Purpose before happiness

  • Written by Nelson T. Dy
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 284

RECENTLY, Jobstreet released a study showing that the Philippine Job Happiness Index had slipped from 5.25 last year to 4.97 this year. This uses a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely unhappy and 10 extremely happy. Millennials, who make up almost a fifth of the Filipino workforce today, averaged a score of 4.95.

Interestingly, 33% of the respondents said that a salary increase would make them happier in the next six months, while another 23% wished to resign and get a new job.

Have you noticed that the elements cited for happiness are short-term and external? Nothing wrong in wanting a bigger paycheck or moving to a greener pasture. What I am proposing is that we seek a different kind of happiness, one that is long-term, intrinsic and, yes, deeper. The key is to realize that happiness is a by-product. Chase happiness itself and it will elude you. Do the right things, though, and happiness will come to you.

Happiness is a by-product of purpose. Many workers talk about making an impact on the world or making a difference through their work.  But without a purpose, how do you know you are making that “impact” or “difference”? Therefore, define your purpose and don’t limit it to your own wants.

Here’s the thing. It seems we are hardwired to find our happiness by serving other people. I read of an experiment where two groups of people were given the same amount of spending money. The twist is that one group was told to use the money to help someone else. The other group was told to spend it on themselves. Subsequent testing showed that the first group was happier than the second.

Therefore, if you want to be happy in your job, work for a cause higher than and beyond yourself. Don’t work so that you can have more money. Sure, a bigger paycheck can buy you a new gadget… only for that gadget to get obsolete quickly and you’d wish for an even bigger paycheck. It will never end.
Rather, harness your unique set of skills, personality and experiences to deliver value to others. There is a haunting quote by Frederick Buechner which goes “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
So resolve to give value to your company and the community in general. What value? Well, what do you do that you’re really good at and enjoy doing? You can be an architect with a mission to provide beautiful homes for families to enjoy. You can be a doctor who finds satisfaction in saving lives and promoting well-being. You can be a contact center agent who gets a kick out of solving a customer’s problems.  You get the idea.
Once you have learned the secret that happiness is a by-product of purpose, i.e. living beyond yourself and giving value to others, you will experience a weird thing. Gradually, that bigger paycheck will lose its luster. You will take personal responsibility for your own career development and training opportunities, if that is what it takes to fulfill your purpose. You will be filled with a soul-deep joy that a million bucks cannot buy.
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