As we enjoy the festive season, and most of us look forward to a bit of time away from work, we have an opportunity to reflect on our working life and ask ourselves how happy we are in our work.
Researchers for the London School of Economics recently attempted to answer the question "Does Work Make us Happy?" by tracking and interviewing 50,000 people over three years using smartphone technology called Mappiness.
The results were a little surprising. They found that work makes us unhappier than anything else, apart from being ill in bed.
Alex Bryson, who ran the research for the LSE, observed that people were generally positive when reflecting on the meaning and value of their work in their lives. Yet actually doing their job elicited some personal cost in terms of the pressure and stress they experienced.
Such pressures not only influence our happiness but also can warp us into being somebody we are not - often into somebody we don't want to be.
Getting the right job is not an exact science. Sometimes we miscalculate either what a role will involve or the level of our ability to fulfil it, and sometimes we just don't quite fit in with the company or, indeed, the culture we've joined.
I have had jobs that made my heart soar and let me unleash my own unique qualities in ways I could never have imagined. During those periods my experiences became richer; I had my most meaningful relationships, felt a greater sense of achievement and led a more fulfilled life both in and outside work.
Equally, I have had jobs where I've been counting down the minutes, wishing I was somewhere else and finding ways to make the time pass less painfully. It felt as if each day of my life was being squandered, and that my most valuable resources (time and talent) were ebbing away. Worse still, I knew my precious love of life was being leached from me. My life was becoming meaningless - therefore, so was I. There was no alternative but to head for the exit door.
Christmas is a wonderful time for us to step back from all the busyness that surrounds us so that we can get a clearer look at who we are and where we are going in our lives. A simple way to help us make the most of this opportunity is to 'unplug'. Revered fashion designer Paul Smith does this brilliantly. He doesn't have a mobile phone, a computer or even an answering machine. To some he might seem out of step with today's world, but I believe he's really on to something.
Unplug and use the peace it brings to ask these questions:
- Am I truly leading an extraordinary life?
- If whatever I did next was guaranteed to work, what would I do?
- What is it that I love and that I am great at?
Sit back, soak up this perspective and see where a little dreaming over the Christmas period can get you. 2015 is all yours, what will you make of it?
Adapted extract from Free! Love Your Work, Love Your Life by Chris Baréz-Brown, published by Penguin.