Got job satisfaction? 3 keys to look for at work and at home

We all want to be happy, but it’s likely that it is job satisfaction you really want. No matter what kind of “work” you do, you want that pursuit to be gratifying and rewarding.

smiley face job satisfaction
Photo by Nathan Dumlao

I’ve worked with the Families and Work Institute, as an employee for several years and then as a consultant for several more. My main role spanning all those years, and even recently, has been analyzing data from the National Study of the Changing Workforce.

I first worked with data from the study collected in 1992. Yet throughout time, we’ve seen that three factors correspond with job satisfaction:

  1. a supportive supervisor;
  2. autonomy at work;
  3. meaningful work.

While these data come from a nationally representative group of employees, I’ve seen that support, autonomy, and meaning also relate to feeling satisfied among people who are not employed by a company but perhaps work for themselves or have other pursuits.

I wholeheartedly believe that …

What every human being wants is to be loved and accepted for who she is right now and to be appreciated and understood for what she does.

Ask yourself

To that end, set aside about 20 minutes. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who in my life supports me at the office or in my business? At home? At school? In my family? Within my circle of friends?
  • How do I set my day-to-day activities? What is within my control?
  • How is what I do meaningful?

Notice that these questions focus on looking for what is going right.

Why these are good questions

It is easy for us to notice what is going wrong or missing. It’s how our brains work. We have to make deliberate efforts to notice what is good or what doesn’t cause problems.

Those of us who have perfectionistic tendencies are particularly good at spotting flaws. So, retraining our brains to look at the positives requires extra effort. Instead, what we normally do, is try to fix what’s wrong.

In my work, however, that’s not the right starting point. Moreover, it is far more motivating to begin by focusing on what’s going well and then trying to grow that instead of fixing mistakes.

Most importantly, focusing on what’s going right also generates more creative solutions.

An older version of this article appeared in February 2013.

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