This week, I sat with a friend and heard the all too familiar story again, “my job just isnt’ giving me what I’m needing.” She isn’t challenged, feels stifled, doesn’t see much opportunity for promotion, etc. She’s comfortable and her current job offers some great perks like flexibility and independence. But, she’s craving more. She’s worried that she’ll wake up in 10 years not having grown professionally and still feel the same way she does today about her work. She’s decided that it’s time to do something about it.
I seem to hear this story a lot. Not sure if it’s because of the line of work I’ve chosen or maybe it’s just the people in my network, but this story is way too common. I’ve even personally lived the experience a few times myself. And, my default response has always been–time to move on. Greener pastures, bluer oceans–the newness of a different job always makes these feelings disappear, at least for a little while.
Underneath this job angst and longing in most cases is really the desire to be more happy with and in our work. And, if happiness is the goal, that introduces some considerations that make me take pause. I’ve heard it said many times, and I wish I could quote the source or sources, that happiness isn’t about getting something you think you want but rather wanting the things you have. It’s implied that happiness is a state of mind that involves being at peace with who you are, what you have and where you are in your life. This implies that much of our unhappiness stems from how we compare our current situation to a perceived improved future situation. And, if we could set aside these comparisons, and instead focus on loving our current opportunities, we’d be happier.
I honestly don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I see the power in appreciating your current situation. Seeking out and focusing on the things that make you happy will positively impact your satisfaction with your current job. And, there’s probably opportuntiy for every person to take action in their current role to do more of the activities that make them happy as well.
But, I am a perpetual malcontent. And, suffering from this particular dysfunction, I know that I am always looking to make my situation better. I’m always in pursuit of what’s next. This has been a driving factor in my career and I think it’s a competitive advantage for me, personally. I haven’t always been happy in my job. In fact, I’ve probably spent more time unhappy in work than happy. But, I also didn’t invest a lot of time in any particular situation focusing on the things in that role that did make me happy. I focused on what was next–the future.
I’m not sure I’m making a clear point here, so let me try to put a finer point on it. Could it be that the reason people aren’t happy with their jobs is their own mindset about the job and not the job itself? Could it be that if people learned how to find more happiness through appreciation of what they have, that they would be more happy in work overall?
Or, is this just a veiled way of getting people to settle for sub par work experiences and opportunities? And, that they should keep seeking new jobs that better deliver that which drives and fulfills them?
I’m not sure. I think it’s probably some of both.
Interesting thoughts you are leaving here Jason! It is really a delicate matter to consider the real reasons behind lack of happiness at work. But i believe moving on is a last resort decision after trying out so many alternatives at first. We have listed some of the things we feel would be useful to get back into feeling happy at work, to name a few asking for feedback, committing to only what you can do, avoiding negativity and so on in this article http://www.lebhr.com/2011/12/13/are-you-happy-at-work/ which refers back to an About.com Human Resources article.
Are you a job seeker, employee, manager, or HR fanatic? check out http://www.lebhr.com for info and tips.
LebHR – The Lebanese Human Resources Community
Good piece Jason. I’d like to offer another option though…what if the focus could be on both finding “happiness” in one’s current job and being excited about what’s next? Getting that adrenalin rush every day at the office (or wherever one works) is not realisitc, but it does happen. That rush might spark an interest in an opportunity down the road as well. But only by connecting the two options can we stay fired up today and look forward to tomorrow.
Good post and yes, I hear that a lot and last year particularly was like that for me.
A “solution”: absolutely work out what is good (and bad) at work and what is your control. But also look at what is good/bad at work and how long the bad might continue (boss, environment, salary, benefits etc) that is out of your control.
Weigh it up against your happiness target. If you keep on doing what you’ve always done and it ain’t getting you there, change something!
(or go insane! )