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Be Happy in Your Work

Arthus Brooks's A Formula for Happiness
Be Happy in Your Work

By Drew Trotter

Happiness has suffered a bad press among Christians in recent times. The idea is not unknown in Scripture; in fact both the Greek and Hebrew terms traditionally translated “Blessed” are often now translated “Happy” and not undeservedly so. Happiness is perhaps not the paramount goal to be sought by followers of the One Who came to die and calls us to do the same, but it is also not a meaningless or wicked goal either. So how should we think about happiness?

This simple op-ed piece by the president of the American Enterprise Institute outlines what he calls a formula for happiness by looking at information from the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey. He first asserts that 50% of our happiness seems to come from our genes. Quoting a study of twins by the University of Minnesota, he says, “We inherit a surprising proportion of our happiness at any given moment — around 48 percent”. Another 40 percent comes from immediate experiences; if something has gone well, we are happy—at least for the moment.

Brooks concentrates the bulk of his article on the final 10 percent of our experience. Though he doesn’t tell us where he gets this, he asserts that the pursuit of four basic “values” accounts for the remaining 10 percent of our happiness. Those values are faith, family, friendships and work.

Dismissing the first three of these as “uncontroversial” and “hardly shocking”, Brooks then proceeds to discuss work and its contribution to happiness. Finding the secret to meaningfulness in work as “earned success”, Brooks discounts money, prestige and motivations other than doing something in which you find meaning as reasons to work.

This short article provides a nice jumping off place for a discussion of work, job, vocation, etc. and their relationship to our personal happiness. You will want to supplement his essay with discussions of happiness related to faith (can you be happy and be doubting at the same time?), family (does everyone love their parents all the time?), and friendship (so we don’t ever get disaffected with our friends?), but as a starter for how work should be viewed as it relates to personal happiness, it is a helpful piece.


Arthur Brooks’s article can be found here.


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