Happiness is an inside job.
Longtime readers know I often write about satisfaction, contentment and gratitude – variations on the theme of happiness – in relation to work. Now sometimes people get confused: is this guy writing about work, or happiness?
You see, while there may never be a perfect job life isn't designed like that. Perfection doesn't exist. Ask anyone who's played golf or has a yoga practice – perfection is an illusion: it's the effort that counts.
The reality is there's no reason we cannot seek satisfaction in our daily work even as we know that work has ups and downs.
Once we accept that joy can be found in career, that there is meaning in commerce, two things shift for us.
First, we rediscover our ability to influence our own lives, the power we have to remake ourselves. This is phenomenal. Despite seemingly overwhelming and onerous odds we can create a life of work and play that reflects who we are in a meaningful way.
Sick and tired of being a couch potato eating bad food as you mindlessly watch the boob tube every night? Unplug the TV, get rid of the snacks and find a book. Or take a walk. Start small. But start.
Fed up with uninspiring work? Reassess why you have the job you do and find its real value until you decide to do something else that better resonates with you. Tired of being trapped? Stop thinking you are.
You see, it's not the TV, or the job or anything else that is intently bad or good, it's what we do with it. Step one in bringing goodness into our lives – even into our work lives – is to focus on it, be open to it, and recognize it.
We develop our own sense of goodness and happiness – it doesn't happen to us randomly.
The other element we can all share is to define our own notion of happiness and joy.
What does that really mean for you? Money? Probably not – I've known many unhappy wealthy people. Power? Depends on how you use that power: in soul-crushing despotism or enlightened beneficence.
You see, doing something because someone else did it makes no sense for your life path. When I was little I wanted to be a race car driver – routine car sickness dissuaded me (and my poor parents) from that path. We have to choose the path that works for us knowing there are jogs, switchbacks as well as peaks and plunges along the way.
Would you follow a career path because that's what your parents wanted, because that's what your borther did, because the world tells you it's safe? That's your choice: but is it your path?
Is work contentment leading a global team, taking on the hard projects, or doing the dirty work no one else wants? Then go for it.
As long as it's your own path.
The reason I talk about joy and happiness and goodness as much as career is because they are part of the same fabric, the fabric of life. We spend a great deal of time at work: why not make it joyful?
Recognizing that we have the control to change our lives – and that change is many small steps over and over – as well as the ability to define the content of happiness makes all the difference in the work.
Goodness in career is the same as goodness in life. It's pretty much a function of what you put into it.