Work Promotes Happiness
When the founding fathers introduced the “pursuit of happiness” concept in the Declaration of Independence, they knew a foundational truth about human beings that how we choose to spend our time, both personally and professional, really matters for our general welfare and happiness. This was long before empirical data validated the concept. Arthur Brooks, a social scientist and Harvard Business School professor who has done groundbreaking studies on happiness, wrote in The New York Times,
“We can even construct a system that fulfills our founders’ promises and empowers all Americans to pursue happiness…It turns out that choosing to pursue the four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness.”
These basic principles of faith, family, friends, and work, can be modified and then, when pursued, help us become happier. Arthur Brooks continues:
“The first three are fairly uncontroversial. Empirical evidence that faith, family and friendships increase happiness and meaning is hardly shocking. Few dying patients regret overinvesting in rich family lives, community ties and spiritual journeys. Work, though, seems less intuitive.”
With the obvious copious amount of time we spend working, it is important to find satisfaction in your work. Let’s explore how to achieve happiness from the context of business.
Changing values during life
In America, we have an intense drive to succeed. We think we know what steps are needed in order to reach our ultimate standard of success. For most younger people, that success would include a college degree, a steady job, a chance to climb within a company, and being financially sound. But later in life what happens? Dana Rousmaniere in Harvard Business Review: “If you’re midway through your career and feeling stuck, you are not alone. Maybe work doesn’t feel meaningful anymore, or your industry has drastically evolved, or your values and interests have changed.” Is there a remedy?
Change your perspective, change your satisfaction level
One of the most powerful tools we have as humans is the ability to change our mindset by changing our perspectives. While in business it might not be as natural to have this “work to live” perspective in our “live to work” American mindset, challenging our values within our profession can bring joy and happiness when there once was drudgery and contempt.
For example, focusing on valuing others above ourselves can bring encouragement and satisfaction inside our workspace. Considering others will always help us look outside of ourselves. In whatever job you are in, your effort affects other people. And then their success becomes your success.
And it’s also important to remember our standards for success can be rewritten. Arthur Brooks, in the New York Times article goes on to say,
“You can measure your earned success in any currency you choose. You can count it in dollars, sure—or in kids taught to read, habitats protected, or souls saved…If you can discern your own project and discover the true currency you value, you’ll be earning your success…. Franklin D. Roosevelt had it right: ‘Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort’…. In other words, the secret to happiness through work is earned success. This is not conjecture; it is driven by the data. Americans who feel they are successful at work are twice as likely to say they are very happy overall as people who don’t feel that way.”
If you are unhappy in your job or life, contemplate faith, family, friends, and work and evaluate your happiness in each area. Find ways to serve others and take time to evaluate your standard of success. There is no denying our work plays a part in our happiness with the right mindset. And it’s our right and privilege as Americans to participate in the pursuit of happiness. Contact Jeff to discuss your success experience.