Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness at Work

By far the most remembered sentence in the Declaration of Independence is the one that starts the second paragraph.

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Immediately after the construction of the Declaration and since, the segment which states “all Men are created equal,” has been part of hundreds of speeches, protests, boycotts and even wars.

But let’s look at the closing of the sentence. “the Pursuit of Happiness.” Much like the varied interpretations of the segment “all Men are created equal,” the Pursuit of Happiness lends itself to numerous interpretations. Does the government need to provide happiness? Some might say, “they owe it to me.” Really?

I think you need review a quote from Benjamin Franklin when he was presented with this question. “The Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” I would even go a different route and say you must earn it, you have to work for it…you have to create it.

What was the intent of our Founding Fathers in the words “Pursuit of Happiness”? In order to get a better understanding of this you need to do research on John Locke. He was a heavy influence on the written works of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States. His work on political philosophy and social responsibility have said to be the driving force behind the French and American Revolutions.

John Locke first used the phrase ‘pursuit of happiness,’ in his book An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Thomas Jefferson took the phrase “pursuit of happiness” from Locke and incorporated it into the first sentence in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

To be more clear on the definition, Locke distinguishes between “imaginary” happiness and “true happiness.”  In the passage where he initially used the phrase “pursuit of happiness,” Locke writes:

“The necessity of pursuing happiness is the foundation of liberty.  As therefore the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness; so the care of ourselves, that we mistake not imaginary for real happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty. The stronger ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness in general, which is our greatest good, and which, as such, our desires always follow, the more are we free from any necessary determination of our will to any particular action…”

Locke talks of happiness being the foundry of liberty, and follows with important words like: highest perfection, careful, true, solid, real and greatest good. So he is putting limits on our pursuit so we don’t damage the greater good with our selfish actions. It is the freedom to make decisions that result in the best life possible for all human beings. This is about long-term sustainability for all and not immediate gratification for ourselves (or shareholders).

Put this in context of our pursuit of happiness at work. Some might say, “the company owes it to me.” Really? First of all “pursuit” means you have to work for it. Sorry Ben, catching means I got to wait for it to come close to me, I hate waiting for things and would rather take action. Are you taking action?

Okay, so you take action to get happiness at work. What do you do? Unfortunately, most people have no clue what would truly make them happy. Most would say more money, yet 80% leave their jobs due to relationship problems at work. Wait! There you go. Pursue happiness by pursuing better relationships at work. If you pursue better relationships at work, in effect you are pursuing happiness at work. At least you’ll be 80% correct and have a foundation to figure out he rest.

To pursue better relationships at work many would lead you to believe that you must have all of these profiles of the different personalities. And that you must be submitted to learning all of the workings of the human brain and what motivates the different groups and sub-groups and so one. Whew, that’s confusing…and expensive.

Actually, its more simple (and cheaper) than that. There is a proven system that you can deploy to pursue happiness at work and be in control of your own employee engagement. By focusing on 7 key elements at work you can, in effect build stronger relationships at work and become more engaged. You can create an even better place to work by pursuing:

  • Feeling Valued
  • Openness
  • Feedback
  • Motivation
  • Difference Management
  • Ownership
  • Conflict Management

If you would like to read more on this simple and proven system, get your free copy of the ebook 7 Keys to Creating Happiness at Work.

One Response to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness at Work

  • An intersting weave of some fantastic writers. I havfe just ordered a copy of another one of your great writers and comments on social history, Studs Terkel “Working”. In that he captures the thinking and feelings of a real cross section of American workers and citizens. One quote I really like is “Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor, in short for a sort of life rather than a Monday to Friday sort of dying” Terkel 1972

    I certainly couldn’t put it better myself…. Liz Moody follow me on @engageandalign

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