How to Be Happier in Your Job in 2023 Shift your daily tasks toward what you enjoy—and change your perspective, too


Can you like your job more in the new year?

It might not be your dream role. It might not be a forever thing. But if you can’t leave right now, because of the economy or the money or family obligations, let’s at least make it less miserable to go to work.

Not every gig can be salvaged. Some roles are so awful there’s no hope for making them tolerable, let alone fun. But if your boss isn’t abusive and your benefits are good, if your primary complaint is boredom or lack of boundaries, I can help. Let’s inch your responsibilities toward things you enjoy, and change how you think about your work. 

“There were plenty of parts I liked about my job, and I just wasn’t seeing them,” says Katie Baxter, who’s spent 14 years at Firmidable, a legal marketing firm in New Orleans. “It was up to me.”

In recent years, she’d been drained by long hours. Staff turnover meant she had other people’s responsibilities piled onto her already full plate.

“It felt like I was 10 feet deep in a hole just trying to climb out,” she says. 

As Ms. Baxter considered leaving the company, she made a list, titled “What would make me happier.” She created three sections—what she liked, what she was good at, and what she didn’t like.

That last category was lengthy. But she was good at making things run more efficiently, and she liked coaching people. It dawned on her that she had the power to move the lever up on the good and down on the bad. 

She started blocking sacred time on her calendar for the employee coaching she enjoyed. Ms. Baxter asked the company to bring on consultants to do the extra work that had been pushed on her. She made a rule to get outside for 30 minutes every day and pick her kids up at 3 p.m. on Fridays. Her performance didn’t fall apart. Even little things, like switching her desk to face a window, helped shift her mood.

Of course, there can be real risks to pushing back against your boss. And yet, many of the people I talked to said that the repercussions of drawing a line weren’t as dire as they had imagined, and they were surprised to find they had more autonomy than they thought. 

“It was all self-inflicted,” Ms. Baxter says of much of her prior stress and unhappiness. 

Our expectations around work often feed into our discontent. So many of us are plagued by the nagging feeling that we should not just like, but love our jobs.

“We live in a country that really idolizes work,” says Simone Stolzoff, the author of a coming book about how to disentangle our identities from our careers. “It’s just a lot of pressure to put on any one particular thing.”

Instead of quitting a “good enough job,” try to find meaning and purpose elsewhere, Mr. Stolzoff says. Get a hobby. Join communities—a running club, a neighborhood garden plot—where people don’t care about your job title. Remember that it’s OK for a job to just be a paycheck that lets you live your life outside of work.

Small changes, such as a nice workspace with natural light, can help shift your mood.


“There’s a monotony to every line of work that’s inevitable,” Mr. Stolzoff says. “If we’re expecting our jobs to always be perfect, it’s just an unrealistic bar.” 

Years ago, Juli Gallagher was stuck in an entry-level job in CNN’s publicity department, answering phones and filing papers. She yearned to move on to a bigger role, but the internal applications she submitted weren’t getting traction. 

She complained to her grandfather, who offered this tip: Pretend like it’s your first day on the job. Try to best the person who had the job before, in this case: you. 

“I immediately felt something in my spark,” she says. She started making a daily list of goals and crossing them off. Instead of waiting for her bosses to come to her with assignments, she asked for opportunities. She spoke up more in meetings. 

“It helped me feel alive again,” Ms. Gallagher says.

‘If we’re expecting our jobs to always be perfect, it’s just an unrealistic bar.’

— Simone Stolzoff, the author of a coming book about separating our identities from our careers

Within months, she was offered a bigger role in her department and went on to have a 14-year career at the company, eventually serving as a senior producer. 

Acting the opposite of how you feel can change your mood and your reality, says Jonathan Fader, a psychologist who coaches executives and athletes on how to improve their performance and enjoy their work more. Feeling disconnected from colleagues? Invite them to lunch. Picture how you will feel at a point in the future, once this stressor—the big deadline, the meeting with your boss—is over.

Mark Goldberg, a couples therapist in the Baltimore area, found that things got better when he discovered meaning in the tasks that were driving him crazy. An expansion of his practice over the past year left him frustrated by new software systems to learn and staff to train.

“It’s just not what I thought I signed up for,” he says.

He went through the to-dos he didn’t like and marked the ones that had a direct impact on clients, for example, the software system that would enable them to get appointments quicker. Remembering the “why” behind those tasks helped motivate him to get them done, and gave him the confidence to push off less important projects.

Sometimes, just having an exit strategy can help. Katherine Wiley’s job as a professor of anthropology and gender studies left her depressed and stressed, worried every refresh of her inbox would bring a new student crisis or demand on her time. So she made a plan, deciding that she would give the job 2 ½ years, and then walk away if she still felt bad. 

“That helped me get out of this constant anxiety of, ‘Should I leave?’” she says. In the meantime, she cut back on her complaining and focused on banding together with like-minded colleagues to make a difference on issues she cared about, such as diversity. When the opportunity to leave arose—her university was offering buyouts, and her husband had a job offer across the country—she knew it was the right move.

Now based in Troy, N.Y., she has her own academic-editing business and really likes her work.

“I never thought I could do that,” she says.

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