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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

3 Reasons People Use to Explain Why They're Unhappy at Work (and Why They're All Wrong)

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You’re a skeptic. You read career advice telling you to “follow your passion” and “find a career you love,” and while it all sounds great in theory, you’re not buying it.

I get it. As someone who writes about the career space daily, I’ve encountered many people who don’t share the same philosophy as me. People who believe there’s no possible way that you can be as happy at the office as you are outside of it—so you might as well really embrace the idea of “working for the weekends.”

But, as someone who can also say with certainty I’m a better person and employee when I’m enjoying my work, I decided to take on the challenge of refuting this notion.

Here’s why people say it’s impossible to be happy at work—and why they’re wrong:

1. “That’s Why It’s Called Work, It’s Not Supposed to Be Fun”

When I was a kid, I’d regularly ask my dad how his day went—and his response was always, without fail, “work was work.”

We joke about it now, but at the time, all I could think was how miserable it must be to have nothing to talk about at the end of the day—let alone warrant this kind of sad, exhausted response.

Yes, work is work (we’ve even written about this exact concept)—you’ll have bad days, busy days, stressful days, angry days where you want to cry into a pillow. Even I come home sometimes and, when asked how my day went, tell my roommate the same thing my dad used to tell me. But this shouldn’t happen every day.

Why? Because—and this may surprise you—some people actually have jobs in which they’re happy most of the time. Maybe, they even have fun. And it makes them a better employee (just read this article and this one), because they come into the office feeling motivated and excited to get things done.

2. “I Didn’t Choose a Fun Industry and That’s That”

Well, that’s just defeatist.

First off, you’re never stuck in one industry. People change careers all the time into roles that are more interesting to them (just read these stories about people who’ve transitioned from teaching to engineering, from being a lawyer to being a social worker, to working as a mental health counselor to working as a TV producer, and from being a government worker to becoming a beer and wine director).

And also, any industry can be fun if you’re at the right company and passionate about what you’re doing. It’s very possible your job isn’t “fun” because you work for a dysfunctional company or with people you don’t respect, or are a part of projects that you don’t believe in, but not because you work in a “joy-less” field.

3. “Money Makes Me Happy—I Don’t Need to Enjoy How I Make It”

I won’t deny that having money can make your life easier, if not more enjoyable. I also won’t deny that in many situations, it’s not a luxury, but rather a true necesity.

But plenty of research proves that it’s not your key to happiness. One study reported that lottery winners are no happier than losers. Another suggests that focusing our energies on money distracts us from what really makes us happy. And another, probably one of the more famous discoveries, found that our happiness peaks at around $75,000 a year.

But besides all the scientific evidence, think about it this way: You spend about 50 hours a week at work, also known as 30% of your time (and that’s not even factoring in how much we check email after hours). Consider our other life responsibilities (eating, sleeping, chores), and that leaves us with very little time to actually enjoy all the money we make.

If you’re spending most of your days doing one thing, doesn’t it just make sense to like that one thing? Just a little bit?

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that it’s possible (and necessary) to be happy in your role.

I’m not saying that you should drop everything today to pursue something you love. But I believe everyone deserves the best in their career and if you take just one baby step today toward something that’ll make you happy, you’ll see that it can completely change your outlook on work and life.