all the time.
• Perform a random act of kindness for someone at work. For example, bring in a cupcake for your receptionist tomorrow. If they ask why say, “just because”.
• When you get home, instead of grumbling about the stresses and problems at work ask your family, “What was the highlight of your day?” and then listen and engage with them.
• Practice the 10/5 principle. That means you smile at everyone who comes within 10ft of you and say “Hi” to everyone who comes within 5ft of you.
It's often the little things we change that have the biggest impact on how we feel. If we make these small changes, we start to feel more connected and energised and, guess what, your brilliance starts to rub off on those around you.
Simple? Yes. Easy? No. Why bother? Because you're worth it.
Andy Whittaker is the co-author of Be Brilliant Every Day (Capstone, £10.99), a book that uses positive psychology and humour to help foster positivity and mental agility. Andy juggles a career as a highly successful and sought-after public speaker with a double life as a part-time stand-up comic. He also runs Art of Brilliance, a training company that delivers workshops for high-profile organisations such as DHL, Pirelli, Toyota, Waitrose and AstraZeneca