Is There a Place for Happiness at Work?
If you had asked me when I was a medical student whether there was a place for happiness at work, I would have laughed in your face! Back then I subscribed to the notion that happiness is a reward gained only through years of blood, sweat and tears.
This notion is not uncommon, especially in the medical profession. There is a prevailing culture of overwork, success-chasing, and little regard for self-care. You earn your stripes by enduring the onslaught of medical practice. I remember one doctor even saying to me: “If you’re not depressed, you’re not doing it right.”
It’s not hard to see that this perspective is not only short-sighted, but also plainly harmful. My own story of burnout sensitized me to the struggles that many healthcare professionals face, and the prevalence of burnout in the profession.
I now know otherwise: happiness is the foundation for sustainable success.
You might be thinking: “Are you kidding me? Are you saying I just need to feel good and I’ll be successful? Isn’t that a bit woo-woo?”
That’s not what I’m saying at all.
First of all, what is happiness? While there are many ways of defining happiness, in essence happiness refers to the experience of positive emotions linked to a deeper sense of meaning. And this is not woo-woo! Huge amounts of research has gone into the study of happiness. There’s an entire field of psychology devoted to it!
So back to my original question: Is there a place for happiness at work?
You be the judge. Here’s what the research says about the effects of happiness at work:
- It increases activity of the brain’s learning centres so that you are better able to organise, retain and retrieve information.
- It increases your ability to think quickly and creatively.
- You become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving.
- You are better able to overcome challenges along the way, making you more resilient in the face of difficulty.
- All of this enhances your ability to build skills and improve your productivity, which in the long run increases your potential for success.
No pain, no gain? I don’t think so. Invest in your happiness, and you will reap the rewards.