Succeeding at work that we feel passionate about has a significant positive impact on how we feel about ourselves and our lives. There have been several recent and very popular books on this important topic. Because August is Happiness Happens Month, we will take a look at how to make happiness happen at work by looking at these recent, and a few less recent, books that discuss how to find meaningful work, and how to succeed professionally.
Colin Beavan explains that the planet is struggling and that many traditional jobs are unavailable or unfulfilling; so, as his subtitle reveals, his book guides people in discovering work that provides “the kind of happiness that helps the world.” He does not recommend any particular type of work, but rather the practice of being a “lifequester,” or a person who tries to live in a way that truly makes them happy. In pursuing authentic happiness, the lifequester helps others as well as themselves.
Jordan Peterson presents twelve rules for living a more rewarding, meaningful life. These rules appear simple, like “stand up straight with your shoulders back.” However, the rules are based in current neuroscience research as well as western religious and cultural traditions and the discussion of the rules is profound. The analysis of this particular rule reveals that, due to our evolutionary history, our posture and the way in which we present ourselves physically has an immense effect on how we ourselves and other people perceive us. Although the rules are intended to help us lead better lives in general, many of them, like the one above, have clear connections to the world of work and provide useful ideas for career success.
In When to Jump, Mike Lewis shares the stories of people who have “jumped,”or left jobs that provide security to pursue new careers that are more meaningful to them. Pursuing a dream career is not without risk and difficulties, as we learn from the experiences of Lewis’s contributors. In fact, he finds that these career changes generally follow similar paths, which he calls “the jump curve.” The book is encouraging and provides motivation for those looking to change to more rewarding careers.
Both of these books come from the work done by encore.org, an organization that, according to their website, helps people to “find [their] purpose after 50.” Their idea is that recent generations of people reaching midlife continue to be active longer. When they are ready to end their current careers, many people are choosing to start a new career either helping others or making money from a hobby. The first book relates stories of the changes people have made and how they have used previously acquired skills in a new career. The second book focuses more on the practical aspects of changing careers: networking, finances, and putting your skills to work in a new career.
In Girl Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis helps women change the way we think about ourselves. In particular, she debunks 20 lies that many women believe and that prevent them from leading the lives that they want to lead. A few of these lies stand out as particularly important; “I’m not good enough,” “I will never get past this,” and “There is only one right way to be.” In the process of refuting these harmful untruths, she is laugh-out-loud funny. In her second book, Girl Stop Apologizing, Hollis encourages women to pursue their dreams and to stop apologizing for who they are. The book is divided into three parts: “Excuses to Let Go of,” “Behaviors to Adopt,” and “Skills to Acquire.”
On Being Human
On Being Human brings together many of the ideas of the other books on this list. It is not a book of career advice, but rather the biography of a woman who “jumped.” In this case, she left a career as a waitress to become a yoga instructor, despite her fear that she could not succeed. She did succeed, and found happiness by helping other people to heal. Although this is one person’s story, it is an inspiring one with plenty of ideas and encouragement for those looking to build a more fulfilling life.
For more books a MPHPL on job hunting, career success, and finding meaningful work, please see our Job Hunting and Career Advice booklist.