The Toronto Centre for Positive Psychology

 

Square
Square
Square

 Archives

Week of November 28, 2011

The Ten Happiest Jobs

Forbes Magazine
Steve Denning, Contributor

In my article on the Ten Most Hated Jobs, there were some surprises. There are also some surprises in the ten happiest jobs, as reported a General Social Survey by the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago. (I am indebted to Lew Perelman for drawing my attention to the Christian Science Monitor article.)

1. Clergy: The least worldly are reported to be the happiest of all
2. Firefighters: Eighty percent of firefighters are “very satisfied” with their jobs, which involve helping people.
3. Physical therapists: Social interaction and helping people apparently make this job one of the happiest.
4. Authors: For most authors, the pay is ridiculously low or non-existent, but the autonomy of writing down the contents of your own mind apparently leads to happiness.
5. Special education teachers: If you don’t care about money, a job as special education teacher might be a happy profession. The annual salary averages just under $50,000.
6. Teachers: Teachers in general report being happy with their jobs, despite the current issues with education funding and classroom conditions. The profession continues to attract young idealists, although fifty percent of new teachers are gone within five years.
7. Artists: Sculptors and painters report high job satisfaction, despite the great difficulty in making a living from it.
8. Psychologists: Psychologists may or may not be able to solve other people’s problems, but it seems that they have managed to solve their own.
9. Financial services sales agents: Sixty-five percent of financial services sales agents are reported to be happy with their jobs. That could be because some of them are clearing more than $90,000 dollars a year on average for a 40-hour work week in a comfortable office environment.
10. Operating engineers: Playing with giant toys like bulldozers, front-end loaders, backhoes, scrapers, motor graders, shovels, derricks, large pumps, and air compressors can be fun. With more jobs for operating engineers than qualified applicants, operating engineers report being happy.

It’s interesting to compare these jobs with the list of the ten most hated jobs, which were generally much better paying and have higher social status. What’s striking about the list is that these relatively high level people are imprisoned in hierarchical bureaucracies. They see little point in what they are doing. The organizations they work for don’t know where they are going, and as a result, neither do these people.

1. Director of Information Technology
2. Director of Sales and Marketing
3. Product Manager
4. Senior Web Developer
5. Technical Specialist
6. Electronics Technician
7. Law Clerk
8. Technical Support Analyst
9. CNC Machinist
10. Marketing Manager

The meaningfulness of lives

Why were these jobs with better pay and higher social status less likely to produce happiness? Todd May writing in the New York Times argues that “A meaningful life must, in some sense then, feel worthwhile. The person living the life must be engaged by it. A life of commitment to causes that are generally defined as worthy — like feeding and clothing the poor or ministering to the ill — but that do not move the person participating in them will lack meaningfulness in this sense. However, for a life to be meaningful, it must also be worthwhile. Engagement in a life of tiddlywinks does not rise to the level of a meaningful life, no matter how gripped one might be by the game.”

This is what underlies the difference between the happiest jobs and the most hated jobs. One set of jobs feels worthwhile, while in the other jobs, people can’t see the point. The problems in the most hated jobs can’t be solved by job redesign or clearer career paths. Instead the organizations must undertake fundamental change to manage themselves in a radically different way with a focus on delighting the customer through continuous innovation and all the consequent changes that are needed to accomplish that. The result of doing this in firms like Amazon, Apple and Salesforce.com is happy customers, soaring profits and workers who can see meaning in their work.

Week of November 14, 2011

Kindness Makes You Happy… and Happiness Makes You Kind

By Alex Dixon | September 6, 2011

Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk into a store and buy lifelong happiness? The idea’s not as fanciful as it sounds—as long as whatever you buy is meant for someone else.

Two recent studies suggest that giving to others makes us happy, even happier than spending on ourselves. What’s more, our kindness might create a virtuous cycle that promotes lasting happiness and altruism.

