Some people have given up on the concept of being happy at work, because work is seen as something that is necessary, to earn money, and we cannot expect happiness at work.
But there is a way to being happy at work, and that’s what I am going to share in this blog post.
Many people ask me: How am I always happy at my work? And that got me thinking about the concept of “Happiness at Work”. I started having deep thoughts about what makes us happy at a workplace. And I have found out a few secrets.
I am going to share some of the secrets I’ve found in this blog post. And you can decide for yourself if what I say makes sense. If you do not feel what I am saying is right, you can reject the idea. But I hope you will keep an open mind, and read the article fully, because this might change your life.
Happiness Comes from Challenges
The word challenge has a negative meaning in our world. Many times, challenges are considered to be the same as problems. All of us have a problem with problems. We do not want problems.
We think – “I want my life to be without any challenges or problems.”
The idea of happiness is sometimes linked to keeping your life problem free. If someone doesn’t have any problems or challenges in his life, he would be always happy – or that’s what we think.
But, guess what! The secret to happiness lies in the challenges. In solving the challenges. If you have solved all the challenges in your life, your life will be boring.
To explain it better, let me take you back in time…
There was a time when you were a kid. As a kid, you did not know how to ride a bi-cycle, a motorcycle, a car and you did not know how to take a train or a flight.
You had many challenges as a kid. Then you grew up and you overcame all these challenges.
How did it feel when you first balanced yourself on a bi-cycle? How did it feel when you first took the car or bike our on your own How did it feel when your first went on a trip, on a flight or train, by yourself?
HAPPINESS. ACHIEVEMENT. SATISFACTION.
Happiness comes from solving a challenge, which you thought you couldn’t. Before you started learning how to drive a car, in the initial days, you might have thought you might never be a good driver. Then you found out that it is easy now, while still many people struggle to drive a car.
There is happiness at the moment of achievement. And then there is satisfaction of being skilled at something – which lasts longer than happiness.
Happiness at Work
Happiness at work comes from solving a challenge that you thought you might not be able to do.
When I started blogging, I thought I never could build a blog which gets millions of page views a month from search engines. But I did it from 2008-2012 while I was building my motorcycle blog. I had a great sense of achievement, and happiness.
Then I thought I cannot actually make it as an executive in the corporate world. But I came to Bangalore from my home town in Salem, and worked as a digital marketing manager in leading startups in India like Practo and Razorpay. Another level of achievement.
I thought I could never build a business and grow it myself, and now I have a team of employees and run a profitable startup (PixelTrack Digital) at the startup hub of India – Koramangala, Bangalore. Another achievement unlocked.
One by one, I am solving the challenges that I have built for myself. And I feel happy when I solve those challenges. Now I want more happiness, so I create more challenges for myself. These are good problems to have.
I want to double to revenue of my company. I want to have 50+ employees in my company. I want to give back to the world in a larger way. I want to create an impact on how the world learns new skills.
The list keeps going on. And this is all I need to find happiness in the future. I might never be able to achieve all my dreams, but I am keeping my dreams big enough so that I do not run out of challenges in my life. Because if I do not solve challenges, my life will become very boring, and hence I won’t find happiness.
That’s why they say – Happiness is in the journey, not the destination. There are many milestones in the journey, and each milestone gives some happiness. Crossing milestones also gives you a sense of satisfaction that stays with you for a long time.
You Can’t Buy Happiness with Money
Many people think that money is the path to happiness. To some extent, money can buy you happiness. You can buy good things with it, including watches, bikes, cars, computers, vacations and so on.
To be honest, I too desire all the nice things money can buy. I want a Lamborghini, and I am pretty sure I will be very happy the day I roll it out of the showroom.
But the hard truth is that all of them become boring very soon. It’s fun for a short time, and there is nothing wrong in having such fun. But it is important to realize that money cannot buy you long term happiness and satisfaction.
For a month, I will feel very proud of my Lamborghini. Then I will get used to it. I will probably feel a slight sense of happiness for 6 months. Then it would become part of my reality. And probably, I might start worrying about other things because of the car. I got a scratch, the color is fading, the service isn’t good, and I am not getting the spare parts.
