Yes, we even have a second video clip of Tom Baker talking about how to get involved. So this month we decided to share it. Enjoy.
So, you want to be happy? Who doesn’t? You’re probably thinking of reading some of those self-help books on the topic. But chances are you are going to end up frustrated because the search for happiness is usually presented in the wrong way. You’ll end up looking for the wrong thing.
The problem comes partly from our language and the way we speak about happiness, as if it is a thing that can be obtained or achieved. “Happiness,” so our culture teaches us, is a state of being. It is a strong emotional state, something akin to “joy” or “exaltation.” It should be grabbed and held onto.
But deep inside you know that goal isn’t really feasible – we can’t feel extended periods of joy any more than we can stay in any extreme emotional state for very long. And “achieving” happiness isn’t the same as crossing a finish line or finally buying that “just for me” sports car.
Instead, we should recognize that pursuing happiness is really about the types of activities we add to our lives. We should be striving for the kind of life that keeps us enthusiastic and excited to take on each day, despite some of the inevitable bad moments and accidents.
So, what can we do to have more of that kind of happiness in our lives? The answer: shift our emphasis from the word “happy” to the word “pursuit.” Concentrate on the activities we add to our life. If we add more moments where we are fully engaged in satisfying and rewarding activities, that work for us on an inner, self-referential level, we will be well on our way to having a happy life.
And what types of activities might do this? Which activities help us feel fully engaged in meaningful, rewarding ways? Fortunately, modern day psychology does have some suggestions.
Develop the Habit of Self-Improvement Projects
A lot of good feelings about you and who you are becoming can come from taking on a short-term self-improvement project. Watching our self make small gains and finally achieving a personal goal can be rewarding specifically on an inner, private level.
There are certainly many things to consider when choosing a self-improvement goal and developing the daily or weekly measurements that might provide those moments of small success. But just engaging in a self-improvement project can be psychologically rewarding. Particularly if the objective is not something we are doing for external feedback and rewards. Importantly, progress on a self-improvement goal will help us feel good about ourselves for an extended period of days, if not all of them.
Examples might include a modest weight loss or fitness goal, gradually reading that book you’ve always wanted to read, or starting and finishing a series of classes in a new craft or hobby. Self-improvement ideas abound, but keeping the goals manageable, medium in size, and easily measurable are important factors to consider.
Exercise Your Strengths
A different but similar sense of accomplishment and pride can come from doing things that others find hard. This doesn’t mean focusing on earning a prize or defeating an opponent. Instead, it can refer to simply experiencing a certain kind of joy when you exercise your unique talents and strengths. We are all good at some things. Perhaps some of these things have funneled us in to our current job. But independent of any external rewards, such as pay or promotions, there is a certain internal reward from engaging in what we do well.
Purposefully adding activities to our lives that allow us to activate our strengths is a great way to pursue happiness. Outside of our controlled work environment we might discover we can volunteer our bookkeeping talent at our local church or coach a youth soccer program and experience the joys of teaching. We can landscape a community park or use our voice to read for the blind. Doing what we do well is always intrinsically rewarding, and doing so in the service of others is a potential ‘double whammy’ in the pursuit of happiness.
Go for the “Flow”
A third kind of activity we can add to our lives is one designed to get us into “flow.” Several years back psychologists starting studying that wonderful place our mind goes to when we are fully engaged in a task; that loss of time and worries when our minds are “locked in” by the activity. We usually know we were “in the zone” only after we come out of it. “Flow” can happen at work obviously, but what about purposefully adding it to our lives as a “pursuit of happiness” activity?
To get to flow most easily the mind should be fully engaged in the task. This happens in everyday life when we are activating our curiosity or encouraging our creativity. Allowing ourselves to be creative or curious may feel like a luxury in today’s busy, fast-paced world, but paradoxically finding exactly that kind of time will be far more “productive” toward achieving a life of happiness and contentment than completing yet another thing on our to-do list. Simply ask yourself this: don’t you know someone who regularly engages in creative or curiosity-fulfilling activities and seems to have a particularly interesting and happy life?
Join in a Community of Volunteers
Finally, perhaps the easiest activity we can add to our lives is volunteering in a relaxed and social atmosphere with others. It is true many service clubs have experienced a severe decline in enrollments over the past decade or two. This may be due to how easy it is with today’s technology to spend time alone, entertaining ourselves or working nonstop. But the lives of our grandparents were filled with socializing, bonding and enjoying each others’ company. It was a regular occurrence and part of the pursuit of a life well spent. Every one of us knows how fun it is to chat with friends. Why not make some new ones and help out your community at the same time?
