If your happiness and your work aren’t the same thing, you’re doing the wrong work, or working the wrong way. Change.—Martha Beck, Daily Coach Tips
I like Martha Beck. I think she’s smart. I’ve read several books that she’s written and have been following her column in O, the Oprah magazine for years. About a year ago, I signed up for “Martha’s Quote of the Day” from her website: www.marthabeck.com and the quote above is one I got last week.
It seems like a pretty obvious statement, but then I thought about it longer than thirty seconds. When I left my job in 2005, I was working the wrong way and I was certain—mistakenly, as it turns out—that I also was doing the wrong work. I discovered during my sabbatical that one of the root causes of my misery was that I was working the wrong way and I didn’t hate my work.
If you’re unhappy at work, I would ask you to consider whether you might be working the wrong way. First, you have to define what “wrong” is for you.
I believe most of us work at things we’re good at. And if we’re good at something, then I also believe that it makes us happy on some level. The actual work itself is probably not what makes us unhappy at work. As I get older, I discover that more and more the “how” has a bigger impact on me than the “what.” I love my current job: chief diversity officer for Siemens AG. I dislike my travel schedule: I flew around the world four times in the last 14 months and some months I’m away from home 25 nights out of 30. While I always enjoy being somewhere new, I hate the travel it takes to get there. No matter how many tricks I employ to distract myself—the packing, unpacking, standing in line, getting on the plane, getting off the plane, traveling to the hotel, sleeping in a strange bed—all adds up and not even the TV series Bones on my iPod can distract me from the indignities of today’s travel. But, travel is just one component of how I do my job and without it, I would not have the experiences that I love. For example, I just spent four days in Russia and had amazing experiences that I will always remember. The trade-off is worth it at this time. Maybe at some point, it will not be worth it—I’ve learned that as long as I periodically review what makes me happy (and unhappy) at work I can change as I need to, before it becomes a crisis.
I would encourage you to think about what Martha’s quote means for you; it’s a great way to discover what could be causing you to be unhappy at work.