Faceted Happiness

Is there anything wrong with working for the weekend? I believe there are two camps of people in the work force. Group one are the workers who have a satisfactory job but their true passion and identity is defined outside of work. Then there are those who identify themselves through their work and derive meaning from their profession; she does not settle for anything less, and sacrifices time, family life, or even money to be able to work in her chosen field — doctor, teacher, artist, or businesswoman. It has always been important to my vision of success to be part of the latter group.

Many people in this country dread getting to work. You have fifty years ahead of you, and it should be something that you really love.Doc Guthrie, Sign Painter, Los Angeles Trade Technical College

There’s some fear involved in doing what you love. I get up every morning and I look at that fear and say to myself, “I’m doing what I love today.” Norma Jeanne Maloney, Sign Painter

I have not found my calling or put to use the talents God has given to me, to say without a doubt that I have found my passion. My job is a decent paycheck and provides great healthcare. Because the majority of my job is field work it tends to be isolating. On the upside I get to see beautiful parts of San Francisco and occasionally socialize a little with my co-workers in the office. I do enjoy telling others that I am an Arborist mostly because it is not a common career in Silicon Valley and instantly people have questions for you.

How many people do you know that are brave or successful enough to make work their passion? This is something my husband and I disagree on. He believes you should not be identified by only your work. His perspective is that a job is a job, and what you do for work shouldn’t be the largest source of your happiness. Tip # 37 in 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It by David Niven, instructs us to invest in multiple facets of our lives instead of putting all our energy or attention on one aspect. Subjects who rated the life satisfaction of others tended to calculate happiness on an averaging scale; the finding was that happiness is linked to people whose lives are generally positive in multiple areas (Bhargava 1995).

That’s when it Happened…

My original intentions with this Happiness Project blog were to help commit myself to diversifying my life and to investigate happiness. For too long I have focused on work satisfaction and let other facets of my life sag like friendships and pursuit of hobbies. I organized my transition and move to the west coast in these steps:

  1. Find Job
  2. Nest and Settle Home
  3. Make Friends

Why put friends last? Developing friendships could have helped me network much faster. But I lacked the confidence to go out and meet strangers without a title as a means of identity. Had my life been better balanced during this transitional period, I believe my happiness would have been much greater.

A 2009 Bloomberg Business Week Study on happiness found unexpected results. A survey of well educated professionals looked at happiness (short term satisfaction) and meaning (long-term benefit) at both work and home. There was a correlation between happiness and meaning reported at work and home, so those who are miserable on the job are usually miserable at home and vice versa. The article says that happiness and meaning have to do with who we are more than where we are because work and home are very different environments.

In the past, work and home were different physical environments; however, the internet first and second our attachment to smart devices, has blurred the lines between home and office. One would think that less hours spent working (answering less emails) would provide more opportunity for the pursuit of meaning and short term satisfaction at home. However the Bloomberg Study found no correlation between number of hours worked with happiness or meaning experienced at work or home. The study did find that those who reported the greatest life satisfaction at either work or home were those who spent time engaged in activities that produced both happiness and meaning. Stimulating activities (short term satisfaction) at work had no more bearing on overall work satisfaction than purposeful activities (long term benefits). At work, overall satisfaction increased only if both happiness and meaning simultaneously increased; and those who reported more satisfaction outside of work were those engaged in activities that produced both happiness and meaning. Home isn’t just for vegging out on the weekend! Meaning is important.

How Adults Achieve Happiness:

-Reduce TV Watching

-Cut back on surfing the web

-Spend time with loved ones

-Exercise

-Seek challenges

Author of Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman, defines happiness as having three parts: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. The last two have the most impact on living a happy life. Meaning refers to using strengths to contribute to a larger purpose. Such as the act of tutoring. Maybe that is why I felt greater contentment after the last two Saturday’s making art. The act of drawing and painting that I engaged in overlaps the aspects of pleasure and engagement.

Side by Sides
Side by Side

Researchers have found a link between creativity and positive emotions. Creativity is not just the ability to make art or write a novel; instead, creativity is the capacity to generate new ideas and find ways to solve problems, so it is a source of resilience in traumatic and stressful times. I will explore this connection between creativity and happiness more. In the meantime check out The Creativity Cure, by Carrie Barron and Alton Barron. One of the main takeaways is to spend time each day doing something with your hands. I challenge you to grab a pen and write somebody a letter. No texting. Send me your thoughts in the comments.

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