A question for ya

A question for yaI got an email with a very deep, but very interesting, question which I will pass on to you:

Which of these two are more important: happiness or meaningful work?

Perhaps I’m asking myself these questions because I’m working in the advertising industry and many people have a rather negative approach to advertising in general.

I would like to believe that there may be some positive approach to advertising and that we can make the difference but sometimes I have doubts when I think its all about money and about making people to buy more.

I am just opening new company with my friend and I believe it would be good to have a clear positive approach and image of the company.

That is a great question. What do you think? Is happiness or meaning more important at work? Are there industries (eg. advertising) where work tends to lack meaning? What can you do to be happy at work in those industries?

19 thoughts on “A question for ya”

  1. What an interesting and thoughtful question, one that I wish more people would ponder as they go through life. I personally think that having a meaningful job leads to general happiness in life. After all, we spend a good 8-10 hours at work 5 days a week, so if the job has no meaning to us it is bound to make us feel unhappy. I think many people look for The Meaning of Life but can’t find it in their day to day life. But could it be as simple as finding your True Calling, that thing you love doing, you’re good at it and your effort makes someone happy, solves something or leads to some sort of improvement for others? Even industries that generally might have a negative image (such as advertising) bring some good to someone, somewhere. I have often admired the design for an ad, or laughed at a TV commercial. Those things have got to count for something too, right? I just wish more people would take more pride in doing a good job (whatever that job might be) so others could enjoy a good product that wasn’t just another lame copy of something that’s already been done before :)

  2. I think “meaningful work” is more important than “happiness”!

    Happiness is elusive, meaningful work can be found and can be DONE.

    Meaningful work leads to happiness, it is the highest form of creating happiness in a person according to Martin Seligman.

    Advertising might be perceived as selling your soul to the devil but it can be approached in a positive manner. However, they have to pay for this. Maintaining

    Do only clients you believe in. See advertising as visibility enhancement not manipulation.

    Also, you can improve the way you perceive yourself by allocating time to pro boon projects, creating advertising for organizations that are struggling to make the world better like:

    Approach your problem in a creative way, do some creative sessions and search how you can improve your perception of yourself.

  3. A good question.

    I used to work in advertising myself. Over the years found it less satisfying. Someone suggested that for many of us, as we get older our need for achievement starts to get more competition from our need for meaning. I think that’s been true for me.

    The book Stumbling on Happiness suggests that we’re actually not very skilled at doing stuff that actually make us happy, and I think the direct pursuit of happiness may be unproductive.

    Finding meaning in the moment, on the other hand, is something that I can do – but it takes practice! And then I think happiness can often be a byproduct of that.

  4. So to answer the question of the blog post, maybe its not so much what you do but how you do it. Is it not possible to think there could be an ethical advertising company or to take another much critized industry financial industry? I believe there is. Sale and marketing will always be part of an healthy society and advertising will always be part of this (just look at the peacockfeathers). The important thing must be to do it the right way and take the right choices and do it the rightway.

  5. It is an interesting question. I dont think it is that difficult to answer the question.

    I put it this way: I would quit a job that didn

  6. Alex, thanks for putting this post here. I guess between happiness and meaning is like between a chicken and egg dilemma, one cannot exist without the other or as Thorbj

  7. Interesting question that leads to the all important challenge: How do you define Happiness at Work and isn’t Meaning part of it?

    The Happiness Habit defines a Happy Life and Happy Work very much the same – a Happy Life is generally:
    Pleasant & Pleasing,
    Purposeful & Productive,
    Prosperous (meaning whatever you are working on is bearing positive results)
    & Spiritually Successful (living with great integrity and good values.)

    I doubt you can be happy at work without finding meaning in what you do, even if it only means your work is supporting your family well and/or allowing you to pursue other important goals.

    Our attitudes toward our work determines our happiness on the job and a slight repositioning of perspectives can make a big difference in workplace satisfaction.

    Michele Moore

  8. Neither! I’d rather say that in work, living for something else than yourself is the most important, and its impossible if you can’t have fun while you do it. Here’s why:

    To ways to look at this:


    When we pursue our own happiness or our own meaning like a clever algorithm, we are animals.

    When we suspend our own happiness or the meaning of our own lives, for the sake of something worthy in it self, that’s when we are heroes.

