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The Five Pillars of Workplace Happiness

How to get happy at work.

Research in positive psychology has determined the elements that lead to a happy and fulfilled life. Those same factors are even more relevant to work life. Here are the five pillars of workplace happiness. How many do you have in your current job? How can you achieve workplace happiness?

Meaning. Does your work have purpose? Does your labor lead to benefits for others? Certain jobs, like those in the helping professions - health, teaching, counseling - obviously have meaning, but even more mundane jobs can have a sense of meaning and purpose. Reframe your current job in customer service ("I'm providing what others need and making it a pleasant experience"), or manufacturing ("Our products are reliable and provide years of service to buyers") to find the meaning.

Engagement. This is the concept of "flow" - do you become so immersed in your job that time is irrelevant and the work seems natural, pleasant and fulfilling? Engagement is easier to achieve if the job makes good use of your talents and skills.

Accomplishment. Do you achieve goals (personal or company- or industry-wide) in your work career? This includes being recognized for your contributions, and your mastery at your job. My sister is an outstanding and recognized librarian and that helps her get through the more mundane aspects of her job and her lengthy commute to and from work each day.

Relationships. Do you have high-quality relationships with others at work? As in all aspects of life, having good relationships with our supervisors, colleagues, and supervisees is critical. Research clearly shows that the greatest amount of stress and dissatisfaction at work is caused by bad interpersonal relationships.

Positive Emotion. Are you upbeat and optimistic at work? Positive emotions and an optimistic outlook on life are key drivers of workplace happiness (and happiness in life, generally).

1. Look for the meaning in your job. It's typically there, you just might not see it.

2. Search for jobs and tasks that use your talents and those that you find engage you.

3. Set goals that you find meaningful. Celebrate (and reward yourself) for achieving those goals and for career accomplishments.

4. Work hard to develop good interpersonal relationships on the job. Put energy into those relationships, in the same way that you would put energy into a friendship.

5. Try to focus on the positives. Be optimistic. Wear a smile (you will be surprised at how this will both make you happy and improve the moods of those around you).

You students of positive psychology will realize that this is based on the work of Marty Seligman. Here's a link to his new book, Flourish:…

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