Fresh Facts 42: Happiness in Your Work

“If you don’t know happiness in your work, you’ll never know what true happiness is” was a quote I remember from Professor Petrucci’s Vit 101 class; 40 years later I can’t find fault with it.

I know quite a few consistently joyful people, and every one of them also enjoy their work. Yet what prompted this thought line was an article I read that said: “Roughly 80% of Americans hate their jobs.”

That would explain why the same article said: “Clinical depression is up 500% in the last 40 years.”

I’ve had the privilege of travelling a bit and observed that the most content people in the world are also the poorest (unless somebody’s trying to kill them). Not only does money have the inability to buy happiness, it seems to add to anxiety; but that’s anecdotal observation.

What is objective: people’s anxiety about the future, their future and specific value in it. A good definition of preoccupied is: “Filling our time or place long before we’re there.”

It seems to me the problem is people’s view that work is something we endure in order to be able to do what we want to do. Right there, that mindset guarantees unhappiness most of the time.

There should be a sacred nobility to vocation, a calling, a sense that what I do and the excellence with which I do it has value apart from paycheck. I might be wrong, but it seems that the people who fulfill a calling and purpose through their work are the same people who express contentment, and this contentment has little to do with pay level.

I’ve got another thought rolling about in my little brain about the value a sense of place has on the contentment chart. My hypothesis is that people who feel vested in specific community—whether that’s a town, neighborhood, work-place, church; I’m going to do all I can to make this place wonderful—are more content than those who see themselves headed elsewhere. I’ve gotta flesh that out more, but I feel there’s something in there; sports teams seem to fill that for lots of people.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I learned about blackberries this week. What’d you learn, Uncle Vern? Well, this year’s berries grow on last year’s canes, and these new canes come up out of the ground rather than branching off an old cane. I did know that much already. What I didn’t know is that while there are all these berries that look like they could just keep ripening for weeks, when these new shoots come popping up, this year’s harvest is about done; all those little berries just stop at whatever stage of maturity they are.

Best I can figure, the plant just one day decides: “Okay, that’s enough energy going to the kids (berries), now we’re going to start building for next year!” The fruiting branches just kind of dry-up and here come all these new powerful shoots out of the ground like somebody threw a switch.

So, we started pruning that old stuff off today and training the new shoots up in their place. One thing for sure, blackberries have a strong sense of place.

Eat better!

Author Uncle Vern

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