There is much research showing that jobs perceived as helpful to others yield greater satisfaction and less stress. For example, in 2014 two researchers published an article in the Journal of Positive Psychology examining the lives of lawyers, and found that attorneys in high-income fields like corporate law, tort, and malpractice were unhappier and less satisfied than their lower-paid counterparts in service roles such as public prosecutors or legal defenders.
Perhaps you don’t think your job is especially helpful to others, but Arthur C. Brooks president of the American Enterprise Institute, suggests you rethink your attitude. Writing in The New York Times, Brooks says that “almost any work can be understood as a service job.” He illustrates the point with the parable of a traveler who happened upon two stonemasons. When he asked the workers what they were doing, one replied, “I am making a living.” But the other mason said: “I am building a cathedral.”
Brooks maintains that in our interconnected world, all work has an impact on the lives of others, and that “everyone, in every industry, affects the lives of co-workers, supervisors, customers, suppliers, donors or investors.” We endorse his suggestion of spending part of our morning commute considering how to improve the lives of others through our work, whatever it may be.
We want to hear. How does your work benefit others, and does considering its impact have a positive effect on you? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.