The Unhappy Many

I was recently reading a great blog post by Lolly Daskal where she pointed out something amazing. Only 15% of people are happy at work. I found this stat remarkable and almost startling how many people are not happy. Work is something most of us do from the time we turn 16 until we retire at 65 (if we planned well). In those 50 years, we spend between 50-52 weeks a year at our jobs, working 40+ hours.

That is a long time to be doing something you do not like. Happiness, like many things in life, requires effort so we need to learn how to join that 15%. We have already talked about how to lead your team to happiness but that may have been putting the cart before the horse a bit. Being a leader that creates the proper environment for happiness to flourish while not being happy yourself is an incredibly challenging thing to do.

So what can you do to put some happiness into your life?

Much like with leading your team to happiness, there is not going to be a single silver bullet. As humans, we are all motivated by different things, enjoy our own blend of past times, and are recharged in our own ways. The below list is by no means comprehensive but here are three of my favorite ways to put happiness into your life.

Be Yourself

This is something I have embraced more and more lately. You can only be happy when you are being your authentic self, enjoying the things that truly make you happy. If someone is asking you to do something that compromises your values or that is draining your happiness, take some time to reflect and figure out what is wrong and to make sure what you are doing is something that aligns with your values. If you are uncertain what those values are, take some time and reflect. You will find that by being authentic and embracing who you are relationships will be deeper and more meaningful. A phrase I heard when I lived in Italy that has now become a fairly popular song is ti fa stare bene, which roughly translates to do what makes you feel good. For those that are curious, I have included the music video below.

Practice Self Care

My wife is a Kindergarten through the 4th-grade teacher at a school that specializes in traumatized kids. The work is incredibly hard and, if one is not careful, will burn you out incredibly quickly. The mixed emotions that come from working with kids who have some of the most tragic backgrounds/ wanting to do everything possible to fix these kids and having to deal with epic meltdowns and hyper-violent and aggressive kids are incredibly tough. The only way you can continue doing something like that is to take care of yourself outside of work. Find something restorative that you can do regularly. This can be physical fitness, massages, or even something as simple as watching TV shows or your favorite YouTubers. Whatever it is that is going to help you recover, you need to do.

Practice giving

This one is something that felt counterintuitive to me when I first started working. Being unhappy at work was not uncommon where I started my career so it became really easy to join in with my co-workers and trash talking where I was working. It initially felt cathartic but ultimately it was incredibly damaging and challenging. It took what was a tough environment to be happy and made it near impossible. What I have started trying to do is to be more helpful and to give more to other people. Giving is something that makes me happy and this is not uncommon. A recent Harvard study found that people who helped others were 10 times more likely to be focused while at work and 40% more likely to get a promotion. Furthermore, if you have helped your coworkers, you are building a great social network so when things do get stressful at work, you tend to be happier.


There are obviously many additional ways you can work to be happier at work but ultimately, anything that will see real results will require real effort. But happier people do better at their jobs. The juice is worth the squeeze.

What are some of your favorite ways to lead yourself to happiness? Are you among the 15% of people who are happy at work? Let us know in the comments section below!

2 thoughts on “The Unhappy Many

  1. Pingback: The One You Feed: The Parable of the Wolf | Brandon's Pursuit of Better Leadership

  2. Pingback: Grit and Happiness | Brandon's Pursuit of Better Leadership

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