We all want to be happy on the job, but what does that actually mean? Is it just being satisfied in your job? Does it mean having fun at work? Are we happy when working conditions are good, our days are enjoyable, and our nights are worry-free?
All of these things matter, of course, but there’s more to it. In studying positive psychology as well as consulting to thousands of people around the world, I have discovered that in order to be happy at work we need three things: (1) to feel that we are making a difference; (2) to see the link between our work and our vision for the future; and (3) great relationships.
We are happy at work when we find meaning in what we do, when our jobs line up with our values, and when we can see the fruits of our labor. Work becomes deeply fulfilling when we know we are having a positive impact on people and results.
Our happiness also depends on how hopeful we feel about the future and how closely our work is tied to our goals and aspirations. When our personal vision, for ourselves and our families, is in sync with how our roles, organizations, and careers are progressing, we are open to learning, inspired, and engaged.
And last but not least, we are happy at work when we have warm, positive relationships with colleagues, team members, and bosses. It’s an old myth that we can’t and shouldn’t be friends with people at work. In reality, we need supportive relationships at work as much as we do in any other area of life. If we like the people we work with, we give generously of our time and talents, enjoy ourselves, and have fun, too.
Purpose, hope, and friendships are key to happiness at work. And happiness is a precursor to success. This is partly due to the fact that emotions impact our ability to think and reason, which in turn supports healthy behaviors and competence on the job.
Fortunately, you can do a lot to make your work more meaningful, to face your daily tasks and career with greater optimism, and to build the kind of relationships you enjoy on the job. The first step is to take stock of where you are now by taking the quiz below. This quiz asks you to reflect and deepen your self-awareness — that all-important emotional intelligence competency that enables us to learn and grow. After completing the quiz, you will see a feedback report that summarizes where you are when it comes to purpose, hope, and friendships at work, as well as some tips for how to leverage your strengths and move toward a happier you.
This article originally appeared in HBR.