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The 3rd ‘P’: The Key To Career Happiness Is Not Just Working For Your Passion Or Paycheck

We spend 80 percent of our lives working, and most of our everyday inside (or outside, depends on the kind of job you have!) our offices. And for fear that we might only be working for that paycheck, we tend to gravitate towards following our passion. Many people have succeeded in their work following what they are truly passionate about—writing, music, art. But not everyone is so lucky. Some choose to go the practical route and stay in an accounting work, for example, instead of pursuing their dream to become a professional football player. Because, let’s be realistic, not everyone can really follow what they love and earn because of it.

So if only a handful of people succeed in following their deepest passions, and most of us don’t want to get stuck in a desk job doing mundane work for a mundane salary, what is the key to spending 80 percent of our lives not miserable?

Professor Morten Hansen from the University of California asked 5,000 employees and managers to learn what the best tradeoff is when you give up your passion to do something more practical. If you can’t work for your passion or don’t want to work solely for the paycheck, you have another option: work for a purpose.

It’s all about connecting to what makes your job special and making it your personal goal to succeed in it because it contributes to the society, makes people happy, makes tons of lives easier.

Imagine you’ve been in a bank managerial job for years, where you have to stay in your desk the whole day answering to client requests and complaints. You can look at your job as a good one, because it lets you buy a designer bag, afford a nice home, build a comfortable family. But while you’re at it, you can also learn to enjoy your job if you look at how many people you help and relieve of their financial problems just for being good at doing accounting stuff and talking to people.

And it’s not just about finding that purpose inside yourself—it’s finding that purpose that contributes to the welfare of more people that sometimes really is the key to success.

During Mark Zuckerberg’s commencement speech at Harvard University last year, he talked of speech and said, “Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness…But it’s not enough to have purpose yourself. You have to create a sense of purpose for others.”

Find that purpose in the work that you do and you’ll find that you’ll have more energy to deliver better work. You don’t necessarily have to work more to be more successful and happier at what you do. You don’t have to kill yourself doing overtime just to be seen as successful. You just have to work better and deliver better—and feeling fulfillment and happiness in what you do largely contributes to that.

Like in many aspects of our lives, the key to finding happiness is finding peace in wherever you’re currently at. In Hansen’s words, “Try to cultivate more passion and purpose in the place where you already are. Chances are that you will find more ways to feel passionate and a strong sense of purpose. It will make your job more interesting, and you will also likely perform far better.”