Rather than pursuing happiness at work, chase after purpose instead

Here’s a story for older workers still grinding it out on the 9 to 5 treadmill.

Forbes reported only half of workers enjoy job satisfaction. That can be a problem because happiness is an elusive goal.

“The pressure to appear happy, even when you are not, is stress and anxiety-inducing, which can take a toll on your mental and physical health,” Jack Kelly wrote.

Anyone who has ever been counseled about having a “bad attitude” on the job knows what it feels like to maintain an appearance of happiness when the thought of another day of drudgery on the job is depressing.

Instead of chasing happiness, Jack urged workers to seek meaning and purpose instead because those can be much more beneficial not only to the company, but to workers, too.

The way to find meaning and purpose on the job is to evaluate how your occupation can positively contribute to society, your local community and the lives of the people around you, he explained.

While your job may require you to endlessly restock shelves, your purpose ensures that people are able to find and buy the things they need, when they need them the most.

“By pursuing meaning and purpose in your job, you’ll feel that you’re working toward a greater cause and mission,” Jack wrote. “When you feel that you are on a mission, work doesn’t feel like drudgery. This mindset will energize you and provide inner joy and satisfaction from doing something important.”

Having a mindset that your job really has meaning to other people works to help persevere through setbacks and obstacles.

I recall my first journalism job, which was editing the Holloman Air Force Base weekly newsletter in the mid-1980s. I truly hated every day I was in the military. It was too rigid and it seemed people were far more concerned about whether my hair touched my ears than whether I produced another successful issue without help.

The office environment was toxic. The workload was heavy. It didn’t help that my boss was having an affair with a co-worker. Yet, I thrived on the job because I could see how important my role was to connecting other people to the base’s overall mission.

Like I do with Forward From 50, I truly enjoyed interviewing successful people about what made them so successful. When someone was featured in a story or had their picture appear in the paper, I knew extra copies were being sent to friends and family around the world.

Helping others to feel important worked to make me feel important, too.

I’d get compliments about my writing and photography skills from others on the base, even though praise from my immediate supervisors was infrequent, at best. Yet, the praise I did receive from others prompted me to persevere in making the “Sunburst” the second best newspaper in all of the Tactical Air Command in 1986.

“Having a sense of personal fulfillment through meaningful work extends beyond the workplace, positively impacting various areas of life and contributing to overall happiness,” Jack wrote.

“A career that provides a sense of purpose, aligns with your values and allows you to make a positive impact can be incredibly fulfilling, even if the day-to-day work isn’t always filled with moments of happiness,” he added.

So, if you dislike your job and can’t really switch positions, look for how your work improves the lives of other people. Use that to drive your purpose until you can make a change to a position better suited to your unique abilities, or to a company which offers a better environment.

Jack’s story can be read in full at www.forbes.com.