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The Surprising Truth About Work and Happiness

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No matter what you’re doing to improve your business, it’s always a good time to reassess how we think about work. That’s why a startling revelation about what makes us happy is a powerful place to begin the conversation.

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, the science of happiness has changed dramatically in recent times:

As an experimental social psychologist who has been studying happiness for almost 20 years, I’m often asked, “What makes people happy?” Until a few years ago, my answer always reflected the common wisdom and empirical findings in my field – “It’s relationships, stupid.” That is, I always responded that our interpersonal ties – the strength of our friendships, familial bonds, and intimate connections – show the highest correlations with well-being.

Imagine my surprise then, after Ed Diener, Laura King, and I conducted a meta-analysis (a “study of studies”) of 225 studies of well-being. I wholly expected to discover that social relationships – more than any other variable – would be both causes and consequences of being happy. However, what I observed was something rather different. One factor towered over relationships in its connection with happiness. That factor was work.

This message flies in the face of popular notions about work. A popular saying advises us to “work to live, but do not live to work.” Many warn about the dangers of burnout. The immensely popular movie Fight Club (based on Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel of the same name) includes the legendary quote “you are not your job.” Why would would a leading social psychologist be telling us otherwise?

Business Improvement: Happy at Work

© Flickr user insouciance

Lyubormisky goes on to explain:

The evidence, for example, demonstrates that people who have jobs distinguished by autonomy, meaning and variety – and who show superior performance, creativity, and productivity – are significantly happier than those who don’t.

The Methodology Blog has a long history of covering the relationship between productivity and satisfaction. As the Psychology Today continues, the two are inextricably connected:

The story doesn’t end there, however. Studies reveal that the causal direction between happiness and work runs both ways. Not only do creativity and productivity at the office make people happy, but happier people have been found to be more creative and productive. They are better “organizational citizens” (going above and beyond their job duties), better negotiators, and are less likely to take sick days, to quit, or to suffer burnout.

If you’re looking for a way to increase personal productivity, try this one for size: Allow yourself to enjoy work, and  acknowledge that satisfaction will lead to greater productivity. There is power in being conscious about what you do. And come hear one of our Indianapolis speakers! We would love to see you in the room.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
What would happen if instead of repeating the claim, we all took 30s to search the web and get more context or even see if it’s true? - 9 hours ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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