“Choose a job you love, and you will
never have to work a day in your life.”

– Confucius

If you grew up like me, you probably thought that the more money you made or the higher your title, the happier you’ll be. This assumption is wrong. Scientific research proves that there is little difference in the happiness level of a person earning $50,000 or $5 million a year. According to the leading author and expert in positive psychology, Tal Ben-Shahar, “We have been brainwashed to believe that the only things that matter are things that can be counted.”

Whether you are a recent college graduate starting out or a mid-career professional considering a change, ask yourself a few questions before you take the plunge. Are you excited by the opportunity? Or, do you feel you should take a position because the compensation is good or you think it’s the right thing to do?

According to research, jumps in success and financial gain have short-lived impact. The research also shows that job satisfaction results from a combination of what you enjoy, what’s important to you, and what you’re good at. When you enjoy what you do, your experience brings immediate satisfaction. If you work at something that is meaningful to you, it yields future benefit as well as immediate pleasure. And, in order to succeed, you need to leverage your strengths. The three combined – immediate enjoyment, future value and capitalizing on your talents, yields long-term career success.

My early career is an example of a misalignment of the three. After graduating with two degrees in music, I went into high technology sales. My goal was to make money. From all outward appearances, I was very successful. The problem was I was miserable. I wasn’t interested in technology and was constantly stressed. It was when I found the courage to leave the golden handcuffs that I realized that job and happiness could be synonymous.

Exercise: The Three List Process. Write down your answers to each of the following, and then find the overlap among the three lists:

List 1: What is meaningful to you? In other words, what is important to you?
List 2: What is pleasurable to you? In other words, what do you enjoy doing?
List 3: What are your strengths? In other words, what are you good at?

When you’re done, circle the overlap between the three. The areas where you find commonality are strong clues to what will bring you happiness in the long run.

If you’re not sure what careers match up with your lists, there are many good books that describe career options. Some worth investigating are “Career Match: Connecting Who You Are with What You’ll Love to Do” by Shoya Zichy and Ann Bidou or Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger.