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Work and Happiness – A Great Insight for a Happy Life

Most likely people don’t equate work and happiness. Yet the truth of the matter is that these are not mutually exclusive, you can actually achieve happiness, fulfillment and even joy through the work that you do. If this seems a bit unrealistic, it actually can be more easily achievable than most people think.

What Does Work Have to Do with our Happiness?

Dr. Martin Seligman has studied happiness for decades, and he’s figured out it come down to three factors (2002):

  1. When we are involved in tasks and activities that we find personally meaningful, then
  2. We will be fully engaged and motivated by those tasks and activities, and,
  3. We can also find happiness in the pursuit of pleasurable activities.

What is interesting is the third factor, I call it the “fun factor”, actually accounts for the least amount of our happiness, and the first two factors account for the largest proportion of our happiness. This is why the work that we do makes up for such a big part of our contentment and life satisfaction, as that the work we do is highly correlated to our happiness and well-being.

Do You Have a Job, a Career, or a Calling?

What is the difference? Typically Seligman (2002) has found that a job supports our lifestyle. A job provides a pay cheque which generates money to pay our bills. A career generally has a path or career trajectory, where we start in a junior role, and over time advance to more senior roles, with greater responsibilities and higher income. A calling is usually work that holds great meaning, and has a bigger picture focus, where we often make a difference in people’s lives and in the world.

What Kind of Life Do You Want Your Job to Provide?

There are three types of lives according to Seligman (2002), the pleasant life, the good life, and the meaningful life.

  1. The pleasant life is the pursuit of enjoyment, contentment, leisure and satisfaction.
  2. The good life uses our unique strengths, skills and competencies to gain fulfillment and satisfaction through work or other roles in our lives.
  3. The meaningful life uses our knowledge, experiences and virtues to be of service to people and society.

Have you ever given consideration to the strengths, gifts and talents that you have to offer? What about thinking about your interests and values, and how you may give these back through the work that you do, while gaining a lot of contentment and satisfaction in your life? If you feel there is a disconnect between your work and what you want your work to provide for your life, please call or email for a consultation.


Seligman, M.E.P. (2002) Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment. New York: The Free Press.

Susan MacDonald

Dr. Susan MacDonald Ph.D. Registered Psychologist

Calgary-based Dr. Susan MacDonald is a Registered Psychologist with 20 years of experience offering career and personal counselling services to both organizations and individuals.

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