How do we get to happiness?

posted in: Mindset | 0

What makes us happy?

Happy New Year first of all

Many people spend their lives looking for ‘happiness’ don’t they?

And what does happiness look like?

  • A ‘good’ job?
  • Marriage?
  • Being well-paid?
  • Security?
  • Choices?

It could be any (or a combination of all ) of these things…and happiness can change from age to age, culture to culture and era to era.

It’s likely that your happiness as a baby was more about having a full belly and an empty nappy; at primary school being chosen as Mary or Joseph or Star of the Week may make you happy; as a teenager – the latest gadget or trainers; as a young adult a cool car is likely to be on the list…

Some research by Professor Paul Dolan from the LSE is summarised in his book ‘Happy Ever After: Escaping The Myth of the Perfect Life’ and the compilation of the findings is enlightening and speaks volumes about education, work and the structure of society and the expectations placed on us as individuals.

– 90% of people surveyed said they considered a long-lasting marriage to be very important to their lives.

– £50,000 was found to be the point across all those surveyed at which increases in income do not lead to increased happiness.

– Happiness is highest among people working 21-30 hours per week, and decreases in tandem with the hours worked thereafter.

Now, all the above statistics are interesting – especially the one about 21-30 hours a week – there’s a new target (although to be fair with all the faffing around I do I probably work less than that efficiently anyway)…the most telling statistic from the research as written up in the Observer on 6th January is the level of happiness people gain from their careers.

When City & Guilds asked 2,200 people about their jobs in 2012 – one of the interesting findings was the difference in happiness reported between people working as a Lawyer to those working as a Florist.

Who do you think was happiest?

I’m not telling you yet, but it made me consider how we decide on whether one career or job is better than another:



Suitability to skillset?

Contact with other people?

Input to decisions?


Realising parental expectations?

See – there are loads of ways we can interpret a ‘good job or career’…and all these things will matter to people in different ways.


What if we were to consider the day-to-day look, feel and activities of a job:

  • Do we need to travel far to get to, or as part of the role?
  • What level(s) of responsibility / power / autonomy do we have?
  • What is the purpose of the work – care, making money, developing others?
  • What is the social impact of the job?

One thing that is definitely underappreciated from much of the career discussion I’ve seen or experienced takes me back to my childhood and those of my daughters, namely Richard Scarry’s ‘What DO People Do All Day’. This amazing picture book shows hundreds of anthropomorphic animals going about their daily routines – doctors, road menders, chefs, teachers, astronauts etc etc…and I think it’s something that’s essential to making decisions about work.

  • ‘Day in the life of’ Q&A sessions with professionals and employees from a variety of organisations.
  • Take your child to work days.
  • Work Experience.
  • Work Shadowing (not just sitting with but working alongside and experiencing days with different jobs within different industries).
  • Industry bodies and recruitment firms will also have videos and discussions of what different roles involve.

These tools are really simple but effective in allowing young people (or those looking for career changes) to see what a typical day looks like as an X, Y or Z.

So as we approach National Careers Week #NCW2019 – don’t overlook the simple ways of getting the message across and enhancing career decision making.

So which was happier – the Lawyer or the Florist?

64% of Lawyers reported being happy in their work whereas 87% of Florists are happy in their work.

Why? I suppose being a Lawyer is adversarial and most of the people you meet either hate you for prosecuting them or grudgingly like you (but then have to pay your massive bill!) whereas Florists get to work with something natural and meet people all the time – either at their best or worst, but either way they are buying flowers for people that they love or have loved.

Thanks for reading on – please feel free to contact me if you think we can help you in any way.





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