Author Topic: Happier at Work?  (Read 1574 times)

jondlc24

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Happier at Work?
« on: November 11, 2018, 11:53:10 AM »
"Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback, rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in oneís work, to concentrate, and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed."

I've considered myself a mustachian for a couple years now, but after reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I'm now considering if I'd actually be happier working a normal career. He makes a compelling argument that most people are actually happier and more often in a state a flow at work than on leisure, they just don't realize it. Or they refuse to realize it because there's cultural stigma where we are supposed to hate the 9-5 grind.

It's really got me thinking. While I'm sure I could certainly recreate flow experiences in retirement, would it not be easier just to enjoy the work I'm currently doing where the flow state is just kind of built in?

Bonus: I'm an ENTJ, so my core values are ambition, influence, persistence and logic. My ideal work roles are as a dynamic leader, analytical visionary, powerful influencer and creative innovator. Once again, while all of this might be achievable in retirement, is it not easier just to achieve all this by continuing to work?

I think the more and more I get into my career and begin to enjoy it, the less I want to retire at 30, which has been my goal for a couple of years now. I don't even really have a question per say. I just would appreciate thoughts and feedback on this line of thinking. 

Thanks everybody.

Cranky

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2018, 12:15:29 PM »
I think lots of people like working, for a wide variety of reasons, even if itís only to have something to complain about. ;-)

MayDay

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2018, 12:26:47 PM »
There is definitely something to it.

I was a SAHM for ~6 years and the lack of structure and material reward (whether in dollars or appreciation from toddlers) for your efforts definitely sucks for some personality types.

I like working- sure working less sounds good, but I get a lot of fulfillment out of it.  Since I plan to work for the next decade while I am immobile anyway (kids in school) I might as well enjoy it!  And by that time, maybe I'll want to keep working, maybe I won't.  Either way I'll keep saving so that if the shit hits the fan, I'm covered.

I know that personally, if I don't have the structure of work, I can try to recreate that internally but I am pretty lazy. 

NevermindScrooge

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2018, 01:39:53 PM »
Quote
I know that personally, if I don't have the structure of work, I can try to recreate that internally but I am pretty lazy.

^^ I can very much relate to that!
I have had some less-than-awesome experiences with work, so back then I was happier at home. But when I was without a job for a while I got something like cabin fever, also due to uncertainty when I would earn money again. Now I have a pretty nice job, nice colleagues, plenty of vacation days. And of course the structure. I'm still not sure I would keep working if I FIREd though... Perhaps take 6 months off to recuperate mentally... (I keep dragging some ancient stress issues with me and I don't take the time to deal with them for once and for all. Nothing really serious though. I think)

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2018, 02:11:24 PM »
There are MANY things I love about working, as a fellow ENTJ.

But the desire to have complete freedom over my time/location, outweighs those things. If I could take some time to decompress after 10 years of FT work, and find a sweet 100% commission remote sales job.....I would do it in a heartbeat.

DirtDiva

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2018, 02:52:31 PM »
I truly enjoy my work, but I donít want to do it all the time.  The hours at work make me savor my free time that much more.  Itís kind of like camping- itís a lot of fun, but damn ó the hot shower and soft bed feel so good when you go home.

I do wish I had a career that lent itself to intermittent work, i.e. a few weeks off, followed by a few weeks at work. 

My plan is the same as Maydayís. I want the option to get done at a momentís notice if the SHTF, but meanwhile Iíll enjoy the ride.

Dee

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2018, 03:20:47 PM »
If you think you might want to keep working, no problem. Head toward FI and once you get there, decide if you want to RE. If, on balance, you prefer to keep the job, keep it. For many people though, once FI, there are likely to be changes in order to the work schedule, whether that means putting up with less crap at work or finding a more flexible or part-time arrangement, or becoming self-employed or actually retiring. By heading towards FI, you're buying yourself options. Whether you act on those options or not is a whole other story.

Gremlin

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2018, 04:16:06 PM »
For me the FI part is far more important than the RE bit.  FI gives you the ability to choose your own path.  RE is one path you may choose.

