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Happiness and Work

“In order that people may be happy in their work,
these three things are needed:
they must be fit for it;
they must not do too much of it;
and they must have a sense of success in it.”

– John Ruskin

Where did the day go? You wonder such things when you have a whirlwind day that keeps your focus, or at the very least keeps you busy. An early start, a busy day and suddenly the work day is over. Does that whirlwind equal happiness? Of course not, but when you look up and to your great surprise the day is over, well, you might be on the right track.

Ruskin’s formula above seems about right. Work should be aligned with our skillset and inclination about who we want to be in this world. But it shouldn’t be all-consuming. And we must achieve some measure of success for it to feel rewarding and worthwhile.

Since life is weighted so heavily towards work, it ought to be something that makes you happy, don’t you think? Feeling like you’re going in the right direction is one of those things that make you happy. If you feel you’re going in the right direction and you wake up excited to get after it, you’re probably going to find that magical blend of happiness and work.

There are so many stories of people realizing they aren’t following a path that makes them happy. Companies are finding that when their corporate goals and their employees life goals don’t align, they lose employees. This might not have been a big deal when unemployment was high, but in a world where you can’t find enough skilled workers it becomes a big problem.

When you’ve worked a few years, you learn that it’s all cyclical. One year employees have the upper hand, the next the employer has it. But people have long memories, and when you don’t treat them well they bolt at the first opportunity. It appears that a lot of people are bolting now.

It seems to me that the ratio of fit, workload and success always fluctuates. That elusive (and overused word) balance is the key. Are you surfing along in work Zen or slipping over into chaos? The answer to that question will probably determine your overall happiness in work. And what you might decide to do next.

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