What makes us happy at work? Money? Stability? Lack of stress? Not really, it turns out, but these are elements that we might think of if we were asked.

A recent article in Forbes talked about the elements of our employment that really impact our happiness and the author was surprised.  Are you?

  1. Autonomy–Having control over what you’re doing and when you are doing it is a huge boost to happiness at work.  Whether you are most comfortable having a predictable routine and knowing when you are finished for the day or whether you like to have an individual plan for each day and vary the pattern, having a choice is empowering.  And that empowerment affects your productivity and your work product.
  2. Mastery–When you start a new job, it is such a relief when you finally feel like you have your feet under you. It takes about 90 days. Before that time, there is no reason to be concerned about not quite having it all together.  But after that, when you’re trained and acclimated, what makes us happy is continuing to learn, to improve our skills, to bring more innovation to our work. If your employer doesn’t offer “continuing education” opportunities, seek them out yourself. It will increase your value–and your happiness–to keep learning.
  3. Purpose–We need to feel that we are contributing to something larger than ourselves.  This is where we can all benefit from thinking like an entrepreneur. Even if you work for a large corporation, if you think of yourself as your own business, everything you do is contributing to a bigger goal. You really aren’t just a cog in a machine, you are a living, breathing, growing business. If your employer is committed to giving back, even better. Get involved in community service projects and you will have a higher level of commitment to your job as well.
Your job can be stressful, it can be uncertain, it can even pay less than an ideal salary.  But if you have control over your life, can be actively learning, and see a purpose in your work, stress feels more like excitement, uncertainty like spontaneity, and even money is less important than making a difference.

Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative