31 May 2007

How much does your job factor into your happiness?

I was exchanging emails with a former coworker yesterday, and we have had mutual frustration with my employer. Not that this is rare; I think everyone gets frustrated with their employer at times. Overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, office politics-- something bothers everyone.

But you know, I really don't like my job. It's not just about my employer either, though that certainly factors in. I just don't really like what I do. I never come to work looking forward to it, and often my motivation wanes. Am I miserable? No. I don't dread work every day . . . it doesn't keep me from sleeping, and I don't get terribly stressed out about it. But it is certainly not something that makes me happy. I'm good at it and it pays the bills . . . but for me it's just a means to an end.

Is that bad? Yeah, probably. But how bad is it? How important is job satisfaction to your overall ability to enjoy life? I've wanted, for a long time, to find a job/career that could satisfy me both financially and personally, but it simply isn't happening. Not now, anyway. So I've dealt with it by tossing my energy into other areas of my life that do give me joy: Yardwork and landscaping, and working with my hands in general. My finances and investing. Sports (I'm a big college basketball and football fan). My girlfriend and our puppy. Beer and wine. I devote most of my free time to these endeavors, and it keeps me sane.

In fact, I'd say I'm a pretty happy person, despite the misfortune of being on a career path that does nothing for me except provide a paycheck and some benefits. I am constantly looking for a way to improve that part of my life, but you know-- I can live with it, for as long as I must. At times I haven't felt this way. I've let myself get too worked up about my career, and felt that a career change was a pressing problem that I needed to address. But when I think about things rationally, I realize that things at work aren't so bad, and that the rest of my life is good enough not to fret.

I know that some people feel very strongly about doing what you love and loving what you do. But how important is that, really? If you can pull away from work and at the end of the day do other things that make you happy, doesn't that go a long way toward happiness? For me it does. I won't give up on my goal of self-employment or obtaining a dream job (like being a statistician for a certain athletics program, for example), but in the meantime . . . I'm doing fine.

14 comments:

Kevin Gunn said...

You might want to read Live Rich by Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine. They believe *strongly* that work is what you do to earn money and should really be nothing more. I don't know that I agree with them completely, but I do think there is merit in their belief that you shouldn't tie yourself to a job by letting it become too central to your life. That gives your company way more control over your life than it deserves. Then again, I'd also rather work somewhere I enjoy being than make a little more somewhere I hate.

HMG said...

I find myself working pretty long hours (sometimes up to 100 hour weeks), and yet most of the issues or unhappiness comes from my girlfriend who gets upset with the hours more than I do. Her unhappiness generally leads to my unhappiness (in one way or another).

I haven't left the job because despite the hours (which have improved over time), the work itself tends to be pretty interesting and I like who I work with. I never find myself watching the clock and the days and weeks continually fly by.

I figure that there is always likely to be something that leads to some unhappiness from your work (mine is the hours), it's just trying to find out what you can deal with.

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