The Secret to Being Happy at Work

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We’ve all been sold a really harmful lie by a lot of people.

That lie is this: 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 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 do really love.

Success may not make you happy

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, but being successful will not make you happy. It will allow you to buy a lot of stuff, you’ll probably have fewer 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 you 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?

Engagement doesn’t = happiness, either

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 who try and sell me on this:

Engagement = Happiness.

That 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 that I can do almost nothing to help “make” someone be happier. I’m an external factor to their life.

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Don’t get me wrong; as a leader I can give praise and recognition, I can give merit pay and bonuses, etc. While that might have a short-term impact to someone’s happiness, it’s not the truly lasting kind of happiness that comes from within.

So, how can you help someone find their happiness?

You don’t need to “love” your work

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 the 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?

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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5 Comments on “The Secret to Being Happy at Work

  1. When I was in high school I believed that the key to my happiness was being successful at something I loved to do. To me, success isn’t defined by earning a big paycheck and being able to buy nice things, rather it’s something that is achieved by producing work and accomplishing goals that truly satisfy you as an individual. Because so much of our lives are spent working, I feel that part of my happiness does come from the work that I do. I need to feel that it’s meaningful, that I’m making some kind of difference and that I’m doing a good job. Although today, I may not be in the “dream job” I imagined while in high school, I do feel like I’m doing my part, not only for my organization but for others in all corners of this country. It may not be felt by many, but I’m thankful for having the opportunity to touch even the tiniest of aspects in people’s lives and for that, I consider myself to be happy in my career.

  2. Being good at something you enjoy is very important. Confusing family life and work in your secrets to being happy At Work is just cheap! Success brings other challenges and often the better you do the harder you have to work. My tip, enjoy every day regardless and work hard to avoid more dramas and pressure and for the people who y and cruise through life and expect to be rewarded with happiness! Get a grip, you get out what you put in. This was a poor article!

  3. It’s helpful, in my opinion, to embrace that you will not be happy in work 100 percent of the time.  If you can find 3+ things in the day that provide some satisfaction – reviewing and clarifying an email or letter for a coworker, asking somebody how they are doing, finding a new or better way to perform an element of a task – you’ll likely be happier than those who don’t and, in so doing, find a degree of success. Some time ago, when I was much “older and wiser” my mother made an observation during a conversation.  I suspect I was grumbling on incessantly about some “slacker” coworker. She said something to the effect of, “You know, Andy, most people simply want to make it through the day.” Embracing this in yourself doesn’t give you license to be a “slacker” or disregard your professional responsibilities, but it can help you too keep things in perspective.

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