Last Friday morning I sat down on a bench in Barcelona. In-between bites of a glorious chocolate croissant I observed people piling into their offices.
Rays of sunshine were beginning to make their way through the gaps in the tall buildings. The foliage wasn’t exactly that of New England, but the additional shots of color lining the streets was a nice change.
As I sat there enjoying my breakfast, thinking about how much fun the word “foliage” is to say, I couldn’t help but notice a trend in the people around me: the majority of them looked absolutely miserable.
As a career coach and writer with clients scattered across the globe, I get asked all the time about what holds most people back from going after what they want.
For the longest time, I thought that most people got trapped in life because they were too scared to face their fears.
Today I’m not so sure. I now think it’s even simpler than that.
The more people I work with, the more I’m starting to believe that most people don’t reach their potential because they allow themselves to start their workday in a shitty mood.
They wake up angry or anxious and they don’t do anything in order to feel even just a little bit better before they start work. Some people wake up and check their email before brushing their teeth and then wonder why they feel like they don’t have time for themselves. Others scroll through pictures of people on a beach and then question why their work leaves them unfulfilled.
In order to be successful you don’t need to knock out every item on the coveted list of “8 Things You Need To Do Before 8 A.M.”
You just need to do one thing that ensures you have the energy to walk into the office with a smile on your face.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be that getting up just 15 minutes earlier to play with your kids at the park on the way to school does the trick. It could mean that watching stand-up comedy during your commute boosts your mood. Or maybe it’s as simple as going for a walk or as silly as dancing to a cheesy song.
Both promotions and opportunities are given to those who other people like working with. This becomes much easier if you acknowledge your co-workers and you look like you actually enjoy coming to work with them from time to time.
I’d be willing to bet that if you hid in most offices by lunchtime you could identify who’s on the fast-track and who isn’t simply by observing their mood. Sure there may be the rare unicorn that is so good their attitude can be ignored. But for most mortals, the energy you bring today determines the opportunities you are rewarded with tomorrow.
Take note of the days you arrive to work in a good mood. If you look at your actions closely enough you’re bound to see some patterns.
Was it because you finally went to the gym before work? Was it because you woke up slow and read or wrote? Was it because you played with your kids or made your partner breakfast?
Hell, it may even be as simple as you didn’t look at your phone.
Of course, arriving to work happy doesn’t guarantee the rest of the day will run smoothly. Bad things will happen. Stress is inevitable. But if you don’t do what you can to go into work in a good mood, the odds are high that nothing inside your office walls will give you a reason to smile.
We all have different titles and responsibilities, but when we cut through the noise we all have the same job: make the days of the people around us a little brighter.
This becomes much easier if you suck it up and do whatever you can to not be so miserable before going to work.
Even if that means sitting on a bench by yourself on a beautiful fall day and eating a glorious chocolate croissant.
This article first appeared on Medium.
Michael Thompson is a career coach who works with business professionals to open more doors and receive greater satisfaction from their work. His career and communication advice can be found in places like Business Insider and Fast Company. He writes to meet people so feel free to say hi here.