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An Introduction to Happiness: Work

Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing this idea of being happy at work. Why? Because when you ask the members of Generation Z(the next generation coming into the workforce) what they value most in life, most have a simple answer: Happiness. Happy people are “12% more productive” than those who aren’t, according to a comprehensive study from the University of Warwick.

This week, I’m pursuing the idea that doing meaningful work can help people be happier.

We Spend a Lot of Time at Work

When I talk about work in this post, I’m referring to the thing that we do for our “vocation.” The thing that we show up 40 hours a week to do for the majority of our lives. It doesn’t have to be a “typical” job we think about like working at a startup or large corporation. Rather, it’s the activity (or activities) we do to create and restore things to their best and highest use as a means to build thriving cultures. This can be done via almost any job — financial planning, art, computer programming, construction, being a parent, and so many more. The bottom line is that the way we spend the majority of our days is actually important.

Most of us spend at least eight hours of our day pursuing some sort of vocation. The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics now shows that the average American spends 8.8 hours a day at work, and many people work up to 12 hours a day. If we’re going to spend that much time doing something — and we don’t like it or it’s destructive to our bodies or souls — it’s probably not going to bring us that much happiness.

What the Research Says About Work and Happiness

  • Work keeps our minds sharp. Not only does work help older people stave off dementia, but it also has incredible benefits for younger people. “The work environment places demands on people,” said Michael Hurd, director of the RAND Center for the Study of Aging, to journalists and scholars at Age Boom Academy. “You have to socially interact. You’re forced to be there. People are forced to engage.”

Many People Struggle with the Idea of Work

  • Many people don’t like to work in the first place. When the Conference Board surveyed employees, it found that a shocking 53% of people say they are unhappy at their jobs. Half of our workforce is unhappy at the place where they spend 40 hours per week. There are endless reasons people might be unhappy… Bad bosses. Colleagues they don’t get along with. Values misalignment. Boredom.
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How To Make Work Fulfilling

First, you may just need to leave your job. There are bad bosses. There are toxic work environments. It’s okay to leave. If 53% of people are unhappy in their workplaces, maybe you leaving will encourage your current employer to up their game and try to make your current work environment better for the next people joining your team.

Secondly, especially for those who see work as a means to an end, maybe it’s time to realize that work could be a place where you could find some passion. Instead of thinking about your job as “just being a server”, you could reframe your perspective and say, “My job is to provide great service so that people can connect with their loved ones over one of life’s gifts: great food.”

It also may be time for you to understand both your passion and if you can make that passion a reality. I personally don’t believe that we’ll find fulfillment in work unless we are good at what we do, love what we do, are meeting a need, and can get paid for that work. That lens for work came directly from the Japanese idea of Ikigai.

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The belief is that we must do the following to find happiness in our jobs:

  • Figure out what we’re good at. We must be able to do something that we’re good at or we’ll constantly feel like we’re letting others down or be unable to reach the goals we set for ourselves. This can take years to figure out and requires testing ideas and seeking advice.

Finally, we have to find the right relationship with work. While some use work as a “means to an end,” there is a whole other group of people who are defined by success at work and use work as a “means to happiness.” Doing this, in many cases, leads to the burnout discussed above.

  • Create a life plan. This plan will include all of the areas in your life and what you think they will look like over the next 10 to 20 years.

For next week, we’re going to dig into how goal setting helps us define happiness. That’s all for today, but keep an eye out for next week’s blog as we continue the discussion.

Written by

Helping to give startups the power to create and grow their business wherever they are as CEO of GAN: @GANconnect

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