Why you shouldn't keep trying to be happy at work, according to experts
Happiness shouldn't be your focus apparently
Do what makes you happy. It's something we've all heard time and time again. But according to a number of experts and research, focusing too much on happiness as the primary goal of work can have the opposite effect.
Happiness is a very temporary and fleeting feeling, so striving to achieve it all the time isn't realistic. Instead, experts argue that you should make meaning your vocational goal.
Research shows that making work more meaningful is one of the most powerful ways to increase productivity, engagement, and performance.
In one survey of 12,000 employees, half said they didn’t get a feeling of meaning and significance from their work, but those who did reported 1.7 times greater job satisfaction, were 1.4 times more engaged, and were more than three times as likely to remain with their current employer.
Almost all of us want more meaning in our work and careers, and this is often more of a driving factor than pay. A recent study found that nine in 10 people would be willing to swap a percentage of their lifetime earnings for more meaningful work.
But it's important to note that this differs from happiness. According to research from psychologist Roy Baumeister and his colleagues, meaning is less about having your desires satisfied and is largely unrelated to the " frequency of good and bad feelings."
Finding meaning in work or life is much more related to "assembling past, present, and future into some kind of coherent story", whereas happiness is almost always about the here and now.
The researchers also concluded that helping others gives us more meaning, whereas being helped gives us more happiness, and that whilst stress and struggle can reduce our happiness, they are in fact "part and parcel of a highly meaningful life."
Ultimately, more meaning in work is likely to lead to happiness. Harvard Business Review reports that there are four practical steps you can take to bring more meaning to your work. They are:
- Keep a journal of activities to identify the projects and tasks you find satisfying
- Align your values and actions when choosing what to prioritise in work
- Focus on relationships in your work as opposed to just meeting deadlines
- Help others in identifying the types of activities that could help them to get more meaning in work
If you follow these steps you'll begin to find more value and meaning in your work. Apparently.
But we wouldn't blame you if, at the moment, factors such as pay were perhaps more pressing issues for you.
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