By chance an old friend and I crossed paths as we were waiting for an elevator. We had always had lively discussions and both were between appointments so we struck up a conversation.
We updated each other on recent successes and failures--and since we'd both gone to the same University, touched briefly on the old alma mater.
After the pleasantries were past, we then entered into the 'important' things--the more serious things that mattered. He spoke of a friend that had gotten out of the 'rat race' for several years.
At that point, his old company offered his friend a 'big six-figure contract' to return and she accepted. We were both impressed with the salary he mentioned and joked about what kind of weekly paycheck she would get.
We were both envious. On a whim, perhaps a whim based somewhat on envy, I asked the simple question, 'yes, but is she happy?'
My friend became silent.
No, he finally answered. She was definitely not happy. Several years before she had left her job because it was not satisfying and because at 70 plus hours a week she had no personal life.
She had hoped at some point to remarry but was feeling like she was married to her job and no suitor could break up the family. The big salary did not make her happy.
If it were not for the money, she would quit and do what she really wanted to do. But she could not do that and remained miserable.
We ended our conversation slapping each other on the back and saying how lucky we were to be doing what we were interested in. We agreed to talk soon but we both knew our busy schedules would not make that possible any time soon.
Our conversation had lasted a half-hour; yet, this conversation is one that has replayed in my mind many times since then. Yes, but are we happy?
The analytical among us would press for a definition of happy. And probably that would make a good article. But somehow the question kept coming back and back.
If you look in the workplace you won't see too many happy people. You see owners that hate their industry, employees and customers.
And employees that show up for work only to get a paycheck as they whine and complain that nothing is ever good.
And managers that snap at employees as if they were unruly children. Why do people stay in positions they do not like? Why don't more people do what they want?
The question is an intriguing one. Most of my interest has been generated by the concept that the happy worker is a more productive worker.
Make the worker happy and you make production soar. On a simplistic level this is true.
But it goes beyond the simplistic. The question begs us to look deeper. This look is different for each of us so we cannot assume that what works for others will work for us.
There are no formulas or templates. And even if there were we should not trust them.
A friend many years back told me that we all want to live meaningful lives. Maybe a meaningful life is the key to happiness. Maybe not. That and having no regrets.
But what works for me may not work for you.
Many of us become obsessed with the pursuit of happiness. But this is one search you have to find for yourself. Since we spend much of our waking lives at work maybe you should ask this question at work?