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Finding happiness at work, all by yourself, on site or on a bike...

I love to ride my bike. There's just something about being out on the road, all alone, with a simple piece of machinery, cranking out miles just to go nowhere/anywhere.

Edward Emerling  – Transitioning Combat Veteran Retiring from Active Duty at U.S. Army

I love to ride my bike. There’s just something about being out on the road, all alone, with a simple piece of machinery, cranking out miles just to go nowhere/anywhere. Whether it is in the early morning, when you can smell the dew evaporating off the grass, or midday when the sun is beating on your face and the exhaust of lunch traffic lingers in your breath, or late in the evening when the crickets begin chirping and the wind is blowing you a little off your line. I love being on my bike.

I love it so much, that in 2011 I decided to learn more about riding my bike better and I even entered a race. I really felt like my training was going well and I wanted to see how I might stack up against others in a little friendly competition. After all, I had just come back from deployment in Afghanistan, so I was lean and fit. I had trained nearly every day for a year. I felt light and my legs were strong. Surely, I could give experienced cyclists a run for their money. So I entered a race in upstate NY called the “Check Your Legs Road Race.” Heck, I knew I was going to win this thing. I was grinning the whole time just thinking about it.

I was the first person to arrive at the site of the race. I couldn’t wait to get started. It had rained all night, so the pavement was wet and the sky was gloomy. It was a little cold, but I didn’t care. I had people to beat on the road. I unloaded my bike and did a few warm-up exercises. When race time came, about a dozen or so men, give or take, lined up at the starting line. It was going to be 26 miles of me kicking their tails.

Except, I didn’t. After the first few miles, I dropped to the back of the pack. Shortly after that, I dropped off the pack altogether. Then all the women, who started 5 minutes after us, began to pass me. Some of the men and women were not nearly in as good of shape as I was. Why was I struggling? What was going on? I was supposed to win this thing. I know  I trained much longer and much harder than many of the other racers. My happiness and eagerness from early in the day began to turn to anger and frustration.

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Sometimes at work, it’s easy to look at our peers and colleagues and try to measure ourselves against their successes and accomplishments, or measure them against ours. This is especially true when someone that we feel has been promoted without merit, or been given some award that we feel was more deserved by someone else.

Is this why we go to work? Certainly, there must be more to life than promotions, awards, recognition, and status. Why do we waste our time worrying about how well others have done compared to us, even if we feel we have done more than them, or deserved it more?

In times like this, we must remember why we decided to go into the field of work that we do. Do we love what we do? If so, why? What things do we love most about our work? Can we do more of that every day? Hopefully, you are in a job that you love to do and not simply in a career for the purpose of gaining a paycheck to pay the bills. If you aren’t, I recommend changing careers as quickly as possible, no matter what your circumstance, but that’s another article.

Whenever I have staked my happiness to the successes or failures of other people, I have found that I am always disappointed. What’s worse, is that I gave away freely my own determination to control my mood and happiness. At some point, I decided it was time to take pride in my own accomplishments and to correct my own setbacks. I would be happy doing the things I did every day at work and not worry if somebody was outpacing me. As long as I gave my full effort and produced something I was happy with, that was going to be good enough for me to find satisfaction at work.

Maybe my bosses would see fit to promote someone else, or give another person an award. As long as my performance review fairly reflected what I had accomplished, I decided not to worry about any of the things I couldn’t control. I would be in charge of my happiness from that day forward.

I finished dead last in that bike race. It wasn’t even close. My legs were cramped and I felt terrible. I got off my bike, put everything in the car, tucked my tail between my legs and drove home quite depressed. I told my best friend about everything that happened.

“Why did you enter the race?”  he asked me.

I answered, “because I love to ride my bike.”

“Did you have fun at the race? Do you still like to ride your bike?”  he asked.

“Yes. And of course I do.” I replied.

“Well, you’ve got that going for you then.”  he said.

Indeed. I do have that going for me. And, I continue to enter bike races to this day. I (almost) never come in last anymore.