Find happiness in your career

Find happiness in your career

July 2, 2007

How to Keep Your Job While You Find Your True Path in Life

By David Pollay

Andy Rooney, journalist and television commentator, once wrote, “I”ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you”re climbing it.” The science of Positive Psychology backs Rooney’s wisdom.

Research by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman has demonstrated that when people have the opportunity to use their natural strengths, experience positive emotion and engage in meaningful activities, they are happy. Seligman’s research points to the importance of the voyage of life, not just the final port of call.

Last week I told you to take a “Fill Year” if you are searching for your true path in life. In a Fill Year, you explore the activities that engage your strengths, and the activities that are gratifying to you. Whatever interests you, pursue it. Get out and try things. Do as 13th Century poet and mystic Jalaluddin Rumi advised: “Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”

But then some of you wrote to me and asked, “What if I want to explore my interests without having to give up my job?” The answer – start a Fill Year project at work. With a little planning and creativity, you can find opportunities to explore your interests with the blessing and support of your company.

Consider how you might participate in company initiatives related to your interests. What events does your company sponsor that you could attend? What volunteer activities could you sign up for, or plan? Which task forces or committees could you join? Which training sessions could you attend? Which ones could you lead? What party could you organize? What employee recognition event could you design? What educational session could you coordinate? Who could you mentor? What research could you conduct? What newsletter could you write?

Find out who shares your interests in your company. Form groups. Join organizations. Go to events together. When I worked for MasterCard, I went to lectures after work with members of other departments. Our exploration together led to an even better partnership at work. What could you do with senior management? What could you do with your team? What could you do with another department?

Companies love to see their employees participate in team-building activities inside and outside of work. What fun and interesting activities would your company support? When I worked for Yahoo!, I used to give my employees a budget each month to plan events that brought our department together. What activities could you arrange?

Now, what if you”re contemplating a new career or opening your own business? Follow my grandfather’s advice. He used to say, “If you want to go into the stationery business, work in a stationery store.” His message was to learn first, then decide if you want to take the plunge. Use some of your Fill Year to work part-time or volunteer in a business that you”re interested in. Do it for the experience, not for the money.

“Autotelic” is my favorite “big” word. It means, “having an end or purpose in and not apart from itself.” It comes from the Greek word “autotelis” which translates to “complete in itself.” Your Fill Year goal is to engage in as many autotelic experiences as possible. You choose activities that are meaningful to you no matter where they might take you. These activities are worth doing for their own sake.

I went to a “how to write professionally” seminar after work with colleagues from another department at MasterCard; I thought it would be interesting. Ten years and two companies later, I”m now a syndicated newspaper columnist.

Follow your interests. You never know where they will take you.