Is Happiness Tied to Your Job?

According to a new study coming out in the publication Psychological Science happiness among middle and lower income people is down, while those in the higher income brackets are just about as happy as (but not any happier than) they were 20 years ago. Makes sense, right? I mean, who wouldn’t be happy sitting on a pile of money during one of the biggest recessions we can remember?

So the logical next step is to assume that one’s happiness is tied to one’s job, right? Not so, according to Psychological Science. People are NOT necessarily unhappy in today’s economy because they hate their jobs, but rather they’re unhappy with the income disparity between the haves and the have nots, leading to a high level of distrust, and ending with a bankrupt sense of well-being.

“We originally thought economic factors might explain this all, but they don’t,” says Shigehiro Oishi, a University of Virginia psychologist who participated in the study. “When people see that some people are really in advantageous and favorable conditions while many of us are not, lack of trust toward the system and toward others naturally emerges.”

So If the Job Doesn’t Make Us Happy, What Does?

Studies show that someone who works as a dog walker can be just as happy (in some cases happier) than the CEO of big company. Think about it; the dog walker’s job includes being outside, with pets, usually in the middle of the day when others are stuck behind a computer. The CEO’s job involves a lot of responsibly that can cause undue stress and lack of exercise. True, the CEO makes more money than the dog walker, but in most cases people with large incomes spend more on large items (homes, boats, campers, RVs, etc.) thus giving them the same percentage of daily, disposable, liquid income as the dog walker. In other words, people adjust to their standard of living and learn to be happy with that. So it’s not the job itself that makes them happy, but the feelings that come as a result of doing the job. Or to quote Nwokedi Idika, author of The Art of Living Life blogsite “A job doesn’t make you happy; a job well done makes you happy.”

Which is something to think about when looking for your own job. Although having money is nice (and let’s face facts, you need a certain amount of it to live), you want to make sure you embark upon a career that allows you do tasks that you consider rewarding and fun—maybe not every hour or everyday, but for the most part. Choosing a job based solely on income will float your mental well-being for a while, but eventually, it will wear you down to a hopeless, grumpy mess IF the job is something you really don’t like. Which is exactly why you shouldn’t sweat it if you have to get a lesser paying, but more relaxed, interim job to tide you over until your career ship comes in. So what if you temporarily end up as a barista even though you have a degree in physics. If you find being a barista enjoyable, then don’t apologize (even to yourself) for it. Just be the best barista you can be and take pleasure in this brief side road in your life. The big career with the stressful responsibilities will come soon enough.

What Can I Do That Makes Me Happy?

To help you find happiness during the rough spots in your life the New York Best Doctors section of New York Magazine have come up with 50 Steps to Simple Happiness that range from making your bed in the morning to becoming the most popular person at work. The message of these steps is clear; it’s the simple things in life that make us happy. However, individual happiness can be as personal as picking a religion, which is why Stefan Sagmeister, a New York graphic designer currently living in Bali, came up with his own list of Seven Rules to Making More Happiness, which he gave as a Ted Talk at this year’s Cannes Film Festival:

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As you can see, Mr. Sagmeister’s personal happiness list doesn’t focus on any one job, but rather centers around things he likes to do and accomplishments he finds rewarding. Notice there is not one specific place of employment, occupation, group of people, etc. on his list. To often we put too much value on things like getting the dream job at Google with the corner office when we should be concentrating on things we can personally control, like am I going to be in a good mood today no matter what life throws at me?

Do you have a personal list of things that make you happy? Please share one or two of your favorite happiness list items with our readers. Your contribution may be the very thing needed to jumpstart another person’s list of things that makes them happy.

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