Work and Joy

In a prior post titled purposeful living, I discussed how it is purposeful living can consist of taking pleasure in mastery of one’s work. In a follow up post titled satisfaction, I discussed how satisfaction with life can derive from mastery of whatever it is lies within our control in this life. Within this context of mastery and satisfaction, I discussed how the best of societies, such as Athenian (Greek) society thrived in part because they always were trying to create new opportunities for citizens who had desire for mastery, but for whom opportunities for mastery were, within context of existing situations and environment, limited. For Athenians, colonization was not so much about enslavement of other peoples, else they would not have encouraged intellectualism, education, and the arts in those colonies, rather it was more about creating new opportunities for Athenians.

Colonies that are repressed can gain independence, but typically do not recolonize their masters. The United States, Australia, India, Nigeria, Ghana all gained independence from the United Kingdom. None were strong enough to make possible reverse colonization. Rome was a colony of Greece, a colony which eventually overcame Greece militarily. Clearly, Romans could not have been repressed. It is natural, however, for people to desire to be masters of their own fate. This desire to be master always is rationale for fights for independence all over the world, never mind independence at times can induce grandiosely worse outcomes for most citizens of a country.

But then I digress.

When we take pleasure in mastery of work, professions, or side gigs, we peruse what we have done and find some sort of beauty or pleasure in whatever it is we have achieved. If we spend too much time soaking in beauty of past achievements, however, we do not leave much room for meaningful progress, meaning just as soon as we begin to soak in beauty of the past, we have to be off to our next round of challenges, mastery of which creates new beauty.

Is it the case then that we can find joy in mastery of work, professions, or side gigs? In order to be able to reflect appropriately on this question we need to understand how exactly it is pleasure differs from joy.

Webster’s English Dictionary defines pleasure to be a feeling of happiness, an enjoyment, or a satisfaction. The same Dictionary defines joy to be a feeling of happiness, or a source of happiness.

If we compare the two definitions, the difference between the two words (and there must be some difference, however, subtle or slight) is that joy can be source of pleasure. Based on the difference in definitions, if work enables pleasure, or equivalently happiness, work can be source of joy. We have then that not only is it we can take pleasure in, equivalently find happiness in our work, but also in work we potentially can find a source of joy. Naturally, success — rewards for mastery of work — are critical for derivation of joy from work.

I am blessed in the sense that I am in a profession I enjoy, a profession in which I find pleasure, a profession within which I have found some joy. What makes a profession most enjoyable is not so much that we like what we do, but that it engenders questions in our hearts, questions to which we seek to find answers, answers which bring pleasure to our hearts.

When I grade exam scripts turned in by my students for instance, there are questions in my heart. Would the students previously at the top of the class maintain their ranking? Will the students surprise me on the tough exam question (I typically have at least one of those)? Will the students surprisingly do poorly on the easy or easiest questions? Would a student previously lagging in the class surprisingly do well? It is not so much the grading itself that brings pleasure or joy, but the finding of answers to the questions tugging at my heart.

We find pleasure and joy in our work when the finding of answers to questions induced by our work brings pleasure or joy.

The solution? Find something which generates questions to which you would love to find answers as side gig. Finding of pleasure or joy, or both in your side gig will help make your profession bearable until if at all possible you are able to transition to a profession you deem to be a more appropriate fit, perhaps even your side gig profession.

Mastery of life requires we try to make the most of our circumstances. At the risk of sounding cliched, mastery of life responds positively to the make the most of your lemons advice. You see, even when we find ourselves in professions we find enjoyable, work situations hardly ever are perfect, we still within such contexts then have to make the most of our lemons. Whether you find yourself in the profession you deem most appropriate fit or not, make the most of your lemons. Making the most of our lemons is key to finding and maintenance of pleasure and joy in work. Here is to more of lemonade and less of lemons in our work derived pleasure and joy.



Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos

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Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD

Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos