Finding Happiness In The Things You Do


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“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

– John Lennon

We all want to be happy and although this means different things to each of us, one of the key elements to happiness in life as most people put it is being able to do the things we enjoy the most.

Have you ever heard someone say:  “I feel I’m not in control of my life. I wish I had the time to do the things I enjoy the most.” “Like what?” You might ask. And a thoughtful answer might come “Like, going to the beach in the morning and I always wanted to be able to play the piano. And I really love my job, I’m just not satisfied with the things I’m doing anymore.”

And most people swing back and forth between doing things they enjoy and doing the things they feel they have to. Now, most of us are driven by challenging things. However, more often than not, when we become proficient in something, indolence often sets in and we end up doing things we no longer enjoy out of habit or simply because we’re terribly good at doing them. This can be a serious blocker to personal and professional growth.

How can we understand how the things we’re doing contribute to how happy and energized we feel? How can we “unblock” our growth? How can we pursue happiness in the things we do?

Here’s a simple framework that can help you put the things you do (and the things you want to do) into perspective, also helping to identify the things that can energize you and the things that drain you.

The Joy & Proficiency Matrix

Step 1 – List

First step is to make a list of all the things you do on a daily basis (or at least regularly), both professionally (e.g. attending sales meetings) and in your private life (e.g. cooking dinner). Add the things that you don’t do yet, but would like to incorporate into your routine (e.g. going to the gym twice a week).

Step 2 – Organize

Now fill in the following matrix with the items on your list, by placing them in the corresponding quadrant, according to how much you enjoy doing them and how good you are at doing them.

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Step 3 – Assess

Next, analyze how you’ve displayed your tasks among the four quadrants, using the following guidelines:

  • Items in the Zone of Happiness are tasks that energize you.
    You should try to maximize the number of items in this quadrant as this is where you’ll derive the most enjoyment and fulfillment from the things you do.
  • Items in the Zone of Mentorship are tasks that you do well, but no longer enjoy doing.
    Tasks in this quadrant probably reflect your past experience and your readiness for new things. Maybe you’ve moved on or are ready to move on. I call this the Zone of Mentorship, because for you to move on, usually you have to find someone to take over these tasks. Items in this area can generate very fulfilling tasks in your Zone of Happiness as they provide opportunities for mentoring or coaching others. Mentor someone on the task at hand and free yourself up from actually doing it by delegating it to your mentee with your supervision and oversight.
  • Items in the Zone of Learning are the things you want to start doing, you’re excited about doing them, but are not yet proficient in them.
    This is your opportunity for professional and personal growth. You have the motivation, but are lacking the skill, so it’s time to learn. You can do this by taking a course, reading a book, exploring information online or even by finding a mentor. Maybe someone close to you – a friend or a colleague- has that very same skill in his/hers Zone of Mentorship.
  • Items in the Zone of Pain are tasks that drain your energy.
    You should strive to minimize the number of items in this quadrant by removing them altogether and being mindful of starting any other tasks that fall into this area. Removing items from the Zone of Pain can be achieved through several means. If possible, stop doing them. Sometimes, however, it’s just not possible to completely drop every task in this area. The alternatives here are, either start doing them well or start enjoying them. Since it’s hard to enjoy doing something you don’t do well, the easiest path is usually to learn how to do them, first. So, as a first step try to move these tasks to the Zone of Learning. Eventually you’ll learn how to do them well and finally you’ll begin to enjoy doing them.

Go through this tool every so often to make sure you’re headed in the right direction to a more joyful and fulfilling professional and personal life. After seeing in which quadrants your tasks end up, using the above guidelines, develop an action plan to get you to where you want to be professionally and personally.

One Response to Finding Happiness In The Things You Do

  1. Pingback: New Article: Finding Happiness In The Things You Do « Thousand Insights

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