I think the right job provides many forms of personal development, motivation and self-actualisation.  But the right job can turn into the wrong job with a change in boss, a restructure, a corporate takeover or sale, a change of role or a change in the market.  My observations are that many people underestimate the likelihood of such external changes occurring to them.  FI (and it's younger sibling, FU Money) allow you to fully own your response to any of these externalities rather than just being the diligent little wage slave the corporate world is looking for you to be.

Being ENTJ doesn't make you immune to these challenges.  In fact, sometimes they can be worse.  You find yourself reporting to a boss with no vision.  Or perhaps, your boss is another ENTJ whose vision is different to yours and is adamant that it's "their way or the highway".

With FI, you have the ability to then choose to move to a role that gives you personal development, motivation and self-actualisation.  Or create your own business that gives you that, as many ENTJ's are entrepreneurs.  If instead you're on the spending merry-go-round, then money is your first criteria and everything else gets traded away. 

jondlc24

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2018, 05:08:05 PM »
If you think you might want to keep working, no problem. Head toward FI and once you get there, decide if you want to RE. If, on balance, you prefer to keep the job, keep it. For many people though, once FI, there are likely to be changes in order to the work schedule, whether that means putting up with less crap at work or finding a more flexible or part-time arrangement, or becoming self-employed or actually retiring. By heading towards FI, you're buying yourself options. Whether you act on those options or not is a whole other story.

The thing is that I have two different career paths that I can potentially go down and when I want to hit F.I. has a big role to play in which path I choose.

I currently work as a sales development rep at an amazing tech start up. In 8-12 months, I'm expected to move into either a full fledged account executive role as an individual contributor OR become a team lead, which essentially puts me on the management track. Long term, I think I'd enjoy the management track more because I really enjoy getting the most of out people and I love big picture strategy stuff. However, in the short term, I'd be leaving a lot of money on the table. As an individual contributor, I'd likely be making 50%-100% more than I would on the management track.

If I was set on retiring at 30, the individual contributor role would be the no brainer, especially considering you can work remote from anywhere. If I was working for the enjoyment, without really caring when I hit F.I., I'd take the management route.

I'm the kind of person who would enjoy either role, but all in all I think I'd enjoy management more. That's why I'm currently trying to decide what I'm going to do long term, far beyond my 30's.

jondlc24

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2018, 05:25:17 PM »
With FI, you have the ability to then choose to move to a role that gives you personal development, motivation and self-actualisation.  Or create your own business that gives you that, as many ENTJ's are entrepreneurs.  If instead you're on the spending merry-go-round, then money is your first criteria and everything else gets traded away.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that part of what draws me towards deciding to continue my career "forever" is that I after paying off debt, I could save and invest just 15% of my income, rather than the 70-75% I would be saving and investing if continued my prior goal of retiring at 30. I could use all that extra income in the next couple of years to pay for a decent wedding, buy my parents the house they've never been able to afford, visit my sister in Japan who I haven't seen in years, help my other sister with some bills, etc.

Although, I do see how I could potentially be screwing myself if in 10 years I somehow end up hating my job and I don't have enough money to FIRE when I otherwise could have. I guess I just don't worry about that so much because although its possible, I find it very unlikely.

Gremlin

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2018, 05:57:10 PM »
With FI, you have the ability to then choose to move to a role that gives you personal development, motivation and self-actualisation.  Or create your own business that gives you that, as many ENTJ's are entrepreneurs.  If instead you're on the spending merry-go-round, then money is your first criteria and everything else gets traded away.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that part of what draws me towards deciding to continue my career "forever" is that I after paying off debt, I could save and invest just 15% of my income, rather than the 70-75% I would be saving and investing if continued my prior goal of retiring at 30. I could use all that extra income in the next couple of years to pay for a decent wedding, buy my parents the house they've never been able to afford, visit my sister in Japan who I haven't seen in years, help my other sister with some bills, etc.

