Tuesday, 19 October 2010

10 Psychology Findings That Affect Career Decisions (6-10)

6.     It’s other people that make us happy – Csíkszentmihályi (1996)
You might not believe it, crammed onto the Northern Line, but it’s true.  Evidence shows that it is isolation, not feelings of despair, which cause mental illness, depression and even suicide.  This is perhaps unsurprising as being with other people and collaborating with them successfully meant that you were accepted in the tribe, which was critical to survival.
 Conclusion: getting rich is unlikely to make you happy by itself.  Instead, think about how you can best add value to or help others.  Not only will this make you happier, it may well make you richer.

7.     ‘Meaning’ is about understanding – Steger (2008)
If you want a meaningful life, you need to firstly understand your true self.  Who are you?  What do you stand for?  Then you have to understand how you fit into the world.  What do you believe in?  What do you want to do whilst you’re here?
Without meaning we feel uneasy and anxious because we don’t fully understand what we’re doing.   This definition of meaning can be applied for small things like understanding the meaning of a word in a sentence, or larger things like understanding our lives.  Meaningful work can therefore be found at the intersection of where you use your unique strengths in a purpose that you believe in. 
Conclusion: Focus on understanding what you uniquely offer, and then focus on understanding what sort of cause you want to contribute to.  If you’re consistently doing that the end result will bring meaning.   

8.     Control over our work lives is critical  - Langer and Rodin (1976), Whitehall study (2005)
A famous experiment in 1976 by Langer and Rodin showed that if elderly people were given a plant to care for they had much higher levels of happiness than if they were given a plant but the nurse cared for it.  This finding has been repeated many times in many ways.  The Whitehall Study is a large-scale experiment which showed that those with less control over their daily work schedule had poorer health and died younger than those who had great control.  If you are looking to be happier in your work, look for ways in which you can increase your control over it. 
Conclusion: ask yourself how you could exert greater control over your working life.  What could you learn or train in that would help you?  What role or field would you feel more in control in?

9.     Goals work – e.g. Nicholls (1990)
The brain evolved to solve lots of different problems in different situations and it is very good at it.  That’s why only motile organisms have a brain in the first place.  There is evidence to suggest that even just writing down a goal will help you achieve it. 
Conclusion: if you’ve been thinking about a career change for a long time, action beats thinking.

10.     There is magic in starting something
OK, this one can’t be proven, but we believe it intuitively.  Once you commit to doing something bold, strange forces move to help you and opportunities open up.  People you meet respond differently, the nature of conversations changes, you read about things that could help, you chance upon solutions.  If you make choices repeatedly based on your vision, your values, your highest talents, you shift the whole universe to act in your favour.  Doing work you love becomes somehow inevitable.

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