The pursuit of happiness should be more about the pursuit, the activities that we choose to engage in and how they make us feel in the long term, than about a fleeting emotional state. Developing small but regular self-improvement projects, exercising our strengths, trying to get in to “flow” and volunteering with others are just some suggestions. After all, a life well spent is a happy life.
Battle Burnout: Address the 6 Motivators for Enjoying Work
By Erick Lauber, Ph.D.
Gloria wasn’t happy at work. It wasn’t that she hated her job or anything like that. Her co-workers were fine and she didn’t mind the type of work she did. In fact, she thought she did it pretty well. Of course, she wanted more money, but who didn’t? No, something else was bothering her. At some basic level she simply didn’t enjoy coming to work. Whatever excitement or sense of accomplishment she used to get had been replaced by a lack of motivation.
Gloria’s issue was a common one. Employees around the world sometimes lose sight of what makes their work worthwhile. They get run-down, burnt out and de-motivated. At times like these it can be difficult for anyone to enjoy work and find the old levels of motivation and energy.
To help Gloria and the millions like her, it is necessary to look at the underlying causes. Why do any of us enjoy work? And can we re-ignite those causes in our own work environment? The answer is yes, there are at least six different reasons why we enjoy work, ignoring money, of course..
The remarkable time and energy some people put in to their work can only be understood as an “inner drive” – they simply want to achieve that goal. Seeking a personal sense of accomplishment is natural and can be harnessed everyday by millions of workers and employers. It can be described as “taking pride in one’s work” or a sense that “this is what I was meant to do.” Whether the objectives are short-term or long-term, making progress toward a goal makes all of us feel good.
The Greater Good
Many of us are also motivated by a sense of community. The feeling that we are part of something larger and that life isn’t just about our own individual needs and wants. . This particular joy and peace is experienced by millions as they volunteer for church or service club tasks, but it can also be encouraged in the workplace. For example, it is claimed many Asian/Eastern companies reinforce this message. Clearly many Americans are also motivated by community considerations. Perhaps Gloria could be encouraged to reframe her circumstances and see how she is contributing to the greater good.
Many get enjoyment from the individual relationships they experience at work. It helps them look forward to each day. The laughter, the camaraderie, the forgiveness and even the occasional stress are all something they enjoy and know they wouldn’t want to live without. But not everyone is the same, and certainly we’re not all our best self every single day. Enlightened managers respect this basic human need to connect with others and allow it, if not encourage it, in their workplace. Has Gloria’s manager given her the opportunity to connect with others? Has he diagnosed that this is something important to her?
Sense of Team
Similarly, some people enjoy a special sense of completeness and wholeness by experiencing team. In the workplace, many employers work hard to encourage this shared identity by conducting internal PR and messaging campaigns. For quieter teammates, a sense of camaraderie might provide an extremely important opportunity to connect and feel like they belong. Does Gloria feel she’s part of a team? How much team spirit has her boss created?
For some, a special sense of joy comes from physical exertion, and the absence of it makes any job less appealing. It just doesn’t feel like work if they aren’t breaking a sweat or doing battle with the weather. This is partly a product of socialization and might be tied up with what “work” means to them. Modern day psychology re-affirms the benefits from physical labor. We all know how endorphins can give us a slight high. And everyone knows about the stress-management benefits from working out? Is getting physical a way for Gloria to battle her “lack of motivation? If her job is sedentary, does her employer even offer a “get in shape” program?
Finally, a great many of us enjoy the special mental feeling that comes from exercising our creativity or satisfying our curiosity. The small euphoria that comes from developing something new or conquering a complex problem can be for a big part of enjoying work for some. Does Gloria’s boss know whether she’s incredibly bored or frustrated by her tasks? Is it time for a promotion, or perhaps a little job engineering to offer a chance at being creative?
“Why” is the Answer to “How”
So, what can be done more generally to help employees enjoy their work? Or what can Gloria or any employee do themselves? The answer is simple: treat the cause, not the symptoms. Instead of worrying about symptoms like aggressive behavior or poor attitude, employees and employers can create a more enjoyable work environment by directly addressing one or more of these common denominators. Why not casually interview Gloria about whether she feels connected to her fellow co-workers? Does she have any friends at work? Why not ask “is this job challenging enough?” or “would you like the opportunity to be more creative?” Stepping back and reflecting on each of these six motivators can guide any manager or employee toward a more enjoyable work place. There is hope for Gloria in the application of modern day psychology to the workplace.