    So: Trying to lose myself for something larger than me, just a little every day, that is what is most important to me.


    The tricky thing about the ‘hero ambition’ as a meaning of life is that striving towards your own ambition like that, makes you
    a) another clever goal-getting algorithm
    b) pompous and pretentious like Captain America

    Luckily, humor takes the sting out of any strong statement. Self-irony makes an autoritarian manager human. A laugh makes a parodox manageable.

    I say that working should not be for yourself, and that its probably conceptually impossible to achieve if you can’t have fun while you do it.

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  10. Quite frankly, I don’t see why these two have to bite each other. You can do meaningful work and achieve happiness at the same time.

  11. Happiness creates meaningful work while meaningful work generates more happiness. They don’t stand independent from each other- like yin and yang.

  12. A very interesting question, with some very thoughtful answers.

    For me the best answer comes from Kahlil Gibran: “Work is love made manifest.” Like most simple statements there is enormous depth to this statement and each person will have their own interpretation of it. But for me it points to the need for a focus outside of ourselves if we are to achieve anything, for work is ultimately a result and therefore, by definition, an achievement.

    The search for happiness for its own sake is a selfish motive that is ultimately likely to be doomed in failure, for happiness comes from sharing. Happiness is a sense of joy that is the consequence of “making a difference” or a good deed, or a shared experience, etc. The things is that joy is innate; it is part of our being, and we lose that joy when we act contrary to what we believe in or become too wrapped up in our own situation. Work is such a major part of our lives that we have to find a way to channel our efforts so that we do not sabotage our joy and thus erode our happiness.

  13. I think both are related and completely separate – which ever way we chose to see it. And yes, it’s a circle (or a chicken & egg situation :))

    The bottom line for me is: meaning makes us happy. We all want to have our lives mean something – we want to know that we matter. We create meaning by making a difference to other people, in whatever small or big way. And the more happy we are, the more likely and able we are to do meaningful things (and the more depressed we are, the more we withdraw and concentrate only on ourselves).

    Some people have jobs or businesses that are meaningful to them – for example by creating fantastic advertising spots for people to enjoy (and to buy products that will “make them happy” however shortlived that happiness might be) or by maintaining servers to allow millions of other people to do uninterrupted meaningful work on their computers.

    And some people might see their jobs only as a means to an end – a way to create an income so they can afford to do meaningful things after work – be it volunteering for charity or playing in a band and entertaining other people.

  14. How could a non-meaningful work ever make me happy? The work has to make a positive sense at least in my personal opinion to make me happy!

  15. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone. I’m learning a lot from your thoughts.

    I’ll try to post a recap tomorrow and add my own views.

  16. Advertising is not about “Making people buy more”, it is about getting the word out that what people want and need is available. There are many times when people don’t KNOW they want or need it until they see it.
    A job as a checker for a supermarket is not particularly glamorous, it is not particularly “meaningful” in the long run. I can easily be replaced. What does make my job meaningful is the fact that I interact with people and make sure that what they want and need is found for them. I am their last chance before they walk out the door to get “it” whatever “it” may be. My most important question is always “Did you find what you want?”
    I occasionally get “I don’t know what I want!” This is my opportunity to look at what they ARE buying and then offer suggestions. It makes me happy to provide something that they either couldn’t find, were too embarrassed to ask for, or didn’t know they were looking for. Then if we don’t have what they want, there is always the suggestion card to fill out to request the item.
    It’s our responsibility to decide whether or not to be happy. We don’t become happy just because our jobs are good or exciting. We find meaning in our jobs and then we become happy with the job and our position in it.

  17. “Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life” so the saying goes. Happiness is an entirely different subject. I don’t have much more to add to the excellent comments above. Great blog topic! Thanks.

  18. You are happy when are doing a meaningful work!!

    There is some introspection needed if you are not happy when doing a meaningful work!!

  19. i agree with those that say happiness and meaning at work is inter-dependent. When you’re happy, you tend to find more meaning in whatever you do. It could be anything. If you’re happy, you could find meaning working at anything you want. Yet work that has meaning to you will undoubtedly bring you more joy. It all comes from one’s state of mind and perspective. Some people find meaningful work by helping to conserve our environment while others find work meaningful when they are sewing or playing music. It all comes down to one’s perspective at trying to be the best they can be at whatever they are do. Every job has a meaning and it’s our job to find that out.

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