What Scandinavians Can Teach Us about Happiness at Work
There is a Scandinavian word for real happiness at work: arbejdsglaede. Listen to the first seven seconds of this video to see if you can pronounce this word. (I can’t.) Then watch the rest of the video; it’s only eight minutes long and very worthwhile.
According to the narrator of the video, arbejdsglaede exists only in Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian—no other language has a word that means quite what this does. Arbejdsglaede comes from liking what you do. You do a job you can be proud of. You actually look forward to going to work.
And it’s not bonuses, raises, promotions, or other perks that contribute most to happiness at work—though of course such things matter. Instead, it’s results—making a difference in something that’s meaningful to you. And relationships—liking the people you work with and the people you work for. If you can find a job where you’re happy, you’ll be more creative, more productive, and, in general, more successful.
Achieving happiness at work is sometimes a matter of subtracting rather than adding. For example, you’ll be more likely to be happy if you avoid doing things such as blaming people for their mistakes, controlling their every move, preaching about the one right way, and dwelling on the past rather than learning from the past and moving on.
But you can also add actions in, such as thanking people for their efforts. In pay-it-forward fashion, people who feel appreciated are more likely to express appreciation for others. This very simple act can become contagious. Keep in mind also that while happiness may make you smile, there’s growing evidence of the reverse: smiling triggers happiness. The brain senses your use of the facial muscles engaged in smiling and interprets it to mean you’re happy about something, and you end up actually feeling happier as a result.
To some extent, happiness at work is a choice. You may not have the perfect job, the perfect boss, the perfect coworkers, or the perfect project. But by focusing on the parts of the work you enjoy, finding people you like spending time with, avoiding people and situations that drain you, and doing something every day that brings you satisfaction, you can achieve contentment with your work.
You may not achieve full-scale arbejdsglaede, but you can try for a pretty close approximation.