As Albert Schweitzer said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
In our previous blog post we referenced Jordan Bates’ article in which he raises the point that in whatever you are doing, enjoyment should always be the goal. Whilst this may sound idealistic and self-indulgent, it is actually a very realistic and necessary criterion for the motivated mind-set which leads to a productive working life.
On a Quora thread asking ‘What is your ultimate source of motivation?’ Hawaii –based writer Eric Lauritzen answered very candidly, ‘When I lack motivation to do something, it’s because I don’t want to do it.’ Lauritzen has identified the very simple, very real obstacle behind a lack of motivation; if your desire does not align with your obligation, you are trying to accelerate off into the distance with the handbrake on.
Far from being a fanciful rationalisation for procrastinating, science is on our side with this argument. Forbes contributor Sujan Patel has discussed the link between dopamine levels and motivation, explaining that dopamine, a neurotransmitter which helps to manage the brain’s pleasure centers, also contributes significantly to your willingness to exert effort to gain a reward. Scientists have found through brain-mapping experiments that dopamine production in the reward and motivation portions of the brain rather than the parts dedicated to emotion and risk, results in greater productivity and a more energetic, hard-working attitude. Thus if we are able to harness and focus pleasure-induced dopamine production, we can dramatically increase our chances of striking the desired balance between motivation and willpower, resulting in greater productivity.
But how does this relate to wellbeing in the workplace? While finding a job which makes you excited to get up and get to work each day is obviously the ideal situation, quitting your dependable 9-5 job with a steady income to go chasing your dreams is a risky luxury available to a privileged few. However, by changing your way of thinking and practicing some simple mindfulness techniques, you can find happiness in your job without handing in a resignation.
- Write a list of things that make you happy. Put this list somewhere on display and treat it as a list of rewards. If holidays with your family make you happy, put a framed photo on your desk and designate this in your mind as your treat for working hard. The harder you work, the more you are likely to enjoy that next holiday, as you will feel as though you deserve it.
- Focus on how you do your job. If you objectively feel that your job is not fulfilling, either because it doesn’t interest you or challenge you, then perhaps it is time to look in the mirror for your satisfaction. Acknowledge your successes and triumphs, get in the habit of rewarding yourself for completing tasks you were initially reluctant to start and take pride in the fact that you are doing your job to the best of your ability.
- Change things up. Feeling unfocused? Take a 5 minute walk. Feeling frustrated? Spend a part of your lunchbreak in a place that makes you feel happy and calm. Feeling bored? Try working in a new location. Learning to identify the environments which help you to feel inspired is crucial. These environments vary depending on the individual and the task at hand, but recognising the need to change a working habit that is not benefitting you is an important step in improving your happiness.
Working remotely for many people can be the solution to a happier, more enjoyable working life. This model has been proven, contrary to stereotype, to result in higher levels of productivity. Furthermore, remote workers with the flexibility to work wherever they feel inspired statistically log more hours, not because an arbitrary time limit makes them feel obliged to stay at their desk for as long as possible, but because they want to. Feeling in control of your own working routines and able to achieve a better work-life balance for most people means they are happy while working; as a result, the work itself is not perceived as a chore but a source of pleasure and a facilitator for future happiness.
It is time that we stop viewing our wellbeing and happiness as an added bonus and start seeing it as a crucial component to workplace productivity. Employers and employees need to recognise the need to cater to our happiness, as dopamine is the jet fuel we all need to reach that coveted junction of motivation and willpower. We are human beings, not robots and as such we must cater to our emotional needs if we truly want to make a meaningful and enriching contribution with our working lives.
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