Louis Business Journal
Joy in work
By Anna Navarro
1999 - "Joy in work are you kidding?" For
many people these two concepts just don't go together.
Yet I know that "joy" and "work"
do go together. I experience it every day in my own work.
And for seventeen years, I've been helping other people make
the integration of these two concepts possible in their lives.
first step in attaining joy in work is to ask: "What do I
enjoy doing?" On the surface, that may seem like an easy question
to answer. But for many people, it's not.
When I ask clients what kind of
activities they enjoy, their first response is often to list
their accomplishments. But sometimes when I press, I learn
that they are confusing pride in what they pulled off, or
relief at having met a goal, with true enjoyment.
True enjoyment produces a sense
of absorption or loosing track of time, of being caught up
in what we are doing. It's a minute to minute experience of
satisfaction that comes from the activity itself. It is largely
independent of the outcome or result. It is a sense of flowing
with what you are doing, and enjoying it for its own sake.
A recent example, told with permission
of the person involved, may help illustrate:
My client was a very successful
sales professional who earned in the multiple six figures.
He sold an intangible product, and was only really happy with
his work in those all too fleeting moments when he tallied
up his sales figures and got his paycheck. But the glory and
pleasure of attaining each month's goals was almost immediately
replaced by the need to engage in numerous activities he did
not enjoy in order to meet the next month's goals. Calling
on customers and building relationships was not this man's
idea of a satisfying activity, but it is how he spent most
of his time.
When we first talked about what
he enjoyed, he responded that he liked meeting his sales goals.
But as I probed, I found that he didn't at all enjoy what
it took to meet those goals. He was frustrated and unhappy
most of the time.
To find work satisfaction, this
unhappy sales person needed to discover activities that he
intrinsically enjoyed, and build a career around them.
Why are many of us so out of touch
with what we enjoy? Because it lies buried below many layers
of what we "should" do, like achieving goals or pleasing others
(spouses, parents, bosses, etc.)
It's not that achieving goals or
pleasing others is a bad thing to do. Far from it. But focusing
on them to the exclusion of our own minute-to-minute satisfaction
with work leads to much misery.
Sometimes the difficulty in getting
people to focus on what they enjoy comes from the unconscious
fear that if they do so, they will not earn a high income
or receive much recognition. But I generally find the reverse
to be true. Once people discover what they enjoy doing, and
figure out how to build a career around it, they tend to be
not only happy, but successful as well.
A word of warning: when identifying
experiences we enjoy in order to discover clues for a happy
career, it's important to focus on activities that are task-oriented.
Sitting on a beach may be very satisfying, but it's unlikely
to yield a lot of clues about the kind of tasks a person may
enjoy in work.
The unhappy salesperson I just
described got a sense of satisfaction, a sense of "flow in
the doing" from building a deck on his back yard. As a kid,
he also got a kick of helping his father repair the family
car. When he visited his customers' businesses, he spent more
time than necessary visiting manufacturing operations, because
they fascinated him.
Gradually as we worked he began
to realize that his real joy came from making things, and
that he had a knack for technical and mechanical activities.
As a result of our work, he started
up a small manufacturing company. Today he is happy and successful.
The key to this turnaround for
him came from finally realizing what he enjoyed doing minute
Finding joy in work is not always
an easy thing to do, but since most of us spend more time
working than in any other waking activity, there is a high
payoff for this job of internal sleuthing.
is the founder of Work Transitions, a nationwide career consulting
firm that trains independent career strategists and consults
with individual clients.
was originally published by the St. Louis Business Journal.
The actual title of the column and date in which it appeared
in the Business Journal may be slightly different from what
appears on WorkTransitions.com.