When the Thrill is Gone

During interviews with executives for a book I am writing, I’ve asked the following question:  What are the strongest attributes of new hires (referring to recent college graduates or those in the very early stages of their careers).  The answers were remarkably consistent:  their energy, enthusiasm, and optimism.  It doesn’t last forever though.

You’ve probably experienced this yourself at some point.  You started off excited, eager to get to the office each morning.  But then something shifted – and the thrill was gone.  And given that we live in an instant-access world, it’s easy to think that a different job would give us the lift we need.

However, research by experts in the field of Positive Psychology shows that we quickly return to our original happiness set point after getting a boost from a raise, promotion, or new job.  (Of course, if you’ve landed a job that allows you to work in an area that you are passionate about – one of the pillars of happiness – then this is not necessarily true.)

In his eye opening book Stumbling on Happiness; Daniel Gilbert describes a study that tracked people who did, and did not, receive tenure.  Those that did receive this highly prized status were, as expected, elated, and those that did not were, again as expected, devastated.  The interesting point is though, that both groups returned to their original happiness levels relatively quickly.

So, given this human phenomenon, is there anything we can do to become happier even though circumstances are not ideal?  Is moving to another job the only answer when the one we’re in doesn’t excite us anymore?

The good news is that there are many things we can do to become happier, even when circumstances are less than ideal.  Writing down three things that you are grateful for each day (turns out that this is one of the biggest happiness boosters), having stretch goals and achieving them (builds self-esteem), and determining what makes you happy and putting more of those activities into each day, are three places to start.

There will be more to come in future posts on happiness building skills that you can use on the job.  In the meantime, if these ideas intrigue you, I suggest you get a journal and do some writing about:  what you are grateful for, what would be a stretch goal, and what things you are doing throughout the day that make you happiest.

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