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5 steps to finding happiness at work

Wednesday - 3/19/2014, 7:06am  ET

HappyATWORK.JPG
Want to feel the way this guy feels when he's at work? You can achieve career happiness. An expert shares some steps. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON -- If your typical work day starts with dread, contains a bit of gloom and ends with a feeling of disappointment and frustration, lots of people understand.

In fact, 87 percent of the world understands. A recent Gallup poll found only 13 percent of employees are actively engaged at work and emotionally invested in their jobs.

Sixty-three percent of more than 230,000 full-time and part-time workers describe themselves as "not engaged," at work, and 24 percent say they are "actively disengaged" in their jobs.

A few years ago, Christie Mims fell into that 87 percent of the world's workforce. She achieved every bit of success on the outside -- she had a great salary, a nice lifestyle and a steady job as a consultant. But stuck in a career she didn't love, Mims was miserable.

"I just couldn't figure out what I wanted to do with myself," Mims says.

That's when she discovered her real passion: helping others achieve happiness in their careers. In 2012, she founded The Revolutionary Club, a career coaching service. Now, Mims offers advice to those contemplating a career change or those looking to work their passions into their careers.

"I believe that we all deserve career happiness and it's not just for those with a lot of money or a lot of time," she says. "Just know that it is possible for you, you just have to put in a little bit of work and keep moving forward."

If and when you're planning your next career move, don't throw something against the wall and hope it sticks. Mims offers five tips -- from consideration to action -- that can help you be happy in your career.

1: Reflect on What Makes You Happy

We're never really taught in school to figure out what we love and how to focus on what it looks like in the real world, Mims says.

It sounds obvious, but the first step to finding happiness at work is to find out what makes you happy.

Ask yourself what you dream about doing if money didn't matter, Mims says. Is it yoga? Writing? Cooking? Crunching numbers? Building things?

Next, imagine what that passion looks like from 9 to 5. Is there a way you can do what you love, or a variation of that, and support yourself? Teaching a few yoga classes each week might not pay the mortgage and send the kids to college, but opening a studio, taking on private clients or making yoga DVDs could earn you more than enough, Mims says.

"Before you just decide you can't make a living off your passion, I'd just encourage you to validate that with a couple of different people from a couple different angles," she says.

2: Establish What it is You Value

Figuring out what you value right now, or what you want from a future job, is important before you move on to a new position or a new field.

"Knowing what makes you happy at work, whether it's a really steady paycheck, or access to an amazing, sunny office, or control over your schedule and your projects, or the ability to pitch new ideas -- whatever it is, knowing that will help you hone in on your direction moving forward and make sure that you always work for a company that's going to be a good fit for you," Mims says.

Don't be discouraged if what you want to do is different from what you studied in college or strays from who your peers expect you to be. Mims says discovering what you love isn't a pass/fail exam.

"Your interests will change because you are human and you change and that's normal. The focusing on getting it right is what keeps you stuck," Mims says.

Figuring out what you value and what to do with your career before you start looking into a huge database of job listings keeps you focused on achieving your ultimate goal.

3: It's Time to Start Talking

So you found out what you love to do. That's great! Now, tell someone.

"Everything that we get in life, for the most part, comes because of our connection to someone else, even if very tangentially," says Mims, who encourages career-seekers to talk to anyone and everyone they find motivating or inspiring.

Talking to those in the field in which you wish to enter gives you a wealth of information and could help you get over any fears or doubts you're feeling.

When talking to friends, family or new acquaintances, you don't have to introduce yourself or associate yourself with your current job. Lead with what you want to do.

"If you lead with your passion, even if you aren't doing it yet, people are pretty engaged and it opens up a lot of doors for you," Mims says.

4: Find a Way to Work It In

If you've realized turning your passion into a full-time career isn't possible at first, Mims says there's nothing wrong with easing into it -- even if this means working a few jobs to make ends meet.

This might sound easier said than done, but Mims says when you make sacrifices to do what you love, sometimes it's better than being stuck in a full-time job that makes you fully unhappy.

"When you're doing work that you love, even if you can't do it full-time or you have to find another creative way of bringing in income, you tend to be more flexible and more mentally tough about it because you already are doing work that you love," Mims says.

For example, if you want to teach music, start giving a few lessons a week. Starting small and remaining flexible and open-minded can open doors for the future.

5: Face the Fear

Yes, a career change is scary. And it's not easy, but it is doable.

"I'm not going to pretend that it's not a big deal. It is," Mims says. "And what holds most of us back is that we are afraid we're going to fail, we're afraid we don't have the right skill set to do something different. We're afraid that we won't be able to pay our rent or our mortgage. We're afraid that we'll make another mistake, that we'll end up somewhere worse than where we are now."

However, starting with reflection, realistic goals and research will help you ease into this scary transition.

If you're more clear on your fears and their causes, you can get over and around them, says Mims.

Editor's Note: Christie Mims is the Founder and CEO of The Revolutionary Club and is a certified professional coach with a background working for Fortune 500 companies. Mims has dispensed career advice to Forbes, LearnVest, Brazen Careerist and more, and her website was recently named a Forbes Top 100 for careers.

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