Figuring Out Fulfillment is about how we find what is arguably a component of fulfillment – happiness – in our work. Happiness – what it is, and if it’s the stick we should be chasing – is a topic within itself, and should be addressed at another point. For this post, let’s accept the Western idea of happiness – a feeling of contentment free from worry or anxiety (my definition) – and that we would like a job where we felt happy at least four times during a five-day work week.

So what is it that makes us happy at work? Is it the prestige of the job, the office we sit in, the function of what we do, who we work with, or the organizational structure in which we function?

I have been happy working part-time at a retailer while in between jobs. I have been unhappy working for respected companies that I strategically targeted for employment. I have been happy working at start-ups that by chance came across my resume. I have been unhappy in jobs where I was lucky enough to be paid to do something I believed in.

Maybe the answers lies in rethinking our approach towards happiness. Instead of asking ourselves what makes us happy at work, maybe we should start asking ourselves if we can separate out the pieces of our work experience. Ask ourselves if we can learn to look beyond the parts of our work we’d rather change so that those experiences do not eclipse the whole. If we fail, we risk abandoning an opportunity that could lead to our greatest fulfillment.