top of page

What makes us happy at work?

For the majority of people, the goals in life are clear: To survive, to raise the next generation and, if possible, to do so with a degree of comfort and dignity.

For those living in the urban slums of South America and the famine zones of Africa, for the millions of Asians who must solve the problem of hunger every day, or for the 150,000 homeless people in California, some of whom live in luxury, there is little else to hope for.

But when the basic problems of survival are solved, so simply having enough food and comfortable shelter, is no longer enough to satisfy people. With abundance and power, expectations increase. As our level of wealth and comfort rises, the feeling of happiness we hope to achieve continues to fade away. Those who live in prosperity in developed countries can buy and eat/wear whatever they want and live in luxurious homes. But it takes more than that to be fulfilled.

The paradox of rising expectations shows that improving quality of life can be an insurmountable task. In fact, there is no problem in increasing our goals as long as we enjoy the challenge. Problems arise when people become so focused on what they want to achieve instead of enjoying the struggle. When they do, they miss the chance to be happy.

People's rising expectations falls them into a frustrating monotony. But many individuals find a way to avoid this. These are the people who, regardless of their economic circumstances, are able to improve their quality of life, achieve fulfillment and know ways to make the people around them a little happier.

Such people lead an energetic life. They are open to various experiences. They continue to learn until the day they die. They have strong relationships and bonds with other people and the environment in which they live. They enjoy whatever they do, even if it is difficult or challenging. They struggle to overcome whatever is on their way. They act on the principle that where there is faith, there is possibility. Perhaps their greatest strength is that they always work towards a "reasonable and compelling" goal, without stopping or taking a break, with the same motivation and enthusiasm.

"Once you have completed one task, move on to the next" (94:7)

According to researches, there are 3 main factors motivate people. Having consistently reasonable goals to achieve what they want to realize (purpose), desire and curiosity to become a master in a particular area (mastery), and lastly, while doing all, having a chance, a will and a word to influence the flow even a bit (autonomy).

These are all intrinsic motivators. The money and property from one of the extrinsic motivators, since the reasons mentioned above, cannot provide a real happiness.

Another pillar is needed for the sustainability and satisfaction of all these motivators. The contentment, making do with what we have, which is a high-level concept that encompasses all motivators.

If the goal itself becomes the condition for happiness, instead of all efforts and struggles to reach it, happiness does not occur when the goal is not reached. The motivation of mastery can give way to unhappiness, giving up and hopelessness. The will to influence the flow and the desire to act autonomously can give way to chaos, seeking excessive freedom and eventually to hedonism and the desire to live for pleasure and enjoyment.

Those who constantly complain about the opportunities and possibilities they have, blame others continuously instead of using these opportunities to achieve their goals.

Of course, the mission of leaders and managers is to build the necessary systems to ensure that these three motivators are effective. However, even if this happens, for those who do not have contentment in their minds, things will still not go as desired.

In short, motivating people depends on providing enabling structure and supportive context for all motivators, and shielding them with the contentment. In this way, the extrinsic motivators will be sufficient to meet basic needs and give way to the intrinsic motivators to realize oneself and to achieve one's goals in life.

- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

- Daniel Pink, Drive


bottom of page