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Dare to care!

Pleasure or Happiness?

That was the question posed by Philip Humbert in his newsletter this week and it certainly gave me pause.

Building on his understanding of the points made in Martin Seligman’s book, “Authentic Happiness” (which I haven’t read) he argues that pleasure is always susceptible to the law of diminishing returns and thus, because it can never sustain us, “pleasure for it’s own does not work!”

Citing one fascinating specific Dr. Humbert goes on to say: “When people are measured while watching comedies on television, even while they are laughing, their actual emotional state shows a mild level of depression! Think about that, and it's implications!”

On the other hand, however, “when we substitute 'gratification' or 'fulfilment' for pleasure, our sense of happiness actually increases, and the increase remains over the long term!”   

This must hold true in the workplace as well. After all, we become what we think, and if our personal lives are dominated by the perpetual pursuit of pleasure, it surely follows that our working lives must be too. So if we either cannot find pleasure at work, or suffer from the law of diminishing laws that the pleasure we do find in our work brings, it is hardly surprising that we become disenchanted and disengaged.

Might it even be that we have too much work-life balance, and a lack of happiness in our personal lives compounds a lack of fulfilment at work and vice-versa, creating a vicious cycle that is contributing to the dramatic increase in employee disengagement?

Of course employers cannot be expected to sort out their peoples’ personal lives, but, maybe, just maybe, they can make the workplace a more fulfilling environment and not only break the cycle and create more engaged employees, but contribute to a generally happier society.

And helping create an environment with happier, more-fulfilled people is precisely what Zealise is all about. After all, as Burton Hills said, “Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life.” That has to include our work lives. 


Mick James

I'm deeply suspicious of the exponents of what I call the "quantity theory of happiness" as expounded by Richard Layard et al. We should remember the wisdom of the American founding fathers, who were only prepared to guarantee the "pursuit of happiness" and not the thing itself. As a state of being happiness cannot be stockpiled, and there's no reason why people shouldn't be as happy at work as they are anywhere else. I distrust the very phrase "work-life" balance, which encapsulates the idea that work is something which is other than one's life. One only has to consider the career of a great architect or composer to see how foolish this is. Work can and should provide much more than simply the funds to support a lifestyle. That doesn't mean we need to turn work into play, but to realise the deep links between the two. As Nietszche put it: "A man’s maturity is to have rediscovered the seriousness he possessed as a child at play."

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