Enjoying work — Joyce’s Career Tip of the Week

If someone asked you which of the following you would — doing things you like to do or doing things you dislike doing — I imagine your choice would be to do the things you enjoy.

Stanford Professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, authors of Designing Your Life – How to build a well-lived joyful life, recommend keeping a journal of activities and evaluating how engaged and energized you are by the things you do. Are there things that you enjoy doing so much that you become completely absorbed and lose track of time? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been researching this phenomenon since the 1970s. He refers to this type of experience as “flow.” It has also been described as “being in the zone.”

Have you had experiences like that? What are the things that appear to be the perfect challenges — not so easy that you are bored, but not so difficult that you become anxious? What are your favorite activities? What are you preferred environments? Do you prefer interacting with people or objects? What objects do you enjoy working with the most? What roles, played by you and/or others, make experiences positive or negative?

The goal of all this analysis is to identify the kinds of work that are the best fit for you. I’m not saying that you should expect to find a job where you will only do what you like to do day after day. However, I am saying that if you are aware of the activities and scenarios in which you are the happiest and most effective, you are more apt to search for positions that will give you those experiences. Getting to know yourself and what makes you do your best work are worth investing the time and thought to discover.


Joyce Donahue is a career counselor in the Fulton Schools Career Center. She is a nationally certified career counselor and holds “Master Career Counselor” membership status in the National Career Development Association.