[03.11.10]
60 great comments!

How To Be Truly Happy At Work

The average person probably spends 10 hours of their daily life actively engaged in their job during the work week.  If you count the hours on the job and the hours to get there and back.  That’s 41.7% of your life.  And 44.5% of your non-sleeping hours.  Assuming you get 8 hours of sleep.  Bad assumption?

So the happiness thing seems kind of important.  And then if you add in the carry-over effect of how your job makes you feel during the rest of your awake time, that means that your job affects 66.7% of your life.  I don’t even want to touch the lack of sleep people experience when the job isn’t right.  But that’s real too.  And I think now you have my point.

Not to mention all the people that don’t want to hear you grumbling about it . . .

So finding happiness at work should be an ongoing, important objective in your life.

But how do you do it?

You find happiness at work by finding jobs that allow you to use your natural talents.  Because let’s face it.  We all have things we are naturally predisposed to doing well.  And other things we do because we have to do them.

So if you are looking for work today or if you are passively looking for something better, make sure you know what you really enjoy doing.  And here’s a method to figure that out.

  1. Make a list of all the tasks you are asked to perform in your current or former job.  If you have been in the same industry or function all of your career, keep it specific to that for now.  If not, you’ll need to broaden the list.  Include things like: creating/giving presentations, writing business plans, building time-lines, meeting coordination, training, calculating numbers on a spreadsheet, managing the work of others.  And so on.
  2. Once you have your list, separate the items into two columns.  And this is where knowing yourself comes into play.  Column A is “Things I Can Do Well” and B is “Things I Naturally Do Well”.  And some people have trouble with this because we are used to telling our bosses and others that we are capable of doing it all well.  And that’s true for many of us.  You can use personality type data here if you have it (Meyers-Briggs) to supplement or help you decide on a column for each.  You can also asks friends or former co-workers.  They often see things in you that you don’t see.
  3. If the separation process is difficult, take it to another level.  On a separate piece of paper, write down specific times in your life (work, home, college, events) when you felt truly happy.  You weren’t clock watching or otherwise waiting for this thing to end.  You were loving it and, importantly, loving how you felt while doing it.  Then ask for each: what tasks were you performing?  When I did this exercise, I found that I was happiest when I was (1) creating, (2) taking action on my ideas (3) leading and (4) focused on strategy. So now I look for jobs that allow me to do that a larger % of the time.
  4. You can also simply pay attention to how you feel today.  And tomorrow.  Keep a log at work writing down how you feel as your job function shifts from running numbers to holding a meeting.  From writing a presentation to actually giving it.

So here’s my answer to how to be truly happy at work:

Identify jobs and companies that allow you to do the work you naturally enjoy a larger % of the time.  And even though there are functions you are capable of doing, promise me you’ll not let that solely dictate which offer you’ll accept next.

Because some day this recession will end.  You may, believe it or not, have more than one opportunity to choose from.  And you better be ready to choose the one that allows you to use more of your natural talents.

So that you can be happy.  So that others will want to be around you.  And you can sleep well.

z z z z z z z z z

Read the follow-up post here:  Happiness At Work: It’s Also About People And Culture


Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Work and Life
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  • Hi Tim,

    there’s a great deal of truth in what you say, though from my experience I would build on your comments further. Happiness comes with engagement and sense of purpose – these are the things that motivate humans best of all. My colleagues and I work in this field, and find that talent (your natural skills), passion, and positive dislikes all combine in defining an individuals true sense of purpose. People who find this develop a deep passion for what they are doing…deploying their talents to overcome things they hate, which leads to deeper engagement and fulfilment. See my blog post about this for more info: http://is.gd/aIhZl

    James Rock
    MD and Chief Business Designer – http://www.cultivar.co.uk

  • Hi Tim,

    there’s a great deal of truth in what you say, though from my experience I would build on your comments further. Happiness comes with engagement and sense of purpose – these are the things that motivate humans best of all. My colleagues and I work in this field, and find that talent (your natural skills), passion, and positive dislikes all combine in defining an individuals true sense of purpose. People who find this develop a deep passion for what they are doing…deploying their talents to overcome things they hate, which leads to deeper engagement and fulfilment. See my blog post about this for more info: http://is.gd/aIhZl

    James Rock
    MD and Chief Business Designer – http://www.cultivar.co.uk

  • Tim

    Hi James – Excellent. I love that you added to the post. Engagement and sense of purpose are really critical components. Agree! My only disagreement is that many are not pursuing their passion in their day jobs. And engagement can be tough some days. So I intended my comments to be more pragmatic for those not yet working in their area of purpose. But, I will say, that your comments represent the higher order components. Those that we should all be striving for in work and life. A passion for something often can lessen or remove the psychological impact of those tasks that we are less suited to do!