Although, I do see how I could potentially be screwing myself if in 10 years I somehow end up hating my job and I don't have enough money to FIRE when I otherwise could have. I guess I just don't worry about that so much because although its possible, I find it very unlikely.
You do realise that there are a whole range of choices other than "save 15% or save 70-75%", don't you?  Your posts last year were all gunning towards retiring at 30.  It seems like you've changed your mind on that.  Nothing wrong with that choice.  But it doesn't mean the alternative has to be retirement at 65 and spend, spend, spend in the meantime.  Your view of what you want has changed a lot in one year, yet you're confident that your perspective of how much you enjoy work won't change over the next 10?

Another alternative is to pare back the savings (slightly), give yourself a bit of extra wriggle room on the budget and build towards FU Money instead of "Retire at 30 Money".  Maybe that's the best of both worlds?  Something to play with now and something to help the future jondlc24.

jondlc24

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2018, 06:26:28 PM »
With FI, you have the ability to then choose to move to a role that gives you personal development, motivation and self-actualisation.  Or create your own business that gives you that, as many ENTJ's are entrepreneurs.  If instead you're on the spending merry-go-round, then money is your first criteria and everything else gets traded away.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that part of what draws me towards deciding to continue my career "forever" is that I after paying off debt, I could save and invest just 15% of my income, rather than the 70-75% I would be saving and investing if continued my prior goal of retiring at 30. I could use all that extra income in the next couple of years to pay for a decent wedding, buy my parents the house they've never been able to afford, visit my sister in Japan who I haven't seen in years, help my other sister with some bills, etc.

Although, I do see how I could potentially be screwing myself if in 10 years I somehow end up hating my job and I don't have enough money to FIRE when I otherwise could have. I guess I just don't worry about that so much because although its possible, I find it very unlikely.
You do realise that there are a whole range of choices other than "save 15% or save 70-75%", don't you?  Your posts last year were all gunning towards retiring at 30.  It seems like you've changed your mind on that.  Nothing wrong with that choice.  But it doesn't mean the alternative has to be retirement at 65 and spend, spend, spend in the meantime.  Your view of what you want has changed a lot in one year, yet you're confident that your perspective of how much you enjoy work won't change over the next 10?

Another alternative is to pare back the savings (slightly), give yourself a bit of extra wriggle room on the budget and build towards FU Money instead of "Retire at 30 Money".  Maybe that's the best of both worlds?  Something to play with now and something to help the future jondlc24.

I know I mentioned this in the original question but it was a book that I just finished reading that made me pause and reconsider my goal of retiring at 30... which is ironic b/c i just got this amazing job and it's far more achievable than I previously imagined it would be. It's not as if I've flip flopped completely tho. I still might call it a day at 30ish.

And I'm not completely confident that I'll love my job in 10 years. I'm equally unsure as to how much I would enjoy my leisure time if I retired early. Or more specifically, if I can keep enough discipline and structure in my routine when I'm retired to keep from sitting on the couch watching Netflix all day, which is an easy default for most people I imagine.

While I could definitely find a normal balance on the savings rate to do stuff now and still have FU money at a reasonably young age, I guess my question is more so for the long haul... Whether I'd be happier in a traditional job or doing tasks that I give myself during retirement. What I've learned about my personality and "flow states" recently has that question stuck in my mind.


Schaefer Light

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2018, 06:49:28 AM »
"Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback, rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in oneís work, to concentrate, and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed."

My job does not have built-in goals, feedback, or challenges.  It does have rules, though.  They say I have to be in the office from 8-5 every day.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2018, 07:13:19 AM »
I enjoy my job and think it provides value to society as a whole.

If I were super rich that I could afford to travel near full time, I think I'd prefer that.  But I don't want to be retired on a shoestring budget.

des999

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2018, 09:26:20 AM »

I do wish I had a career that lent itself to intermittent work, i.e. a few weeks off, followed by a few weeks at work. 


agreed.

Lady SA

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2018, 10:25:27 AM »
I think about this too. I have what I consider a unicorn job - easy, flexible hours, incredible team of people to work with, plenty of time off, high-paying, intrinsically rewarding, and it fits my personality to a T. Really the only complaint I have is that I want *more* time off to do things I like outside of work -- a 3 day weekend every weekend sounds heavenly. Mostly, I just want to balance the time scales more evenly between "personal" and "work" time each week. 5-2 is too weighted toward work imo. 4-3 would be better, but ideally 3-4! Lol!

