Key to happiness at work is determining whether you derive personal satisfaction and benefit from an activity, writes columnist Marshall Goldsmith.
I’d like to help you find out exactly where it is you’re living. I don’t mean get a map and pinpoint your street address. We all know where we sleep at night. But we may not be fully aware of where we live emotionally, especially in relation to the meaning and happiness we derive from work.
In analyzing our relationship to our work, consciously or not, we run everything through two filters: short-term satisfaction — happiness — and long-term benefit — meaning. Both have value.
When we ask ourselves “Does this activity make me happy?” we’re attempting to measure the short-term satisfaction we get from an activity. When we ask ourselves, “Are the results achieved from this activity worth my effort and will they pay off some day?” we’re trying to measure that activity’s long-term impact or meaning. There’s not much in our lives that isn’t overshadowed by a sense that the clock is ticking, and time is passing.
My daughter, Kelly Goldsmith, an assistant professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and I developed the Mojo Survey to help us understand how respondents experience meaning and happiness. Participants were asked to describe elements of work and home life that scored high or low in meaning and happiness. Surviving
is our term for activities that score low on short-term satisfaction and low on long-term benefit — activities we do just to get by. When our survey respondents were asked to describe surviving activities, at work and home, the term chores was frequently used. Stimulating
describes activities that score high in short-term satisfaction but low in long-term bene?t. Non-business chatting with co-workers is one example: fun in the short term but not career-enhancing in the long term. Sacrificing
describes activities that score low in short-term satisfaction but high in long-term bene?t. At work, sacrificing might be spending extra hours on a project you don’t like to enhance your career prospects. Sustaining
is for activities that produce moderate amounts of short-term satisfaction and lead to moderate long-term benefits. Responding to professional emails might be a classic sustaining activity in the Internet age. At work, survey participants listed completing mid-level assignments or required reading as sustaining.