In the Declaration of Independence it says that we have certain “inalienable” rights, among them being the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Unfortunately, in the workplace, some employees have shortened the last part to just Happiness and have conveniently forgotten about the Pursuit.
And, the Pursuit is everything! Know anybody that feels they are overpaid? How about anyone that was given something for nothing and became a better person? That kind of happiness is fleeting, needs more and more “stuff” to sustain it, encourages a worldview that is selfish, and again, forgets about the Pursuit.
So what is this Pursuit? And what does it have to do with Employee Satisfaction? When you volunteer your time and talents for another person or an organization, you are in the pursuit. When you are engaged in problem solving with a team to make things better, you are in the pursuit. When you are teaching, mentoring, educating and training, you are in the pursuit. The pursuit is about something outside of you. It is the work that is at the foundation of building a better you, but the focus is rarely or never on you.
You see, things that really make us happy in the workplace, over long periods of time, are things like self-confidence, self-esteem, the ability to help another human being or a team or an organization grow, and those can’t be given, they must be earned. And the more we have to overcome, the harder the problems are, when we persevere and finish what we set out to do, the happier we are. Because it is the work that builds the self-confidence and self-esteem that we need for true happiness. It is the chase for perfection that excites and engages us. It is about the Pursuit.
So leaders, use this seeming paradox of life to your advantage and SET HIGH STANDARDS! You want happier employees, don’t settle for average, it will bore them and it breeds unhappy. Instead, partner with them to take it to a new level, help them see the big picture in your organization and their part in it so they can take pride in who they are and what they do. They will need you to challenge them and they will need you to hold them accountable. But they will also need you to encourage them, they will need you to praise them and they will need you to celebrate with them for their successes.
Happiness is a result, not a goal. And the road to true happiness is called the Pursuit. Never forget that.