W is for Work: an essential ingredient in happiness

Install a spice rack.
Install a spice rack.

This series is an alphabetical exploration of 26 options for living well, despite everything. It answers the question–How can we live well, despite problems?
We can find happiness in our work.
It is frequently said that King Solomon was the wisest man ever to live on the earth. He is quoted in the book of Ecclesiastes (3:12-13) as saying, “There is nothing better for humans than to be contentedly happy and to savor their work.” Solomon does not mention wealth, status, influence, or even a great relationship as primary sources of contentment. He says, however, that satisfying work, “is a gift from God.”
Gifts from God are Good. 
Indulge me, for a moment in contemplating work (effort that provides results, in the form of fruits to be savored now or later) as something disconnected from money. There is inherent satisfaction available to us when we:

  • Mow the lawn.
  • Change a diaper.
  • Dust the furniture.
  • Bandage a cut.
  • Paint a wall.
  • Button a child’s coat.
  • Clean a closet.
  • Give a foot rub.
  • Polish the car.
  • Burp the baby.
  • Sew a skirt.
  • Bake a cake.
  • Knit a pair of socks.
  • Actively listen to someone’s story and thereby comfort a lonely heart.
  • Sew on a button.
  • Shop for groceries.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Feed the birds.
  • Chop fire wood.
  • Build and tend a fire.
  • Cook a meal.

This kind of work can mean something. A life spent in service of meaningful tasks is a good life. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychologist and Holocaust survivor, devoted his life to studying, understanding and promoting “meaning” as the primary source of satisfaction and fulfillment. He believed that without meaning, people fill the void with hedonistic pleasures, power, materialism, hatred, boredom, or neurotic obsessions and compulsions. In other words, we find happiness not in seeking our own pleasure, but rather, when we make our lives meaningful.
What kind of work adds meaning to your life? 

15 thoughts on “W is for Work: an essential ingredient in happiness”

  1. I would agree that meaningful work of any kind is a key ingredient in a good life – and the examples you’ve listed show that this doesn’t have to be a high-flying career, but satisfying tasks that can be big or small. Creative work is the kind that adds meaning to my life, but my day job managing libraries is also meaningful work for the difference it makes to people’s lives.

    1. I have a bookmark that says, “If knowledge is power, then libraries are power plants.” How awesome for you (and for the patrons your libraries serve), that you get to have a meaningful career! So many people I know have to settle for a “job” that gets them by, and find their purpose in the rest of their lives.

  2. No matter the work that must be done, I’m thankful my body allows me to perform the task at hand. There have been times where I’ve been unable to walk across the room. I’m thankful each day that I’m able to get out of bed. God is good!

  3. I think work is incredibly important in life! Even completing little tasks around the house gives me meaning and purpose on the weekends. And I think we often define ourselves by the career type of work that we do for a living.

    1. That surely is an indication of how important work is–that we define ourselves by what we do.
      I used to think that a weekend of leisure was valuable. And, although I believe in the value of leisure, these days, I feel more out of sorts when I don’t get anything accomplished!
      Now you’ve got me thinking, Heather, about the people who aren’t able to define themselves by career (for instance, the people I do volunteer work with, most of them are considered “unemployable.”). How might they define themselves…. hmmm. Much to consider.

  4. Karin Van den Bergh

    Simple but meaningful, purposeful daily acts done with dedication and love can be so fulfilling.

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