From short order cook at Roy Roger’s to heavy lifting on an assembly line to bellhop/doorman at a hotel, I had many jobs that were not particularly enjoyable. Half of my legal career was similar. I enjoyed my public service jobs and did not like my private sector jobs. With work that I didn’t like, work was a mood deflator. I might have entered work in a good mood but by the end of the day I was less happy – except that I was happy to be going home. That is the way of life for most people.
In the early 1990s, I read Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow could be simply described as having a satisfying experience. Picture a craftsman at his trade. The book described the state of flow that some people derive at work. The “click” for me was that work could be source of enjoyment. I didn’t have to toil away in misery. If I found work I liked, then I would go to work happily. I was in law school at the time. Just a short while before, I had relished my undergraduate education where I experienced flow continually in my psychology, philosophy, theology, history, and English classes. I loved reading and writing. I loved learning new concepts in class. School was a mood enhancer. During law school, I was beginning to clock watch and school was becoming a mood deflator.
Now, on most days, my mood is uplifted due to work. I’m in a flow state quite often. While I prefer to spend time with my wife and children than working, I prefer my work to many other activities. I’m often reluctant to tell friends about how much I love my work because I worry that I’ll create some negative self-reflection. If you are reading this blog, I don’t want that to be the case. But, I do want you to know that there is hope. You can like your work.
Your work can be a mood enhancer.