5 essential steps for pursuing happiness at work

Soft SkillsBest selling author, blogger and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau did a remarkable thing: He visited all 193 countries.

(Now worldatlas.com says there are actually between 189 and 196, depending on your definition. But we’ll let that slide for now.)

From that journey, and from the stories many people shared with him along the way, Guillebeau wrote his NYT bestseller, The Happiness of Pursuit.

He calls the book his “attempt to extract and convey the lessons of modern-day quests.”

We all know pursuing happiness is a time-honored American tradition. The happiness of pursuit, on the other hand, is the real fulfillment we get from identifying and going after those things in life that give it value – spiritually, personally or professionally.

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Here are five steps from Guillebeau’s book that can help you find your perfect pursuit, with insights on how to see it to the end. All quotes are his:

Listen to your discontent

For many, discontent is that voice in the back of our heads that we’ve learned to ignore. It’s a downer. It’s a distraction. But like much like a “check engine” light, it just won’t go away. Instead of seeing discontent as a negative feeling, Guillebeau suggests it should be properly reframed, “Feelings of unease can lead to a new life of purpose.”

If we’re paying attention, discontent tells us that something is amiss. And that might be exactly what we need to redirect.

Add inspiration

Everybody is unhappy about something. In fact, fewer than 20 percent of workers in America and Canada are satisfied with their work.

But when discontent is mixed with a healthy dose of inspiration, it often results in a fresh sense of purpose.  Inspiration turns discontent into fuel for positive change. But it must be change that is meaningful, something we believe in, because the journey will take commitment and hard work. It won’t be easy.

Be brave

“Embracing new things often requires us to embrace our fears, however trivial they may seem,” Guillebeau writes. “You deal with fear not by pretending it doesn’t exist, but by refusing to give it decision-making authority.”

The best things in life happen when we are outside our comfort zone. Is stepping out risky? “I’d be lying if I said no, but it’s totally worth it.”

Count the cost

Guillebeau recommends that we list our goals and make estimates on the time and money and other costs required to achieve them. You can’t go into happiness-pursuit wearing blinders. It’s important to be smart about the costs.

Observe the correlation between how much satisfaction you gain to how much you invest. It is “precisely the arduousness of the task that makes the accomplishment an epic one.”

Reminder: Sometimes effort IS it’s own reward. Be sure it gets it proper due in the “asset” column.

Divide and conquer

When he decided to travel the globe, Guillebeau first mapped it out.  He broke things down in to regions and figured out what was important for each. With so many places to go, creating a plan put things into perspective and gave the project a scope  he could manage.

To steal a phrase, “Progress is a powerful motivator.”  The power of progress is fundamental to human nature. But it doesn’t always have to be on giant push, as the accumulated progress from small “wins” moves a sailboat around the globe.

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