How to be the happiest person in the office (even when things get crazy)

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Intuition and idealism might just be two of the most important (if way undervalued) career skills of all—for proof, just look at Nicole Bernard Dawes.

The woman behind organic, non-GMO snack brand Late July always had a gut instinct that her customers would flip over healthy, yet ultra-flavorful tortilla chips. But her father, who started the business with her, wasn’t convinced—and when your father is the founder of Cape Cod Potato Chips, you listen.

Nicole Dawes It wasn’t until her dad passed away in 2009 that Dawes finally took a chance on her idea. “That was the impetus I needed to take a leap, because I was risking our entire business on an entirely new product line,” says the entrepreneur, whose prior focus was on crackers. “But it’s something I’d wanted to do my entire life, and I felt so strongly about it.”

Following her hunch (and her passion) paid off—the business has consistently grown 40 percent year-over-year since 2012, thanks to dozens of varieties of corn chips that include ingredients like chia, flax, and quinoa (including a new Buffalo Queso flavor that tastes exactly like a Dorito).

Of course, a keen sense for healthy food trends isn’t Dawes’ only superpower. Late July’s success also rests on the fact that its founder is crazy passionate, a master connector, and a glass half-full type (she even wears a necklace that reads “Eternal Optimist”). In other words, the kind of mentor we’d all like to have in our corner.

Read on to discover 5 career rules that Dawes thinks every woman should abide by to be happy at the office. They’ll keep you sane—and they might even make you fall in love with your job all over again.

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1. Schedule some breathing room into each day

Dawes’ number-one strategy for remaining calm and creative in the midst of small business mayhem: taking periodic breaks to clear her mind, starting with a mini-meditation with her kids in the a.m. “It’s been such a positive change in my mornings—you can get caught up in the rushing, but if you take 30 seconds to breathe, center your mind, and be appreciative of the people you’re with, your whole day runs smoother,” she says.

She also builds 15–20 minute chunks of “free thought” time into her daily calendar. “It’s an incredibly valuable time to reconnect and think clearly and creatively without the confines of a meeting agenda telling you how to think through a problem,” says Dawes, who stresses it’s important to leave your desk for this—get outside, if possible.

2. Exercise your optimism muscle

If you find it hard to love your job when everything’s falling apart, Dawes recommends shifting your perspective. “Every single day there are gonna be a million things that will go wrong, and each one of those is an opportunity to do something better,” she says. “I always have this guiding feeling that everything is going to work out, I just have to figure it out—almost to the point where I know it’s annoying.”

3. To stay happy on the job, invest in some good headphones and go beyond the gym membership

“If I need to change my frame of mind, turning on music always does that for me,” says Dawes, who is a fan of iTunes’ themed playlists because “sometimes it’s fun to just be surprised and discover new music.” (A few of her favorites: Latin tunes and artists from New Orleans.)

The entrepreneur also recently bought a Peleton bike for her home (just like Christie Brinkley!), to ensure that she sweats once a day. “Working out is so important to my psyche, my health, and my business,” she says. (These at-home workouts are another great option, or try this sweatastic five-minute full body workout.)

4. Create your tribe

In work, as in fitness, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are going to inspire you and help you along the way. Says Dawes: “Networking with the right people and finding the right mentors can make or break your early career decisions.” She suggests reaching out via LinkedIn to those who have what you want with an easy-to-answer question. “Instead of saying, ‘How do I begin my career?’ ask, ‘What’s one great networking organization you’ve used?’” she says. “Relationships begin slowly, and asking an easy question will increase your odds exponentially of getting a response.”

And make sure your higher-ups at the office also know where you want to go. “Your bosses can’t help you if they don’t know what you’re passionate about,” she says. “Be vocal about your own goals and don’t be afraid to speak up.”

5. Ignore the haters

“If you’re passionate about something, don’t let anybody tell you no,” says Dawes. “Maybe you haven’t fully formed your idea, but you’ll get there if you really believe in it.” Instead, she says, use criticism to strengthen whatever proposition it is you’re fighting for, whether it’s weekly yoga classes in the office or that wellness center you’ve always wanted to open. And whatever you do, don’t let fear run the show. “If you’re asking for people’s opinion, it’s because you’re insecure that your idea is not good enough,” she says. “The more sure I was [about Late July], the less outside input I needed…because I knew I had it.”

What do the world’s most successful people have in common? These 8 things, for starters. They’re also, as Dawes notes, super-sure of themselves—here’s how to cultivate some on-the-job confidence of your own. 

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