Happy People Make More Meaningful Work

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:

You’re stressed out at work, because there’s a big project coming up. The deadline is looming. So you cancel your plans Friday night and work late. You go in to work on Saturday and Sunday, working over the weekend. And then come Monday you stay all through the week.

Why is it that when things get tough and work needs more attention, we so quickly deem everything else as less important? In order to do our best work as fast as possible, we cut out relationships, rest, exercise, etc. Yet these are the very things that give us energy, clarity, and keep us sane.

In her book, ‘Inner Excellence’, Carol Osborn (co-founder of Overachievers Anonymous) writes: “There has to be something more in in life than success born at the expense of your personal and spiritual needs and values.”

Anxiety and stress over time decrease our ability to perform.

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We hear a lot about work life balance: that having meaningful relationships, eating healthy, exercising, getting rest and taking breaks from work, learning, having fun, etc.

This is what “Thriving in the Midst of Tension” is all about. It’s about having a support system in place, having health in our whole life, and finding joy in the journey.

If we tell ourselves that I’ll be happy once I can meet “ABC” goal, the problem is that the goalposts are always moving. You got a nice car, now you have to get a nicer car. You have 1,000 twitter followers, now you have to get 2,000. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades. Etc.

Or, our happiness is dependent upon the state of our inbox and to-do list. When there’s a stack of emails to go through, we’re low. When we have inbox zero, we’re high.

How many of us are putting off rest and happiness until we buy just one more thing or accomplish just one more goal?

People say find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. But I love to work. Find a job you love, and you get to work every day of your life.

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor makes the case that success doesn’t bring happiness. But, rather, happiness will lead to success. And not just that the happy person feels successful (which they do), but that the happy person also attains the levels of success for which others are clamoring toward. Meaning: The Happiness Advantage is that happiness gives you and your team a competitive edge.

Put another way, if you think that once you attained a certain level of success in your career or finances that then you’ll be happy, then it’s likely that neither will happen. But if you choose to be happy now, then you it’s likely that you’ll also be successful.

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In our “choose yourself” economy, many people are looking to build an audience. And I think especially so within those of you who are listening to this show.

I’m a huge proponent of Kevin Kelly’s idea of 1,000 true fans — it was how I was able to make a living writing and publishing my websites.

But when you seek to build 1,000 true fans you’re also quite likely to get 10,000 haters along the way. Well, it just seems like 10,000. The vocal minority who think what you do is a waste of space, is noise in the system, is unoriginal, uninspired, or just plain bad.

The haters are going to hate. And if we base our mood on their feedback then it will rob us of joy and happiness in the journey of doing our work.

In short, doing our best creative work is frightful. It could fail. People could reject it — or worse, be apathetic about it.

And yet, the secret to doing our best creative work is to have fun. To delight in the journey. To work from a positive state rather than neutral or negative.

Back on the 5th episode of this show, I had my friend Patrick Rhone on as a guest. We were giving advice for people wanting to build an online audience for their writing, and one of the foundational principles we both agreed on was the immeasurable importance of having fun.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, publishing your creative work to the internet for all the world to see is often a very not-fun thing to do.

How do we have fun? How do we increase our baseline happiness levels? How do we use that to our advantage to create meaningful work?

Well, I’ve said before that isolation, ambiguity, fear, anxiety, shame, doubt, comparison, and disillusionment can all stifle our creativity and choke out any fun from our lives.

And then things like community, clear goals, trusting your gut, experience, rest, and diligence can boost our ability to do our best creative work.

Moreover, we need whole-life health. Or work/life balance. Things like rest and meditation, exercise, generosity, meaningful relationships, acts of kindness, meaningful experiences, and more. These give us perspective on life, raise our baseline mood of happiness, and ultimately they make it easier for us to dance with our fears and do our best creative work.