I've strongly considered just scaling back the hours a little earlier than I would otherwise and just work this job on a very reduced schedule for the foreseeable future rather than completely bail asap. We are approaching FU money on the next year, but I want to grind it out until we get to 50% FI (about 2.5 years from now) before scaling back. This way, at most, we would be about a decade out from full FI-levels of money as long as we have jobs that cover the bills.

I think I would only scale back my hours after getting well beyond FU money - I am pretty cognizant of the fact that my job may be amazing now, but a simple manager change or market change or anything of that nature could quickly sour it, so I want to work and squirrel away my cash while the going is still so great. Then if things go downhill after I pull back my hours, it would be an excellent time to simply exit the corporate rat race all-together... If I did have to change jobs, I would likely need to start working full-time again until I built up enough good-will to pull off my ideal low-hour work schedule again. No thanks! Instead, I'd probably go work for a nonprofit or something that is lower-paying but will let me work the hours I'm willing to work. After 50% FI, the income side of things starts to matter a little less, but I definitely enjoy the structure working adds to my day so I'd like to continue that--but only so long as I am treated like an adult (no micromanaging) and it doesn't interfere with my free time.

Case

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2018, 10:48:29 AM »
"Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback, rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in oneís work, to concentrate, and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed."

I've considered myself a mustachian for a couple years now, but after reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I'm now considering if I'd actually be happier working a normal career. He makes a compelling argument that most people are actually happier and more often in a state a flow at work than on leisure, they just don't realize it. Or they refuse to realize it because there's cultural stigma where we are supposed to hate the 9-5 grind.

It's really got me thinking. While I'm sure I could certainly recreate flow experiences in retirement, would it not be easier just to enjoy the work I'm currently doing where the flow state is just kind of built in?

Bonus: I'm an ENTJ, so my core values are ambition, influence, persistence and logic. My ideal work roles are as a dynamic leader, analytical visionary, powerful influencer and creative innovator. Once again, while all of this might be achievable in retirement, is it not easier just to achieve all this by continuing to work?

I think the more and more I get into my career and begin to enjoy it, the less I want to retire at 30, which has been my goal for a couple of years now. I don't even really have a question per say. I just would appreciate thoughts and feedback on this line of thinking. 

Thanks everybody.

I read the book like 15 years ago... it has some interesting concepts.  Finding the right balance in order to be motivated but not overwhelmed.

The problem is that jobs do not always allow for this optimal situation.  This is because the work place is typically designed with its primary objective being accomplishing a certain goal (make money, get the boss a promotion, etc...) rather than keeping the employee in a constant state of flow.  It's often beneficial to the primary goal to have the employee in a flow state, but this would likely only be a secondary goal, or lower.

This is the big reason people here are looking to retire.  They want it 'flow' (or whatever they want) to be their primary objective, not their secondary.

If you can make the stars align such that your primary objective at work is optimizing your own life goals, then you've hit the jack pot.  Alternatively, you might shift your constraints so that your primary goal overlaps enough with the workplaces primary goals, without too much personal sacrifice.  But often this is not possible, and this is why people are looking to GTFO.


Now, a separate topic is that it is important to keep a 'job' of sorts; a project, a set of goals, etc...  This is the idea that in order to be optimally happy, people need structure in their life, to be constantly improving or achieving things, etc...
This is actually a fascinating concept... whether it is truly necessary.  Dr Doom (the blogger; one of the very view FIRE bloggers that I like) writes about this concept.  He found that he needed a lengthy decompression period after retiring.  Immediately after retiring he always felt pressured to accomplish things.  After some time, he was able to let this go, and tried to experience life without a need to be 'productive'.  And then at some point he mysteriously dropped off the face of the Earth (stopped blogging).

So a critical question is whether people need to be constantly productive, in a 'flow' state, to be optimally happy.  I think that there is research to support this; that productivity and 'flow' can lead to happiness.  But on the other hand, I have not seen anything that proves that it is necessary; that there is mutual exclusivity.

