Freedom at Work is Relative

feeling-freeSo many of my friends complain about the restrictions that work puts on them. They have to come in at a certain time, they don’t have the resources to make their projects successful or their co-workers are difficult. They don’t see how these obstacles are windows into their ability to feel happy.

I do the same thing.

When you work for someone else or yourself there will be restrictions within your day. Your co-worker might ask for your help right in the middle of working on your own project or you might get a phone call.

It’s how you handle your restrictions, distractions and difficulties that will really support your happiness.

You must be able to see how a difficult situation is teaching you about yourself so you aren’t losing out on maybe the most important gift your job is trying to give you.

The ability to develop your happiness.

Your happiness depends on how you use your projects, relationships and your emotions to become a happier person.

My Grumpy Mood

Last week I was in a terribly grumpy mood. I was interrupted 4 times in less than an hour. I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and I forgot my lunch.

Not even my lunch hour could cheer me up. I just wanted to be left alone to sulk.

I felt trapped. The project I was working on was monotonous. I couldn’t focus on finishing the project off. I just didn’t want to do anything. I cursed my job, the project, and myself for not being able to find a way to be happy. My weak moments have a powerful effect.

Then I read a quote from my daily Buddhist email.

“‘I am breathing in and making my whole body calm and at peace. I am breathing out and making my whole body calm and at peace.’ This is how one practices.”
The Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing


My freedom comes from how I interact with the elements in my life. If I allow a project to wreck my emotional balance I’m trying to control my life instead of living it.

When I get thrown off my grounded emotional state I can get back to the basics and just enjoy a few minutes of relaxed breathing. I’m also free to laugh at myself for getting so upset.

That’s exactly what I did. I forced myself to laugh in my car.

I literally walked out of work, went to my car and just laughed like a crazy man. Ha ha ha. He he he.

If anyone was watching I would have been locked up. I kept laughing for 1 minute. At least it felt like a minute, it was probably more like 30 seconds.

Dealing With Stress

The pent up stress began to release. I was able to slow down and just relax with my breath.

I went back to work and stopped trying to feel a certain way. I just breathed and worked. When I felt my grumpiness begin to rise from within I just let it come and go. There were no expectations, just me interacting with my feelings.

The internal freedom began to open back up.  I was free to relax with my mood.

I was making myself unhappy at work, not the work itself.

My happiness came from accepting where I was, thinking of a quick plan to improve my situation, taking action on this plan and not allowing my emotions to dictate my happiness.

Your Turn

Have you felt trapped recently? What do you do to release your frustration?

8 thoughts on “Freedom at Work is Relative”

  1. Hi Karl, I use the structure of work to support my life (for now). I do the things that are most important to me before I go into the office. I consider anything that goes well during my work day gravy for my life.

    I also believe that I am inherently free. I am, in fact, choosing to work. If not work in general, but work at this particular job in this particular way. Most people who complain about work have choices. When we are stuck looking at everything that is going wrong, we can’t see what’s going right.

  2. Karl Staib - The Work Happy Guy

    Hi Nneka, That’s a great attitude! By taking the mindset of choosing to work you are empowering yourself to do great work.

  3. I love the title of this post and what it says…I have recently decided to stop focusing on what I wished for in my current job (telecommuting, flexible hours) and start focusing on what was good about it (steady income, good coworkers). Just because I don’t have everything I want in this job doesn’t mean that I can’t be happy at it.

  4. I found your site yesterday just looking for “how to be happy”. Thanks for this article, just reading your Buddhist quote reminded me to relax. I’ve been sitting here this past week trying to write my self-appraisal and have had a bummer of a year…it’s getting me down and this helped me pull back the emotion so I can try to find the lessons to learn and move on.

  5. Karl Staib - The Work Happy Guy

    Hi Heather, That’s a great attitude. Remember just because this job isn’t perfect doesn’t mean you can’t keep looking for something that’s a better fit for you.

  6. Karl Staib - The Work Happy Guy

    Hi Julian, You are exactly right. We choose our attitude. If the job isn’t working for you then keep adjusting until you are able to appreciate your circumstances just a little bit. Finding just a little gratitude toward your job can go a long way.

  7. Karl Staib - The Work Happy Guy

    Hi Maria, There really are lessons in every situation. When we step complaining we can open up to the learning possibilities that’s when we really begin to develop and improve our lives.

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