Great Finds: Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzberg

Megan Hartline —  December 9, 2015 — 1 Comment

book cover of Real Happiness at WorkI put a hold request on Real Happiness at Work as soon as I read the title. Who doesn’t crave more happiness at work? If that happiness can be real, so much the better.

When the book arrived through our regional borrowing network, I was a little surprised to find how much it focused on meditation – but that makes sense, since the 2014 book is by Sharon Salzberg, a meditation teacher.

Salzberg distills happiness at work down to eight factors:

  • Balance
  • Concentration
  • Compassion
  • Resilience
  • Communication and Connection
  • Integrity
  • Meaning
  • Open Awareness

A few of these concepts are a natural fit for my work in the library. I chose this career because meaning, compassion, and integrity are built into the every day work of librarianship.

Concentration, however – that’s a struggle for me and many of my colleagues. We struggle with managing staff, getting our research done, taming the email monster – all while helping library patrons. True confession: I’m flipping between reading work email and writing this post.

Salzberg would not approve. She gives tips for conquering multitasking and boredom at work, illustrating with examples from real individuals like the deputy editor of BlogHer.

Then, each chapter guides the reader through mindfulness and meditation exercises. I felt a little silly doing the walking meditation exercise down the hallway of my library. The breathing exercise, on the other hand, was doable at my desk, and was a great little de-stressing moment.

The chapter on compassion also had solid, practicable strategies for getting along with that one co-worker who drives you up the wall with negativity. Salzberg doesn’t pretend it’s easy:

When you resolve to send loving-kindness to a difficult person, choose someone mildly troublesome or with whom you’re in a bit of conflict. Start with someone relatively manageable because you need to be able to observe your reactions without being overwhelmed.

Using this advice, I was able start considering how negativity in conversation is a manifestation of deep personal struggles, and feel empathy rather than irritation.

I don’t see myself incorporating extensive meditation into my workday, but just catching a glimpse of Real Happiness at Work on the corner of my desk would remind me to breathe and take the workday one task at a time. The book also prompted me to contemplate the impact work has on my overall happiness, and the surprising degree of control that I actually have over that impact.

Want even more happiness in your work life? Check out our review of The Happiness Advantage.

Have you tried meditation? What helps you find true happiness at work?

Megan Hartline


Megan Hartline (@awrybrarian on Twitter) is a librarian in Denver, Colorado. In addition to librarianship, Megan's background is in nonprofit leadership. She would love to visit your library to talk about management, workflows, or customer service.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Don’t Overthink It: How Librarians Can Conquer Perfectionism with Mindfulness « Library Lost & Found - January 19, 2016

    […] Practicing mindfulness is a strategy that over-thinkers can try. Worry less about past mistakes and future possibilities and make decisions that are positive right now. The workshop group could have simply made a poster that reflected their indecision. A crazy Venn diagram or flow chart that imitated their discussion would have been fine. It wouldn’t have been the best presentation, but it would have been honest and productive, and would also have met the parameters of the assignment. It would have been something. […]

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