The Pursuit of Happiness & Unrealistic Expectations

Contrary to popular belief: the more you strive for happiness at work, the more likely you’ll be disappointed.

According to a recent study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, if it’s your belief that you should be happy at work, you may be suffering from “the dark side of happiness.”

This means that the desire to have an exciting office experience is feeding your disappointment with your current work environment. Enjoying the workplace is a new idea promoted by a shift in importance of work benefits that intensified after Fortune announced that employees at top companies enjoyed pool halls, naps, and video game lounges. Images of co-workers smiling and chatting during water cooler exchanges became obsolete.

Employees who compare their workplaces to these rare examples are more inclined to develop a “grass is greener” complex and believe they should be happier at work since others are experiencing better. This opinion encourages the belief that if your current situation is not the most pleasing to you, you should change it.

The dark side of this belief is that it doesn’t take into consideration your full situation. Although happiness is often beneficial to one’s self-worth, it may not be advantageous in every context.

With the Department of Labor reporting national unemployment rates of 9.2 percent, most people are holding on to their current jobs simply out of fear of the emotional turmoil unemployment would bring.

Instead of comparing, strive for daily happiness at work by setting aside a few moments for restorative thinking and personal fulfillment. Remember: you are more than your work. Stop thinking that work life should be a certain way. Ultimately, it’s those unrealistic expectations that are stopping you from enjoying what you currently do.

While we all believe that we need to be happy at work, we need to understand that happiness isn’t a realistic measure for all aspects of our lives. Instead, one should focus on the beliefs that are most valuable to each individual situation, like maintaining one’s standard of living and having money for retirement.

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this post for consideration during my summer internship. As it was never utilized, I am posting it myself as public information. This piece was originally written by me, I did not sign a nondisclosure agreement, and I am receiving no monetary gain by posting this, so there should be no dispute.

Yasheaka Oakley Owens

Yasheaka Oakley Owens is the owner of YOakleyPR, a woman-owned small business that provides public relations, social media, and online marketing support services to small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

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