Happiness is something that many think they know about. However, when asked to define happiness they usually struggle with the concept. Thinking about happiness, in general, may bring up memories of happy times such as a special celebration. However, happiness at work is not a specific event, it is an ongoing condition.

Happiness at Work

Happiness is an emotion. It may be triggered by an external stimulus; however, the feeling of happiness comes from the emotional response. Moreover, the condition of happiness at work is not an all-or-nothing experience. It can be a conclusion of a general emotional reaction over time and from many circumstances.

Here are four keys to understanding happiness at work:

Key Number 1 — Work Happiness Re-Imagined

We all need to learn how to re-image a positive response to overcome our natural negative mindset. Try this experiment. Ask someone, “What do you want from life?” Most people will respond with a long list of the things that they do not want. They can tell you everything they do not like; however, they are hard-pressed to tell you anything that they want in life.

It is, as if, their definition of happiness is not being unhappy. When we think this through, it is the wrong conclusion. A person who is not unhappy may be many other things besides being happy. For example, they may be bored, not necessarily unhappy, just not engaged.

To create a happy work environment, we do better by defining work happiness as some combination of other factors, such as:

  • Satisfaction
  • Contentment
  • Fulfillment

Key Number 2 — Work Does Not Have to Be Fun

Being fulfilled by work does not mean that work is always fun. Work might be very difficult or challenging and still be very satisfying. Just because work is hard does not make people unhappy doing it.

If you go into a work environment and there is a party going on, that is not doing work. A party might be good for morale but if there was a party going on every day at work, and nothing ever got done, the company would soon fall apart.

Creating a happy work environment means to make work satisfying, not an endlessly fun time.

Key Number 3 — State of Mind

Personal development, recognition, and seeing a career path forward are all helpful in making work a happier experience. The antithesis to this is having a “dead-end” job, being constantly stressed, and feeling hopeless about the lack of prospects.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for our state of mind. We each have personal responsibility and authority to make decisions about our work life. A personal breakthrough comes when somebody realizes that they are responsible for their state of mind.

As a soldier in a war, rockets may be flying overhead and bombs bursting in the air. You could be cowering in fear. Or, if you are Francis Scott Key, you could write the Star-Spangled Banner that becomes the American national anthem. The circumstance is the same; however, one person’s state of mind is different.

Step 4 — Permission to Thrive

When an individual permits themselves to thrive, they naturally find a way to allow it to happen. Work happiness is enhanced by giving everyone permission to thrive. Great leaders know that by uplifting others, you uplift yourself. When organizations create an environment where individuals are permitted to thrive, this dynamic is enhanced. Thriving companies are created by thriving people.


If you want to find happiness at work follow these four steps of 1) re-imagining happiness; 2) be willing to work to achieve your goals; 3) maintain a positive state of mind, and; 4) seek your pathway to happiness by permitting yourself to thrive. It is not really what we do as work that matters. It is more how we feel about what we are doing that creates happiness.

Deciding what to do is easy. First, if there is something you can do to change things for the better, then do it. If there is nothing you can do to improve the situation, then change your attitude about it.