Happiness at work: Money vs. passion

“Money has never made man happy, nor will it; there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has, the more one wants.” – Benjamin Franklin, author, polymath and printer (1706-1790)

Do you live to work or work to live? More importantly, what are you working for?

Take a minute to observe your current work situation. Does your job pay you well that it allows you to afford all the things that you want? If you are working for money, where does your happiness factor into the equation?

In the book “The Happiness Hypothesis,” author Jonathan Haidt explained that humans have the capability to adapt to any situation, regardless of whether they are faced with good fortune or adversity. For example, if you get a new car, you will be elated, at least for the first few months before the excitement wears off and this new level of comfort becomes the new “baseline of happiness.” At the same time, humans will never get tired of being around positive people, pursuing knowledge and having a purpose in life, but they will not be able to adapt to conditions where people are abusive or live in an environment that does not fully engage them.

Unfortunately, some people are stuck in dead-end jobs under the pretext that they have no choice because they have to pay the bills. These people see work as a “job.”1 Those who see a future with their current work and have goals to advance within their fields view work as a “career,” while the rest who find their work rewarding in and of itself see their work as a “calling.”2

It is also possible to shift the status of your work from a “job” into a “calling.” You can do this by first identifying your strengths and aligning your strengths with your work to make the work more meaningful.

One of the ways to identify your strengths is by reflecting on the things that you once loved to do when you were younger and find a way to incorporate your passion into your current job. Someone I know sold stones to his friends when he was in primary school for an art project. He single-handedly picked these stones because he knew that smooth-surfaced stones, which were hard to find would work better for the project than stones with a jagged surface. He found the market to sell his product and developed entrepreneurial skills early on in life that it is no surprise that today he is an accomplished entrepreneur.

While we acknowledge that not many people can change jobs with their financial situations, here are some ways you can turn a job into a calling. If you are currently working for someone, try to explore opportunities at your current workplace where you can contribute your skills. If you love to write, volunteer to write for your company’s blog or newsletter. When you find joy in using your strengths for the work that you do, you will become more optimistic in your role and attain fulfillment, knowing that you are devoting your time and effort into something bigger than yourself.3

So, what do you want to work for?


1,2,3. Jonathan Haidt, “The Happiness Hypothesis”