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Find and Share Joy at the Workplace

By Elaine Cercado

In the movie “The Bucket List”, Morgan Freeman’s character asked Jack Nicholson’s character the following questions: Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others?

For me, these questions serve as guide or criteria for life’s fulfillment of one’s purpose.  The answers serve as indicators to the continued pursuit of what makes one’s life meaningful, purposeful and joyful.

Happiness at the workplace

Since many of us spend long hours at work, the two questions should be asked and answered from a work context, alongside the personal context or life in general. Interestingly, I came across a recent article from Channel News Asia about Singapore’s national level of happiness at work. The article highlighted the result of a survey done by NUS Business School, which summed up that  Singaporeans are less happy but have a greater sense of achievement.”

The co-author of the survey, Dr Tambyah Siok Kuan, said that the decline in national happiness level (compared to 2006 survey results) could be due to the country being at a point where growth in national income is no longer being translated into greater happiness for the average person. She concluded that Singaporeans are looking for more non-material gratification now that the majority of the population has attained a certain standard of material comfort.

These results reinforce that lasting success is not measured by material wealth. Different people may use different measures of success at different points of their lives.  What I’ve personally learned in the last 20+ years is that finding real joy and then sharing that joy could make the most ordinary and simplest among us very successful.

How do you find, share and sustain joy at the workplace?

  • Find Your PASSION

I shared in a previous article the two things I ask my mentees to reflect on when finding their passion: What is that one thing that excites you most? Teach others three things about it.  To those whose passion is very clear to them, the answers come almost instantaneously.

Stephen Covey, in his book The 8th Habit said, “Passion comes from the heart and is manifest as optimism, excitement, emotional connection, determination.  It fires unrelenting drive.  Enthusiasm is deeply rooted in the power of choice rather than circumstance…. It is that which energizes your life and gives you your drive. It is the fuel at the heart of vision and disciplineIt keeps you at it when everything else may say quit. Your mission in life – or at work – should be fueled by your passion.If your mission has no passion, then it is not your path.

  • HELP Others

Oprah has said,  “Everybody has a purpose bigger than themselves. If you’re only serving yourself…small life.” I strongly agree with Oprah! Team up with your officemates or friends to volunteer in a charity or institution that is aligned with your personal cause. Aside from cash donation, you may share your time and talents. In our E-Bites newsletter issue 7, I listed some of the charities and institutions that you may support in Singapore. I marked this recent tweet as favorite: Live a recommendable life – shift from random to deliberate acts of kindness (@ValaAfshar). Make that shift now!

  • LEARN Continuously

Learn something totally unrelated to your current work or career.  The joy you gain from discovering and learning a new hobby, interest or sport could inspire you at work and could bring you in fellowship with others who may bring joy into your life.  I enjoy making digital scrapbook and movies using our iMovie software, which I learned through ‘trial and error’. Through this, I’ve brought joy to some of our families and friends by creating movie projects for them in honor of their birthdays or other milestones. I also discovered the joy (and painJ) of running with my husband, and joined marathon runs in the last two years. The benefits of exercise have certainly positively impacted all aspects of my life.


One insight from the NUS study on Singapore’s level of happiness is that material wealth is not a lasting anchor for lasting joy.  In fact, material success could even lead to dissatisfaction or discontentment, and could result to stress in one’s health.  We know from our study of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that we move through our fundamental needs, from the physiological and safety needs to the higher needs such as love / belongingness, esteem and self-actualization. As you move through life’s journey: Find your anchors (values, purpose, principles) & be firm with them. Once you are firmly anchored, you are strongly empowered!

The Bucket List movie ended with the two lead characters fulfilling their joint bucket list – in their death (to know exactly how, you’ve got to watch the movie!)  I sincerely hope you don’t wait this long to find joy and give joy to others. Find your passion. Help others. Learn something new. Stay anchored. Today is the perfect day to start!

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