In one of the studies, published last year in the Journal of Social Psychology, researchers in Great Britain had participants take a survey measuring life satisfaction, then they assigned all 86 participants to one of three groups. One group was instructed to perform a daily act of kindness for the next 10 days. Another group was also told to do something new each day over those 10 days. A third group received no instructions.

After the 10 days were up, the researchers asked the participants to complete the life satisfaction survey again.

The groups that practiced kindness and engaged in novel acts both experienced a significant—and roughly equal—boost in happiness; the third group didn’t get any happier. The findings suggest that good deeds do in fact make people feel good—even when performed over as little as 10 days—and there may be particular benefits to varying our acts of kindness, as novelty seems linked to happiness as well.

But kindness may have a longer, even more profound effect on our happiness, according to the second study, published online in the Journal of Happiness Studies in April and conducted by researchers at Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia.

In this study, the researchers instructed roughly half of the 51 participants to recall, as vividly as they could, the last time they spent $20 or $100 on themselves. The other participants had to recall the last time they spent the same amounts on someone else. All the participants also completed a scale that measured how happy they were.

Researchers then gave the participants small sums of money and two basic choices: They could spend it on themselves (by covering a bill, another expense, or a gift for themselves) or on someone else (through a donation to charity or a gift). Choose whatever will make you happiest, the researchers told them, adding that their choice would remain anonymous, just in case they felt pressure to appear more altruistic.

The researchers made two big findings. First, consistent with the British study, people in general felt happier when they were asked to remember a time they bought something for someone else—even happier than when they remembered buying something for themselves. This happiness boost was the same regardless of whether the gift cost $20 or $100.

But the second finding is even more provocative: The happier participants felt about their past generosity, the more likely they were in the present to choose to spend on someone else instead of themselves. Not all participants who remembered their past kindness felt happy. But the ones who did feel happy were overwhelmingly more likely to double down on altruism.

The results suggest a kind of “positive feedback loop” between kindness and happiness, according to the authors, so that one encourages the other.

“The practical implications of this positive feedback loop could be that engaging in one kind deed (e.g., taking your mom to lunch) would make you happier, and the happier you feel, the more likely you are to do another kind act,” says Lara Aknin, a graduate student in psychology at the University of British Columbia and the study’s lead author. “This might also be harnessed by charitable organizations: Reminding donors of earlier donations could make them happy, and experiencing happiness might lead to making a generous gift.”

Week of November 7, 2011

Happiness Can Deter Crime, a New Study Finds
ScienceDaily (Aug. 22, 2011)

Happy adolescents report less involvement in crime and drug use than other youth, a new UC Davis study finds.

The paper, "Get Happy! Positive Emotion, Depression and Juvenile Crime," is co-authored by Bill McCarthy, a UC Davis sociology professor, and Teresa Casey, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, and will be presented at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 22 at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.

"Our results suggest that the emphasis placed on happiness and well-being by positive psychologists and others is warranted," McCarthy said. "In addition to their other benefits, programs and policies that increase childhood and adolescent happiness may have a notable effect on deterring nonviolent crime and drug use."

The authors used 1995 and 1996 data from nearly 15,000 seventh- to ninth-grade students in the federally funded National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the largest, most comprehensive survey of adolescents ever undertaken.
They found that about 29 percent of the youth surveyed reported having committed at least one criminal offense, and 18 percent said that they had used at least one illegal drug. The researchers then correlated these reports with self-assessments of emotional well-being.

Consequences of happiness are rarely examined by sociologists, and no previous studies have investigated its association with juvenile crime, the authors said.

Many explanations of adolescents' decisions about crime focus either on reflective thought that discourages offending, or negative emotions -- such as anger or rage -- that contribute to it.

McCarthy and Casey argue that positive emotions also have a role. "We hypothesize that the benefits of happiness -- from strong bonds with others, a positive self-image and the development of socially valued cognitive and behavioral skills -- reinforce a decision-making approach that is informed by positive emotions," they write in their study.

Their research finds that happier adolescents were less likely to report involvement in crime or drug use. Adolescents with minor, or nonclinical, depression had significantly higher odds of engaging in such activities.

