This month starts my third year owning my own business. Before going out on my own, I worked a job for 4.5 years where I had five different bosses over those 4.5 years. By the time I left, we’d gone through significant leadership changes and I didn’t fit the organization anymore. It’s safe to say they wanted me gone as much as I wanted to be gone.

In the 18 months that led to that break-up, I handled things in ways that I’m not proud of. I was a 26-year-old kid who acted like most 26-year-old kids do when things go south. I torpedoed relationships and started looking out for only my best intentions.

The good news is I learned from the fall out of that job a few things that have led me to love the job I’m doing now.

Owning your own business has a different set of stresses and celebrations than working for a company. But these three ideas are things I can grab onto no matter how great or terrible things are going. They rely on no one but myself to do. If you choose to do these three things, I guarantee they’ll help work suck less this year than it did in 2016.

1) Be nice.

It’s a simple concept that’s really, really hard to do when things aren’t going our way. It’s a decision we make when we go into a meeting, respond to an email, or walk past someone in the hall. Our ability to be nice doesn’t hinge on if other people are being nice to us first. Being nice is a choice. When we choose to be nice, especially in the midst of negativity, it shows people the depth of our character. And it encourages them to be nice too! Imagine a work environment where even Crabby Joe in accounting goes out of his way to be nice to people. That’d be an improvement over last year.

Our ability to be nice doesn’t hinge on if other people are being nice to us first. Being nice is a choice.

2) Work hard.

When things tanked at my old job, the last thing I wanted to do was work hard. I didn’t believe in many of the things they were doing and thought they were bad ideas. Because of that, I gave them less than my best effort. It was subconscious at first but over time I realized what I was doing and even justified it as being okay.

It wasn’t okay.

Working hard isn’t about honoring your boss or making the person who signs your pay check happy. It’s about honoring our Creator who, even before sin entered the world, gave us a command to work hard. We work hard for his glory, not our own.

3) Help people.

This is another one of those that’s easy on the surface but is so hard to actually do. Helping people, especially at work, is inconvenient. Our natural bent is to take care of our own stuff and then look for ways we can make our lives better. It isn’t to fill our free moments with things that can help someone else’s life be easier or less stressful.

But what if we did?

One of the things I’ve tried to do is build time into my schedule where I could help people couldn’t afford to pay me. Seeing the gratitude a nice gesture brings inspires me to continue being nice and working hard. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle.

At the end of the day, there are many things about our jobs we can’t choose. We get dealt tasks and assignments from clients or bosses and have to get them done or risk not having a job anymore.

We can choose to do these three things.

Choosing to live by this simple mantra of “Be nice. Work hard. Help people.” has led to the most fulfilling two years of my work life.

I think it can do the same for you.

PS – for those of you who own your own business, there’s a fourth piece to this I constantly have to remind myself of:

Don’t be greedy.

Sure, you can probably charge a little bit more for this or that and make a bigger profit. And yes, you definitely deserve to be paid what you’re worth.

But don’t be greedy.

You can’t be nice or help people while being greedy.

Be generous.

Don’t be greedy.