Why be happy at work?

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Aristotle.

I guess we can’t argue with that. And what Aristotle said over two thousand years ago is echoed by today’s positive psychology movement: for example, Sonja Lyubomirsky calls happiness the Holy Grail.

Because the pursuit of happiness is fundamental to human beings, possessing a high level of it brings a huge range of benefits. Happiness, the researchers tell us, aids our physical and psychological health. Interestingly, it can also improve our willingness and ability to cooperate, boost our ingenuity and creativity, and make us better leaders and negotiators. If that’s the case then we had better make sure we take it seriously in the workplace.

So what makes us happy? On one level we all desire different things – whiskey rather than gin, that Arsenal beat Manchester United, the country rather than the city. But at a deeper level there are some things that we all need. In the context of work, these are some of the things that have been found to make us all happy:

  • a variety of tasks
  • challenges, things that stretch us but don’t stress us
  • control and self-determination, the freedom to decide some aspects of how things get done
  • doing things that we are good at
  • a chance to learn and grow
  • the sense of purpose which comes from clear goals
  • an understanding how our work contributes to bigger/higher things
  • good relationships with our colleagues, bosses etc.

This isn’t rocket science. But I know from working with hundreds of people from many organisations that these obvious things are often overlooked or not in place. The other day I was talking to a young woman who was at her whit’s end because her manager either micro-managed (no self-determination), or dumped challenging projects on her at the last minute (challenges that stress), and wouldn’t listen (bad relationships).

It’s not rocket science, but it does help to be reminded of these things.

For more information on this subject, see:

Happier: can you learn to be happy?, Tal Ben-Shahar – http://bit.do/h72t

The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky – http://bit.do/h72J

Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman – http://bit.do/h72M


If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or terry@terrymorden.co.uk.

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