Material objects bring happiness, but also a lot of complexities with it. And the happiness doesn’t last long with material happiness. As long as people know that material objects are not the path to happiness, and are aware about the maintenance costs in terms of time, energy and money, it is OK.
Some people try to extract happiness from material objects, and they fail. They become even more unhappy. As the saying goes, people buy things they don’t need, to impress people they do not like, with the money they don’t have.
If you have done that mistake before, it’s OK. Everyone eventually realizes the truth behind materialism at some point in their life. It is part of growing up.
Imagine how excited you were when you got the toy you wanted as a kid. How long did the happiness last? A few days? But we are not kids anymore. We shouldn’t expect inanimate objects to make us happy.
Some people do not try to get happiness from toys, but from activities. They want to just “chill”. They think that if work is going to put them through difficulty, then not working should give them happiness.
Eventually, everything will become boring. Solutions to all boredom, eventually end up in boredom.
TV series is good for killing boredom, but if you watch TV series all the time, all the series will be boring eventually.
New computer games, new vacations, new clothes – everything makes us feel good, but then it becomes the new norm. It becomes boring. And it stops giving us happiness.
Many people are still thinking that they should chase money and then they can get all the happiness they want. So people work harder, and try to make more money.
Some people find out that even after buying the things they want, they are not happy enough – and they still don’t learn. They think they need more money to buy more happiness and work even harder – at the cost of their health. And finally when they have enough money, they don’t have the health to enjoy it. Game over.
So taking up challenges in life are a much better path to happiness and satisfaction than anything else.
Optimize the Challenges
Challenges can also become boring if we do not take up bigger challenges. If you know how to do something perfectly, there is no challenge in it.
The first time I learned how to drive a car, it was exciting. Now I don’t even drive often from Bangalore to Salem. I take a bus. Because driving is now a chore and it’s boring.
That’s why you have to level up your challenges continuously as you grow in life.
When you start playing a new video game, it is difficult at first. When you win / complete the first level, you feel happy. A sense of achievement.
You thought you couldn’t and now you could. Amazing feeling that is.
However, you can’t keep playing the same Level 1 all the time. Right? Happiness comes from progressively achieving things which you thought you couldn’t.
When you get to Level 4 in a game, it might seem very difficult. It’s a challenge. And then you practice and grow. Then you complete it. Happiness.
Similarly in life and in work, you need to go for higher levels of challenges. Challenges are uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it. You need it. There is no other way to achieve happiness without taking up bigger challenges.
If you are not happy at work, it is mostly because the work is not challenging you. If your work pays well, but if it is boring, you should quit immediately and look for a harder challenge.
The harder the challenge is, the more happiness and satisfaction you will have when you solve that challenge. And in the mean time, you will also grow.
So go ahead and learn something new, and take up a new challenge.
When I say take up challenges, do not make the mistake of taking up an impossible task for yourself. If I ask you to drive a car, you might be able to. But if I ask you to build a car, you are not Elon Musk and you cannot design and build a Tesla.
If you force yourself to take up a challenge that is way above your competence, you will find frustration and anxiety – not happiness. It’s like trying to play Level 10 of the game, directly from Level 2. You will only end up frustrated and angry.
Elon Musk can launch rockets, but he did not jump to that challenge. He grow from one level to another, one step at a time. You need to level up your challenges at work, that is in line with your level of skill and competence.
Are you in the Flow State?
The best way to find out if you are at the right level of competence and achieve happiness at work is to check if you are able to get into the flow state.
Right now, I am completely involved in my work – writing this article. I don’t know how much time has passed by since I started writing this article. I am lost in the flow. Completely immersed in the article I am writing.
When you do work that is at the right level of competence for you, you will get absorbed in the flow state.
When you do work that is way higher than your level of competence, you will get overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious and it might even affect your self-worth.
When you do work that is way below your level of competence, then you will get bored. (This is the problem at most of the workplaces right now. Politics between people also arise because they don’t have the level of challenge, and hence idle mind = devil’s workshop).
So, strike that balance between the challenge and your skill level. Find work that is just a little bit above your skill level and always try to grow one step beyond.
With each step of growth, you will have immense level of happiness and satisfaction. And that my friend, is the secret to happiness at work.
Comment on this post, and let me know – are you happy at your work?
Are you going to look for harder challenges?