Let's start things off with some words of wisdom from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”
Finding happiness in a job or career choice relies on looking at happiness from several different perspectives, since happiness is defined by our unique biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches to life.
First, a little psychology.
In this article, I will discuss finding happiness in a career from the perspective of having an internal locus of control. The psychological concept of locus of control was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since been used to define mindset.
Locus of control refers to the extent to which individuals believe they can control the events in their lives – or in this case, their happiness.
When a person has an internal locus of control, s/he believes she/he is in control of his/her own destiny. The opposing side is having an external locus of control, which refers to the extent an individual believes external forces play a role in happiness.
1. It's not about the money.
When you're looking at establishing a career or finding work that makes you happy, it isn't always about the money. Although it's fun to fantasize about high-paying power jobs, most people earn solid middle-income salaries.
There are so many things that determine the salary you make for a given job. Things like geography, job availability, environment, economic conditions, and your level of experience all factor into the financial equation.
Don't pass up a chance at happiness by ruling out a job or career solely because of the salary it pays. For example, if you're working as an accountant because it pays well, but in your heart of hearts you really want to be a construction worker, you'll never be happy.
While your earning potential should be a consideration, be sure to weigh other aspects of the job, such as whether it satisfies your personal interests and values while allowing you to meet and possibly even exceed financial obligations.
For example, what if you could earn a high salary but you had to travel away from your family 75 percent of the time? What if you didn't believe in the product or industry? What if you were obligated to a contract in a geographical area you didn't enjoy? All of these reasons and more should be considered before choosing a career solely for money.
2. It's all about attitude.
Here at Kuder, attitude is essential. In fact, a quote by Charles Kendall Adams is provided to all associates to inspire a positive attitude: “No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction.”
This is absolutely true in finding happiness in a job. If you tend to view the world from a skeptical or negative point of view, then it doesn't matter what job you find, you'll never find happiness.
If you tend to approach the world with an open-minded and optimistic manner, then you can probably find satisfaction in many careers. Again, viewing this approach as an internal locus of control, you would find happiness from your perspective on life rather than your circumstances.
3. Know who you are.
Now that we've looked at the pitfalls of making a high salary your top priority and approaching a career with a positive attitude, it's time to talk about the importance of knowing who you are. Self-awareness is a critical part of the equation.
Completing career assessments – like the ones in the Kuder Career Planning System® – can provide you with information and insights on your personal interests, skills, and work values, and give you a list of careers that you should consider based on your results.
Know yourself, make decisions for yourself, and choose your career based on self-knowledge.
4. Embrace mistakes and celebrate accomplishments.
Let's face it, you will make mistakes, and that's OK. The secret is that we all make mistakes, but happiness is derived from learning from our mistakes. So plan for the worst and expect the best. Sometimes you might not fit in the culture of a company but the job is right, and other times the job is wrong but the people you work with are great. In either case, you'll learn and grow.
Enjoy where you are and seek out the best. I don't recommend or insinuate that you should job-hop, but not all positions work out and sometimes not all career choices work out. On the other hand, make sure to celebrate your accomplishments like earning certifications, working outside your comfort zone, or finding a really good job fit.
In the end, there might be a few unexpected detours on the road to career happiness. Just remember that you're not alone. You have a network of people you can call on for help and there are also professionals out there with good advice to help you find and sustain happiness in your career.
To learn more about how career assessments can help you identify the job that’s right for you, read Landing Your Dream Job.
This article first appeared in the Kuder Blog October 6, 2015