Happiness is…finding meaning at work

Happiness is…finding meaning at work

Got meaning? Creating a Why to Work – Are you and those you lead finding meaning at work?

for Psychology Today by Wendy Ulrich

My father used to say that for people to be happy they need something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. He said this long before anyone had invented positive psychology, back when happiness was the domain of philosophers, priests, and maybe pushers, but held little interest for science. My father was not an especially happy man I should point out, but I think he hit a triple with his definition of happiness. Even as a teenager, however, I always thought he came just short of a home run, and after twenty years as a practicing psychologist I haven’t changed my mind: To be happy, most people also need to round that last home base: something to believe in. We need a sense of meaning, of purpose, of connection with something bigger than ourselves. We need a “why” to go with the how’s and who’s and when’s of our lives.

My husband Dave Ulrich and I wrote The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations that Win (see thewhyofwork.com) because work is a universal setting (like family or community or church) for people to meet our universal need for meaning. Dave specializes in leadership and human resources, not psychology, and it has been an interesting process for us to write a book together, trying to meld and merge our quite different perspectives on how business leaders and employees alike can become meaning-makers. I think it is fair to say that Dave and I are both meaning junkies: we get a real high from the work we respectively do and can’t quite imagine what life would be like if we didn’t. I guess with this book we really have become pushers, trying to convince others that meaning is both a high worth pursuing and extremely profitable.

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