We’ve all been sold a really harmful lie, by a lot of people. That lie is: To be truly happy at work, you must do what you love (or some variation of the same theme). It’s complete garbage that is usually told to you by – an ultra-rich people who can do anything they want, someone who really doesn’t have to earn a living because they have a spouse earning a living for them or someone who just flat out got lucky, right place-right time and does something they actually love. I know, I know – “Tim, you create your own luck!” – said by the same idiot who’s wife is a brain surgeon and allows her deadbeat husband to be a “writer” at home.
Still most of us define our happiness like this:
Step 1 – Work really super hard.
Step 2 – Really super hard work will make you successful.
Step 3 – Being successful will make me happy.
I hate to break this to you – being successful will not make you happy. It will allow you to buy a lot of stuff, you’ll probably have less money arguments and you might even feel good about your success, but if you’re not happy before all of that, there is a really good chance you won’t be happy after to gain success.
Let’s start with this concept:
Work Success ≠ Happiness
Have you ever met someone working a dead-end job, a just-not-going-anywhere type of job, but they are completely joyous? I have. I envy those people. They do not define their happiness in life by the level of success they’ve obtained in their career. Their happiness is defined by a number of other things: are their basic needs met, do they enjoy the people they surround themselves with, do they have a positive outlook on life, etc. These individuals do not allow the external world to impact their happiness. Their happiness is derived from within.
In HR I’ve been forced to learn this, because I’ve had people try and sell me on that Engagement =’s Happiness – which is also a lie. I’ve had incredibly engaged workers who are very unhappy people and very happy people who were not engaged. I’ve found over time, I can do almost nothing to “make” someone be happier. I’m an external factor to their life. Don’t get me wrong – as a leader I can give praise and recognition, I can give merit and bonuses, etc. While that might have a short-term impact to ones happiness, it’s not truly lasting happiness that comes from within.
So, how can you help someone find their happiness? I think we have to start realizing that you don’t have to ‘work’ at something you love, to have happiness at work. Putting work into perspective of life is key. I like what I do a whole bunch – hell, I blog about it! But if I really thought about it, I don’t ‘love’ it. I love my family. I love floating on a lake on a warm summer day. I love listening to my sons laugh in pure joy. I find my happiness in many ways – only part of which I gain through my career. My secret to happy work is finding happiness in a number of aspects in my life. That way if I’m having a bad day at work, or a bad day at home, I still have pockets of happiness I can adjust my focus to.
What is your secret to being happy at work?