  • Tim

    Hi James – Excellent. I love that you added to the post. Engagement and sense of purpose are really critical components. Agree! My only disagreement is that many are not pursuing their passion in their day jobs. And engagement can be tough some days. So I intended my comments to be more pragmatic for those not yet working in their area of purpose. But, I will say, that your comments represent the higher order components. Those that we should all be striving for in work and life. A passion for something often can lessen or remove the psychological impact of those tasks that we are less suited to do!

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  • James Potts

    I agree with what you have stated. This is why I have decided to devote my time to finding a position that allows me to achieve my true calling: the ability to evaluate, assess, counsel, and train those who are seeking a meaningful, positive, lucrative career that fulfills their own lives. I offer my bachelors degree in business management and my teaching credential. In addition, I offer years of experience in teaching, sales, and business/interpersonal communications. I’ve come to my decision through years of self-evaluation. I’ve studies the elements of my “dream career”: transferable skills (skills that I prefer using out of all my skill sets), income needs, my personality type, geographic location, preferred interactive group type, etc. I’m now in the transition phase where I’m seeking advise on what organizations are available that will allow me to achieve my goals. Do you have any suggestions and/or advise? thank you in advance for your help… James Potts

  • Hi James and thanks for your comment/question. I also saw you joined the LinkedIn group – welcome! Sounds like you’ve really thought through your decision and will experience an increased sense of fulfillment from your work. Congrats! In terms of companies where you can use these skills, look for companies that are big on training and people development. Often these are larger companies but may also include smaller, highly consumer or customer-focused companies. You could also look for companies that do training for their business. Lastly, a role in HR would offer you an ongoing training and counseling opportunity. And companies would like the fact that you have the business degree as you are asked to work with and train employees from all disciplines. Good luck to you!

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  • Hi Tim,
    I am currently in what feels like a midlife crisis, though I’m only 26 so I’m either putting too much pressure on myself or I won’t be living past my 50s haha. The situation I’m in is that after graduating high school, I went and got an Associate’s in theatre because it was the closest thing my school had in film. Long story short, I eventually realized acting can always be done without the need for a degree. My passion are film, writing, sports, and video game. Basically all all things that keep someone entertained. I feel my natural talents or what I’d love to do for a career would be writing, acting, teaching, and/or coaching. I’d like to have a somewhat flexible schedule either for traveling on the job, or at least a few times a year. That may be too much to ask for which I’m fine with as long as what I’m doing is something I enjoy. The problem I’m facing at the moment is how do I go about getting into a career related to what I would enjoy without wasting anymore time that I already have. I’m up for going back to school but since I’m already 26 I’d prefer it not be for anything thats too terribly long. The other dilemma is what I would actually go back to school for that would get me a job in a career I would enjoy. You look at those who go to medical school and it’s pretty much a guaranteed job afterwards. Then you have journalism or English majors who have to fight just to get unreliable freelance work. I feel as if I’m too old to take a risk at something like that without there being a great assurance that I’d come out with having good prospects for a job. Any advice you have for me would be really appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Michael

  • Hey Michael – Thanks for sharing your story.  You might benefit from taking a few assessments (strengths finder, for example) that would help tie your talents to careers.  But just reading your thoughts above, here are a couple of thoughts:

    Teaching – getting a credential and teaching film, script writing – you could either do this on the side as a hobby/way to develop your passion or in a paid role at a local university or community college.

    Training – Getting in with a company that needs people to train people or teams around the country.  If you like speaking, this might allow you to coach and teach at the same time.  Your personality and acting experience might make you a very unique and entertaining voice in an otherwise less than exciting training program.

    Freelance writing or blogging – I hear of a few writers that are busier than ever these days.  And perhaps you could write for some of the film industry publications?

    These are just a few ideas.  My key advice is try a number of things while you are young.  Before you have a family and a mortgage.

    All the best to you!

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