In short, I think it is worth questioning the central premise of 'Flow', and approaching with an open mind.  And the beauty of becoming financially independent is that it allows you to pursue that sort of self-exploration, without risk of disaster.

Based on your description of yourself and discussion of your personality types, it sounds like you're the type of person that's really into 'workplace bullshit'.  Sorry if that sounds rude, I am not trying to be, it's just the simplest way for me to explain.  I may simply be exposing my own ignorance in stating that.  But, it reminds me of a friend of mine who described herself as being 'energized' by her corporate job.  It totally made me role my eyes... but if that type stuff really drives you, than more power to you.  To me, I cant take it seriously.  To me, there is the hope that there MUST be more to life than the often mundane existence that standard careers bring.  If I found out not, well, I think I'd dip into depression.

I have a career in science and technology... if I described my job in detail you might it's really cool (and technology wise it is), but really we're just trying to make more widgets to enable society to grow further to make money because... why?  Is the primary objective to make people happy... e.g. to truly improve society?   The answer is almost always no.
Now, there certainly are some jobs out that do this, but I think mostly this is not the case.

The world around us some many things, but it also has a whole of inane babble.  Why do we need all of this stuff/shit that the world/economy is producing?  How much of the product brings true value to life?  Certainly this forum is largely anti-materialism.  So if we dismiss that idea, what is the productivity of society for?  Growth.  But does the world really need to grow to be happy?  Do we need to continually increase our population?  We are a large ant colony building more widgits and bigger nests, growing, to what end?  Eventually the ant colony gets too large.  The world can only sustain so much life.  But look deeper than simply survival.  What world is worth living in?  When the population gets so large that green spaces are gradually all eliminated, where people live so jam packed that you never have peace and quiet... is it a world worth living in? 

I've rambled and gone on some tangents.  I hope the thing you think about is what makes you happy any why.  For me, most modern work places do not have overlapping primary goals with me.  Not only that, they and society are taking the world on a trajectory which is unaligned with what I believe makes life worth living.  If I were to keep one of these regular jobs, I would look back on my life on my deathbed and say 'what a waste!'.

There is more than one way to achieve 'flow'.

Dee

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2018, 08:27:50 PM »
It sounds like your more concrete, immediate situation is having to choose between two career tracks. The management track would mean less money (and therefore longer to FI) but it seems you expect you would find good flow in that position and be happier at work for longer? Meanwhile, staying on track in your professional role would mean more money. You say that, in the absence of the quest for FI, you'd take the management job.

That's pretty compelling. Most people would likely encourage that path; the one that is expected to bring more fulfillment while still providing enough $ to meet needs.

Is that option likely to present itself again later? In most fields, entering management stream is something that one can do at various times in one's career.

You also didn't mention how much you enjoy (or don't enjoy) the individual contributor role.

If the management stream truly is how you want to spend a good deal of your time during your life, then, sure, it would make sense to head in that direction as soon as possible. But I'm not getting that sense from you that you feel a great calling towards it as a life's mission.

Based on the bare-bones information you've included, I don't see any reason for you to deviate from your plan for FI. Once you get there (or close to it), if the way you want to spend your days is in a management position, do it then. Do it for a long as you are hitting lotsa flow and feel fulfilled and happy. Especially if you think being RE would not bring you the same level of flow and fulfillment.

You are still under 30 and will likely have countless options to come and go from various jobs/positions, periods of retirement and unretirement. This will only become more true once you reach FI. Go for FI and then the sky truly is the limit!

TartanTallulah

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Re: Happier at Work?
« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2018, 06:04:29 AM »

I do wish I had a career that lent itself to intermittent work, i.e. a few weeks off, followed by a few weeks at work. 


agreed.

I've FIREd into a freelance position that allows me to do that, with the added bonus that the work itself is the most enjoyable parts of my profession. I'll keep doing it for as long as the opportunity is there and it continues to suit me. In the past, I've had jobs like that where The Man has thought, "The Workers are happy, can't be having that," and stirred things up so that it hasn't been fun any more.