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Why Your Job Won't Make You Happy

Forget about trying to fix your life by fixing your job. For most of you, the problems in your life have nothing to do with your job. But I've noticed that when people don't like their life, the first thing they go to change is their job.

Happiness in life does not come from jobs. Happiness comes from relationships. Basically, you're born with a happiness set point. Sort of like your weight. So two-thirds of your happiness level is predetermined. If you are a born optimist, you're happier than a born pessimist. (Do you want to know if you're an optimist? Here's a test.)

The best way to increase the part of your happiness level that you can control is to have sex, according to David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College (and happiness maven himself). But when it comes to happiness, not just any sex will do. You need to be having good sex. This would be a good place for a link, right? You want to see that good sex, no doubt. But I have something disappointing for all you smut mongers: Sex that makes you happy is the twice-a-week kind with the same partner. It's called intimacy, and true intimacy is what makes people happy.

This means that you don't need a job that makes more money â€" at least not as a means to achieve happiness. Everyone knows this, but, for some reason, everyone seems to forget it. Once you have the basics, more money just means you'll make different friends, who have more money, and then you'll need more money to feel normal.

Money â€" and feeling like you have a lot â€" is relative. Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of my favorite happiness treaties, "Stumbling on Happiness", says we always think we need 20% more money than we currently have to be happy. It doesn't matter how much you earn, after a year at that salary you'll still think you need 20% more to be happy. This makes sense. If you were a hunter-gatherer and thought you had enough berries, then you'd likely stop gathering berries and then a monsoon would come and you'd starve. But if you always thought you needed 20% more, then you'd be more likely to have an extra stockpile of food in case of a crisis.

So your hunter-gatherer DNA means you don't need better work. You need better sex.

OK, I know that an absolutely awful job can undermine your ability to be a decent sex partner and so, if you believe my line of argument, that can hurt your overall happiness. But before you blame your crappy sex life on your crappy job, figure out if it's really your job. Usually, it's not.

This leads me to the key point for this post: What is it that makes a good job?

Andrew Oswold, professor of economics at the University of Warwick, found that people need autonomy, control, and fellowship. Once you have these things, you will like your job just fine. And this is why the self-employed are happier than people who work for organizations, especially big organizations. This says a lot about what makes a good job, because self-employed people have less stable income, more stressful jobs, and longer hours than people who work for established companies.


So maybe you should rethink what you know about the idea of what is a good job. Lawyers are the most dissatisfied of all professionals, and in the suicide department, they give tollbooth workers a good run for their money. This is because lawyers have very little autonomy (they jump for partners and then for clients) and they have a predisposed penchant for perfectionism, which leads to depression.

Janitors, on the other hand, are generally happy. This is because they have autonomy and they have direct contact with people they are helping. They can see the good they do for their surroundings on a daily basis. I'm not making this up. Sonja Lyubomirsky researches this stuff.

If you want to know, for sure, that it's your job that you need to change, here's a test you can take to find out. And if you want to be as happy as a janitor but you don't like the mopping part, get Lyubomirsky's book, "The How of Happiness". It gives you tons of other things you can do each day to make yourself happy.


One thing that works is to say something nice and unexpected to three people in one day, even just once a week. Try that. Heck, try it in the comments section right now. It'll change your life so much that you might not even need a new job.


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