The ancient Greeks said that happiness comes in two forms:

• Hedonic. This comes from pleasant experiences – time with friends or family, doing things you like, food, wine – you get the picture.
• Eudaimonic. This comes from the degree to which you are living a meaningful life. Are you doing things which meet your values and which cause you to develop?

It turns out that once more the ancient Greeks are right (eg Ryan and Deci 2001). But the most valuable message is that the Hedonic and the Eudaimonic are not equal. For short term enjoyment the Hedonic matters, but if you want a satisfying career it is the Eudaimonic which counts. This is why morning teas and masseurs at work are of only limited value.

Here is a simple activity you might like to do to assess your own career satisfaction:

1. Take a page and divide it into a T chart, with two headings – “Meaning” and “Purpose”.
2. Meaning is the things you do or want to do which meet your value set. Things you consider to be important or satisfying. Could be things which contribute to society, or simply work which you find very personally meaningful.
3. Purpose is where the meaningful tasks result in some valuable outcome. Why both? Well, I think we have all done some work we value highly but it comes to nothing. On the other hand it is possible to do work we really don’t enjoy but we know that it results in valuable outcomes. True meaning comes when meaning and purpose coincide.
4. Think of your current job. Write down all the things which give your work meaning and purpose. Then write down all the things you wish you were doing which would give you meaning and purpose.
5. Rate your current job out of ten on both. Ten means as meaningful and purposeful as possible. Zero means as bad as possible.
6. If you have high numbers the signs are good. Sustainable satisfaction. If the numbers are low it may explain why you are dissatisfied. It may also give you some practical clues as to what to look for in your next job.

It’s a good idea to do this every so often – say six monthly – as a Eudaimonic job health check. Click here to learn more about personal development

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 141-166.

Andrew Marty