Does Work Have to Make You Happy?

by Joe Lavelle on August 15, 2011

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What make you happy in life?  What is on your list of people, places, objects, and events that are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and a true sense of joy?  For many of us, our families come to mind first.  Some people also may include a run along the beach at sunrise or spending the weekend watching football or Christmas morning on their “happy” list.  But, what about your job?  Does your work bring you true happiness?  And, if it doesn’t, is that necessarily bad?

A recent study entitled “A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness is Not Always Good” asserts that striving for happiness at the office, or with determination in any environment, may actually make us more depressed.  Is it possible that we set unrealistic expectations on what our job is supposed to provide, including recognition for our achievements and a complete sense of fulfillment, and then we become disillusioned when the work doesn’t provide these things?  Instead, maybe we should be focusing on more tangible professional goals than the subjective concept of “happiness” and will find a greater return on that investment.

To be sure, some of the career unhappiness is real and if you are feeling overworked, overqualified, or under-appreciated, it is probably time to make a change.  That can be a scary prospect in this economy, but I hope that you are able to find a professional situation that is more than a paycheck and doesn’t have you desperate for Friday afternoon to arrive every week.  You just need to decide for yourself if the unhappiness you are experiencing is based on legitimate problems in your office or perhaps just a perspective on your work that could use a little adjusting.

What do you think of this new study?  Do we put too much stock into finding happiness at work?  For those who are driven to ever greater success, is happiness something you can ever achieve? Or, is there always that nagging feeling that you need to do more and accomplish more before you can look around and enjoy where you are?

There is no doubt that having a positive attitude is essential to career satisfaction and advancement.  But what about happiness?  I am very interested in your thoughts!


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