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Happiness @ Work?

Posted by Vivian Wong on September 15, 2008

What motivates most people at work include promotions and pay raises. These two factors certainly affect our happiness level at work – but they are often short-lived and sometimes leave you with more frustration than if you haven’t gotten any at all. For example: you may have recently got promoted, and yet you may think it took management far too long to give you the promotion you deserve. (This may be true but that should not rob you of the joy of receiving the promotion); Even if you were truly happy with the promotion or the raise (and better still both), that special feeling doesn’t last very long. Surely we can’t get promoted as often as we’d like – otherwise all of us would be CEOs or Presidents by now. So how do we go about finding happiness at work that doesn’t fade away like soap bubbles?     

Know Yourself
If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. (Buddha)    

It is clearly not possible to love EVERYTHING about your job – but you should ask yourself: 

  • Are you being challenged and do you enjoy the challenges?
  • Are you maximizing your strengths?
  • Are you developing your greatest potential through the peaks and valley of this constant rollercoaster ride working in a large corporation?
  • Are you doing the best you can?
  • Do you get job satisfaction from your job?
If your answers to above questions are mostly no, then you should take a hard look at your career. Perhaps it’s time for you to initiate a change! This is the perfect recipe to frustration, disappointment and unhappiness.     

If there are a couple of “No”s, then you should take the responsibility upon yourself to see how you can turn them to “yes”. You could be standing in your own way of happiness! For example, say you are a developer. If you are not maximizing your strength in “presentation” because all you do is writing technical design documents and code all day. You may be frustrated that you have amazing hidden talents waiting for your manager to discover and she/he STILL hasn’t discovered them yet. Let’s face it, your managers are not trained to be talent agents. You need to take the initiative to discuss this with her/him. Perhaps you could volunteer for community services such as hosting brown bags for knowledge transfers. (Most managers would love to see their employees being proactive).    

If all your answers are “Yes” – then congratulations! You have reached Nirvana!     

Know what YOU want is key to finding happiness at work– if you have no idea what floats your boat, then how could your manager know? Aligning your own career goals with the needs/opportunities of the business with the support of your manager will certainly get you a lot closer to reaching your goals.     

Without a clear goal, you will always end up somewhere else – perhaps even further away from finding happiness!     

Love What You Do
I am not talking about loving every minute of your job. That job probably doesn’t exist. (It’s like having adorable kids or puppies, they all have their least attractive moments.;-) ). We all know that we are at our best form when we do something we love. So if you don’t love what you do (or at least some aspects of your job), then you need to figure out what you are really passionate about and go after that!     

Be Adaptable
The truth is, you have to be comfortable with change no matter what you do – in fact you should fully expect it. You have to have the strength to accept things you cannot change – because change is the only constant in today’s world. Resistance causes pain, and pain can blind you to the opportunities for your growth that changes often bring. Ultimately, this resistance can affect your happiness at work (or what is left of it).     

A pessimist sees the difficulty in opportunity, and an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill     

Be Positive
No one likes to work with a whiner who’s never happy and projects negative thoughts/attitude. Negative thoughts/words affect you and those around you on a subconscious level. People feel more at ease (and eager to help) when we are positive. There have also been countless studies that link negative thoughts to physical illnesses. For example, one recent study showed that Nuns who have positive thoughts live 10 years longer than those who don’t. Apparently being negative is a secret recipe to dying younger!     

If you know what you want to do, do what you love and have the strength to overcome obstacles along the way with a positive attitude, I think you are on the right track to finding happiness at work!     

I hope you find happiness at your work!     

9 Responses to “Happiness @ Work?”

  1. Arvin Kan said

    Nuns? A nun’s job is an interesting example… a nun’s duty extends into and outside of ‘work’. In other words, a nun’s work is never done. Must be hard to stay positive all the time. 🙂 It’s nice that as business professionals, we can ‘clock out’ when the work is done for the day. That is also a key to happiness.

    Great post!

  2. Meg Bear said

    you’re point about negative is so important. I call negative attitudes cancer, the more you dwell on negative, the more you bring down those around you and that spiral continues. Having people like you Vivian to keep us all focused on the positive is exactly what makes an organization the most productive.

  3. Jo said

    How do you think it would feel to arrive at your bank on a Monday morning to be told it is bankrupt. Clear your desk. Go home. We probably won’t pay you for your last three week’s work.

    And 15000 similarly people have also lost their jobs so their is unlikely to be a job for you around the corner.

    That is the challenge we ‘positivists’ will be facing for the next year I think. Supporting people who are having a really rough time.

    I blog at http://flowingmotion.wordpress.com

  4. Hi Vivian. All good points. Interestingly, a little over a year ago I was speaking with a hotshot sales manager, and he was telling me how he motivated his team to over-perform. He told me that cash bonuses rarely worked. They were usually eaten up very quickly be a spending spouse or by returning money owed to a relative. Flashy watches and flashy cars, however, worked wonders. Nobody could take them away, and they are outward signs that say, Man, I’m good!” As in, “Hey is that a new watch?” “Yeah, like it? I got that for reaching 1.5 million in sales last month.”

    David Leonhardt

  5. Keshav Subramanya said

    Not disagreeing with any of the points you’ve made, but while good cheese comes from happy cows, let’s not forget that pearls come from irritated oysters.

    Striving for happiness is one thing – it lets you to find your comfort zone, and human nature says you’ll then do all you can to stay right there. But excelling in anything requires going eyeball to eyeball with things that make for stressful and uncomfortable times, and forcing yourself to continue in the hope that it’ll result in a happy ending – I mean, there are no guarantees that every difficult and painful endevour will end in happiness.

  6. Ariel Ceballos said

    great blog on a very important topic!

    I’d just add that finding happiness at work, like progressing your career, is for the most part something that the individual has to work on. You can’t rely on your peers, your team, your manager or even on the company to do that for you. And then if you follow all the good advice above and still can’t find yourself being happy at work, then maybe you should think about why you do it. Maybe it is the lifestyle that your job gets you, or your dream for retirement or the education of your kids… and that may make you happy.

  7. Vivian Wong said

    Thank you guys for your stories and comments. This is what I love about blogging – hearing different perspectives and thoughts!

  8. […] So go ahead – give your manager some feedback – it might even help your manager to help you in finding happiness at work! […]

  9. […] Nothing changes a person’s happiness level – no! just like the growth versus fixed mindset, people can actually grow happier if they set their mind to it. The point is that we should work harder to be happier. […]

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