The study also found that changes in emotions over time matter.

Adolescents who experienced a decrease in their level of happiness or an increase in the degree of their depression over a one-year period had higher odds of being involved in crime and of using drugs.

Most adolescents experience both happiness and depression, and the study finds that the relative intensity of these emotions is also important. The odds of drug use were notably lower for youth who reported that they were more often happy than depressed, and were substantially higher for those who indicated that they were more depressed than happy.

Week of October 31, 2011

Can't Buy Love: Materialism Kills Marriages
By COURTNEY HUTCHISON, ABC News Medical Unit
Oct. 13, 2011
 
Focusing too heavily on the "for richer" part of the nuptial vows could spell disaster for a marriage, according to research published today by Brigham Young University and William Paterson University.

In a survey of 1,700 married couples, researchers found that couples in which one or both partners placed a high priority on getting or spending money were much less likely to have satisfying and stable marriages.

"Our study found that materialism was associated with spouses having lower levels of responsiveness and less emotional maturity. Materialism was also linked to less effective communication, higher levels of negative conflict, lower relationship satisfaction, and less marriage stability," said Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life in Provo, Utah, and lead author of the study.

Researchers gauged materialism using self-report surveys that asked questions such as to what extent do you agree with these statements? "I like to own things to impress people" or "money can buy happiness." Spouses were then surveyed on aspects of their marriage.

For one out of every five couples in the study, both partners admitted a strong love of money. These couples were worse off in terms of marriage stability, marriage satisfaction, communications skills and other metrics of healthy matrimony that researchers studied.

The one out of seven couples that reported low-levels of materialism in both partners scored 10 to 15 percent higher in all metrics of marital quality and satisfaction. Interestingly, the correlation between materialism and marital difficulties remained stable regardless of the actual wealth of the couple.

Study authors and marriage experts noted that the findings probably have to do with the personality traits that go along with materialism. They will be published today in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy.

"The finding does not necessarily mean that it is the materialism itself that damages their relationships. ... A materialistic orientation may be associated with other unidentified factors, such as childhood deprivation or neglect, which might play a more pivotal role in adult marital satisfaction," said Don Catherall, professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University in Chicago. "Of course, it may also simply mean that people who are more focused on making money have less energy and interest left to invest in their marriages."

Other studies have shown that materialism is correlated with a host of personality traits and interpersonal skills that might hinder a marriage.

"People who are materialistic tend to be narcissistic and concerned with impressing people," said Susan Heitler, a Denver-based clinical psychologist and creator of marriage resource site Poweroftwomarriage.com. "They have a tendency to be anxious, depressed, have relatively poor relationship skills and have low self-esteem. These qualities in turn can cause marital problems."

Heitler recalls one patient who said that whenever she felt empty in her relationship, she would "fill up the hole" by buying lots of things and this would make her feel better. Her husband, who didn't share this love of buying, would then "kindly return all of it because they couldn't afford what she had bought," Heitler recounted, "and the wife was grateful that he would return it because she didn't really want the stuff in the end, but she got satisfaction from the purchasing."

Such a pattern highlights another dynamic researchers found, when one partner is highly materialistic and the other is not.

Relationships usually fair better when partners share priorities and values, but researchers found that the opposite was true in this case. When only one partner was materialistic and the other not, the non-materialistic partners seemed to buoy the marriage, resulting in higher levels of satisfaction, communication and stability in marriages made of mismatched couples when compared to dual-materialistic ones.

"Spouses that are mismatched on materialism may do better in their relationships than spouses with shared materialistic values because at least one spouse may possess more 'other-centeredness' and 'emotional readiness,'" said Laura Frame, clinical psychologist and supervisor of the Supporting Healthy Relationships Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

The findings will be published in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy.

You are viewing the text version of this site.

To view the full version please install the Adobe Flash Player and ensure your web browser has JavaScript enabled.

Need help? check the requirements page.


Get Flash Player