In other words, will having goals make you happy (assuming that happiness is everyone’s ultimate aim, for ourselves and for others)?
A book I have just read called “Happier” (by Tal Ben-Shahar) examines this in more detail and draws some interesting conclusions that all of us who are involved in giving business advice should, I believe, keep in the back of their minds when giving that advice. In a nutshell:
- Happiness as a result of pleasure and purposefulness in life (just one or the other of these is not enough)
- Purposefulness can come from striving for goals (not from achieving them!)
- BUT the goals must be “self concordant” ie consistent with our own personal values and beliefs
- When we are working towards a goal, we can get into a state of “flow”, where the balance between boredom and stress is just right and when time passes very quickly
- We have more of these “flow” experience at work than during our leisure time.
- Money does not create happiness (except in so far as money is the measure by which you judge your progress towards your goals).
The conclusion from this is that should be happier working than playing! This is contrary to all the received wisdom about what “work” is and the anomaly is caused by the fact that there is a deep rooted prejudice in our society against work (including school work and studying). This prejudice creates a barrier that prevents us expected (and therefore getting) any enjoyment or happiness from our work.
Other business writers (including David Maister) have long talked about the fact that financial success inevitably follows from doing work that you enjoy with people that you like.
To me the actions that come out of this are:
- First, read the Happier book yourself
- Then find work that you enjoy doing, and happiness and financial success will follow.
Let me know what you think.