There are those who believe they have no business to be if they are not being “productive” — completing projects, cornering markets, composing music, choreographing musicals, compéring shows or championing causes. If you are a certified workaholic, take time off for a treat today. Hard work could be the end of the long hunt for happiness. Hard work makes people happy. There is proof. It is not moderation, but martyrdom that keeps you healthy.
Researchers from Gothenburg University in Sweden have been studying published data — hundreds of interviews with people across the world to find out what makes them feel genuinely happy and fulfilled. Of course, there were responses like “winning a lottery” or “achieving a goal at work” or simply “love” but these, the team said gave a temporary high.
Lead researcher Dr. Bengt Bruelde, from the university’s philosophy department concluded, “The important thing is to remain active. From our research the people who were most active got the most joy. It may sound tempting to relax on a beach, but if you do it for too long it stops being satisfying.” Because of the “habituation effect”, the joy of a pay rise or a holiday wore off after a few weeks.
That is it. “Working to achieve a goal, rather than attaining it, makes people more satisfied.” The creative process is more challenging than the conclusion. Running is more exhilarating than breasting the tape. Working for a promotion is more gratifying than the cake, handshake and the garland. Wooing is more thrilling than winning the perfect mate.
And what did dad say when you left home on your first job? Scores of volunteers across the world would rather spend their 2-3 weeks off every year working with NGOs than wading in the waters of a remote beach or keeping pace with a glib-talking guide around a monument. The compensation for their work? Happiness. Ask those who sign up for the deer count at the Guindy Park. That must be some back-breaking work on a Sunday. “I continue to do this as it has been one of the most rewarding and stimulating experiences I have had,” they have said.
But be warned of the small print in this prescription for lasting pleasure. According to Averil Leimon of the British Psychological Society, “Hard work is satisfying, but only if it suits you. The work has to use a person’s strengths, otherwise it can be demoralising.” If work matched one’s capability and inclination, she said, “Happiness is not even linked to the rewards that are on offer.”