September 24, 2007

News & Opinion: Ask 8cr! - Happiness

By: Aaron Schleicher @ 4:24 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Welcome to "Ask 8cr!" - a new section of our blog where we've created a forum to find out what kinds of issues and challenges people are having in the workplace. We then take these issues and apply a business book we feel offers a viable solution. Others then chime in via the comments section. The person with the selected challenge gets a free copy of the book, but everyone who reads these posts, wins. Do you have a challenge at work? Send it to me at jon(a)800ceoread(dot)com.
Today's challenge deals with identifying what career path will truly make you happy. Here's a note from one of our readers:
"Currently, I'm a free agent or on sabattical or unemployed ... depends on how one looks at the situation. Have been since early April. Since I've never really known what trips my trigger regarding a job, it's been very difficult to lock into one or two specific areas that I might like. In fact, I know the kinds of jobs I DON'T want to perform. I have an M.A., have worked in theatre management, fund raising, and been an investment advisor. Am ready for something new, but don't know what." - Lynn
Maybe you're like Lynn, looking for work, but sort of dreading all of it in general. Or, maybe you have a job, but it's lost its luster to the point of making you wonder why you even wanted it in the first place. Or, maybe you're completely happy with your position, but have the nagging feeling that the company you're with stinks. Whatever the case, you're looking for happiness - not a job, not a career, not a company. So, how do we predict such things? How can we know what we should really be looking for?
Daniel Gilbert has written an incredible book called Stumbling on Happiness. Using scientific research (he's a Harvard psychologist), humor, and a writing style all of us lay-folk can understand, Gilbert details how the human mind gets used (and not used) that can help us all realize why we've made the decisions we have, and how to set ourselves back on our own paths toward happiness.
Interestingly, Gilbert discusses how people have the strange compulsion to want to "live in the moment," as if doing so will give us a heightened sense of enjoyment. Rather, "living in the moment" is just what inhibits us from fulfilling what our brains are really driving us toward - our interests, and thus, our happiness. Our brains, he says, are built to think about the future. Telling your brain not to think about the future is like telling your heart not to beat so much. From this principle, the book progresses through a series of other examples of how the brain works, and how, in its intricacy, we have the ability to manipulate it to our advantage and disadvantage. Understanding this stuff is huge, as it makes you think much more about how you think. Sounds confusing, but it's something we should do a bit more often to help break out of the patterns that keep us following a path out-of-sync with our true happiness.
Stop stumbling and pick this book up. It's an enjoyable and helpful read for all. And if my opinion isn't good enough, read what Jack Covert had to say about it here.

About Aaron Schleicher

Aaron Schleicher has been the author services specialist at 800-CEO-READ since 2004. You can usually find him hidden under a baseball cap, feet kicked up on his desk, talking with authors, publishers, and businesses. Outside the office you can find him crafting candles, listening to records, and making music with friends and family.