What Really Makes Us Happy at Work

When you think about the perks of your perfect job, the one that would guarantee perfect happiness at last, what do you imagine? If you're like most of us, you're probably envisioning a giant stack of cash, or perhaps a parade every year on your birthday, in which everyone is forced to dress up like you and march through your home town singing your favorite pop songs. (Just us? OK.) In a post at Forbes, however, Erika Anderson suggests that just being in charge of our own lives might be more important than either cash or floats.

Anderson was inspired by a study that found that the five happiest jobs were 1) software quality assurance engineer, 2) (tie) executive chef and property manager, 4) bank teller, and 5) warehouse manager.

"My initial reaction, quite honestly, was that all these jobs sound stressful, boring, or both (sorry). So then I got curious — why are people in these jobs so happy with their work?" she wrote.

She then thought of Dan Pink's book, "Drive," which states that people want the following things from their jobs: "1) Autonomy — the desire to direct our own lives. 2) Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves."

In other words, being a warehouse manager might not be loads of fun. Parades and stacks of cash are probably rather thin on the ground. But you might well get a great deal of satisfaction from that work, because you feel good at your job, in charge of your work, and that you're doing something absolutely crucially necessary to the success of the larger organization. And that counts for a lot more than some of the other, more ephemeral things we tend to think we value most.

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