Being Happy at Work is Not The Goal


If you’re an organisational manager/leader, read this article right to the end – it will help you increase the engagement and work-satisfaction of your people (and for yourself)…

Here’s an example where you’ve just got to shake your head and ask “Why bother?” Researchers from the University College London have apparently come up with a mathematical formula for what they refer to as a “computational and neural model of momentary subjective well-being”.
It looks like this

Yep – it’s very blurry… and I was going to get a sharper picture of the model but seriously, it’s just not worth it! Regular readers of this blog will know I’m about to enter my dissertation year of a MSc in applied positive psychology, and it’s research studies like this one above that prove to me why I’m just not cut out for a life in academia.

I’m certainly no statistician, in fact stats and me aren’t good friends, but basically what this formula is supposed to be assessing is all of the components that a person is subconsciously taking into account when someone asks them “on a scale of 0 to 10 how happy are you?” The researchers explain the formula this way “Happiness depends on safe choices (certain rewards, CR), expectations associated with risky choices (expected value, EV), and whether the outcomes of risky choices were better or worse than expected. This final variable is called a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation”.

Good Grief!!!!

Putting the formula to one side, in fact, let’s just ignore it completely, because the question ‘how happy are you?’ is the wrong question to be asking ourselves anyway.

Your Life At Work

However, there is merit in taking stock of our truth about how you are living your life… Not how happy you are, but how you are ‘living’ your life?
I would suggest that this is a more relevant question to ask, and in particular, I’m wondering how you would answer that question about your job role? If you’re a manager and leader of a team of people at work, I wonder how the individual members of your team would answer the question for themselves on how well they are living their lives at work?

For most of us living in the larger cities, our working week takes up about 50+ hours of our life (based on an average 8 hour work day plus 1 or 2 hours commuting). If you consider we typically sleep for 40 hours over our working week (hopefully not while we’re at work), that leaves about 6 hours a day (more likely 4 hours if we’re lucky), or between 20 and 30 hours remaining in our 120 hours of our working week for our personal life. So the question “how well are we living our life at work?” is certainly an important question to ask. Graphically for many, a work day can look a bit like this… (see the picture at the side)...and sorry it’s also a bit blurry – but I think you’ll get the idea).

Taking Stock of A Flourishing Work Life Using Martin Seligman’s PERMA model of flourishing, here’s a great way to take stock of your truth about how well you’re living your life at work: Positivity – to what extent do you believe you are more often in a positive mood at work than a negative mood?

Engagement – to what extent do you believe you are mindfully engaged, inspired and functioning at your best when at work? Relationships – to what extent are you surrounded by intentional trust relationships while at work?

Meaning – to what extent are you experiencing a sense of meaning in completing your work role? Achievement – to what extent are you experiencing a sense of achievement when you do what you do when at work?

And one additional question to help you take stock of your truth about how well you are living your life at work based on the research of Deci & Ryan: Self-determined – to what extent do you believe you have the freedom and autonomy to work on tasks that are aligned with and allow you to live by your personal values?

These six core elements have direct and significant impact on the level a person feels they are flourishing in their lives… when we relate these to the work environment, they give a clear indication as to how well you’re living your life at work… a far better measure than some mathematical formulae on how happy you might be at any given moment. -


David Penglase CSP


David Penglase is a leading authority on Personal and Workplace Prosperity. He is author of Intentionomics (top 10 best-seller on Amazon in two categories), an international conference speaker and corporate educator.

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