Why Work is a Component of Happiness

May 30, 2018

Eternal sunshine..

It wasn’t too many years ago I thought the answer to happiness was eternal beach bumming.  Without responsibility, without care.. Without purpose.

I used to think constant work, whether for yourself or – especially – for someone else was modern slavery.  I bought into the meme ‘your life is more than work and bills’.


I’m not so sure anymore.

I should articulate right now, I still think most people – myself included – are most happy relaxing at the beach.  If you don’t enjoy the beach, get the fuck outta’ here and see a therapist or someone of the sort.


I still think paper pushing under fluorescents is drudgery, you’re better off working for yourself and you’re not living to the fullest if work is your only hobby.


But I’ve come to learn working monotonous, low paying, and grinder jobs have their place.  There’s no shame in working for someone else, whether it’s for an intermediate term, or for the long haul.  And eternal freedom without direction is not all it’s cracked up to be.


Work is a enormous part of life.  And that’s for a reason.  You see, happiness is found where what the world needs, intersects with what you can offer.


Levels of happiness..

Happiness is a fleeting state.  It’s not something you can just acquire and have all the time.  Also, there are different types of happiness.  Your entire life won’t be sunshine and rainbows 27/7/365, but you can certainly come close if you focus on the highest level of happiness.


Level 1: Pleasure

This happiness is the easiest to acquire.  It can literally be bought and sold.  This is your dopamine rush.  It includes sex, eating good food, taking drugs, working out, adrenaline sports and new experiences.  Anything satisfying.

This happiness is quickest to come, and quickest to leave.  Unfortunately the highs from a lot of these pleasure inducing activities can leave us low later on, and an excess can actually lead to unhappiness and addiction.


Level 2: Wellbeing

This level of happiness takes a bit more work and is more consistent or lasting.  This happiness is something you need to work at.  It can be described as your situation in relation to others and how you feel about yourself and your life.  If you’ve been eating healthy, developing positive habits, making strives in your work and hobbies and seeing some success.  You will probably confessed if asked ‘are you happy?’ that you are.


Level 3: Realizing your purpose

This takes some time and experience.  In fact, not everyone will reach this level of happiness unfortunately.  The highest level of happiness, and then nearly eternal form of it is found when you find your purpose and are able to give back to the world in some meaningful way.

I believe a key to this level of happiness is that your purpose must impact numbers of people.  This could be a defining factor between the levels.


For example; you may find pleasure in painting, it may increase your wellbeing and be a form of meditation.  But unless it can help or affect others in some way, it won’t help you reach your top level of happiness.  


I would see a painter realizing their highest level of happiness if their work is appreciated by the public and they are able to support themselves on their work.


Dues must be paid..

Looking at the previous paragraph, you may notice that these levels of happiness could be achieved in that order, by various ages.  You party and experience much carefree pleasure in your early twenties.  If you haven’t fucked up too much,  you’ve probably made some moves, began to build a lifestyle and have been progressing in your late 20’s and 30’s.  In your later years, after much experience and work you’re beginning to find your true purpose.  You’ve built the skills necessary to be able to execute on making an impact.


Building the skills necessary, having the experience to know your purpose.. All of this takes time.  And everyone must start somewhere.  That’s generally the bottom, despite what our overly educated and naively entitled millennial minds might think or expect.


I’ve gone through a lot of jobs, continuously starting over on the bottom rung.  Wholly dissatisfied, because I thought my degree might have earned me some sort of super-jump-start.  


Anyone else?


But that’s not the case.  You need to grind, make your way, develop skills and relationships.  Develop an understanding of the work you’re doing.  You must see lots of failure.  


In most cases starting at the bottom is a shitty reality.  Most people go through these periods.  The key is to get through them as fast as possible.  Maybe balance these times out with some pleasure inducers to take the edge off.


Servants & masters..

Another reality of developing skills, is working for other people.  It’s much safer to develop yourself on someone else’s dime than to trial by error yourself throwing your own dollars away without any experience.  Though sometimes trial by fire can be quicker and much more lucrative.


I still really struggle with the idea of working for other people.  Obviously the potential of spoils are much larger when it’s your business.  But so are the risks, time involvement necessary, workload and stress.  Life is much simpler if you merely collect a paycheck from another person or company.  It’s also much safer and more reliable.


Depending on your definition of happiness though, having an employer can be an obstacle in achieving your highest purpose.  


Of course some people will have paths that don’t interfere with providing a service to the world, in fact some will be even better enabled to reach their purpose and deliver something through employment.  


But for a lot of people, a job and their purpose will clash.



All this time, now what?..

Why do most people work?  Some are lucky enough to find something they love, or a way they can give back to others, others for the power they are able to yield from their work.  But for the majority it’s about the money.  Why do people need money?  First off survival, then to have nice things and maybe one day to be able to have all that plus some power and freedom.


I mentioned in the beginning I thought the key to life was a permanent vacation.  I also wrote I’m beginning to believe otherwise.  Now I haven’t spent 6 months in Thailand taking a mini-retirement – yet.  But I have had periods and summers of funemployment that were tasty experiences.  It’s nice, don’t get me wrong.  But there is forever something missing.

Happiness is a fleeting state.  It’s human nature to habituate to our circumstances.  Eventually doing nothing on a beach will get boring.  You need work.  You need projects.  Must of all you need a purpose.  And work provides that.

Your work***

I also mentioned above; Happiness is found where what the world needs intersects with what you can offer.


Find something you love, or are good at, or hell.. Something you can stand doing, that the world needs.  And you will be provided with purpose – and hopefully some cash as well.


Concluding remarks..

Running away to the beach isn’t the answer for sustainable happiness.  The most potent form of happiness come from realizing your purpose, a purpose which others find value in.  This purpose is undoubtedly going to manifest itself into some form of work.


Finding this purpose, and building the skills necessary that allow you to execute will not happen overnight.  You will need to grind, sacrifice and bleed to get there.


Whether you work for yourself, or someone else, as long as you are providing some value in something you relatively enjoy.  You will find happiness.


Then the time you do spend at the beach, will be even sweeter.

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  • Currently located in China, teaching English and working towards Financial Freedom. I write about money, travel, personal development and more!


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