A factor important to performance improvement is job satisfaction,
but satisfaction occurs occasionally and can't be sustained.
Despite the challenges, it's still possible to enhance an
employee's effectiveness to perform and resilience to endure by
teaching them how to recognize and leverage their career
According to the American Institute of Stress, employers spend more
than $300 billion each year to address issues and complaints
related to job stress and dissatisfaction. Sadly, the same
complaints keep surfacing year after year: long hours, shrinking
pay and benefits, lack of recognition, and poor supervision. It's
like the movie, Groundhog Day. Each new generation entering the
workforce relives the same complaints.
Here's why: Employers are not in business to satisfy employees. The
reason employers invest in job satisfaction is to benefit the
business and only secondarily to satisfy employees' needs. Also, an
employer's ability to provide job satisfaction is vulnerable to
factors beyond even their ability to control: the economy,
competition, weather, war, and terrorism. As such, job satisfaction
is limited to what employers are willing and capable of providing.
Is satisfaction possible?
Employees are never completely satisfied. For you to be made
satisfied someone has to do something to fulfill your expectations.
You can't just choose to feel satisfied. It does not come from
within and is not a state of mind you control, but a condition that
is dependent upon people and things you don't control or can't
always have. As a result, satisfaction occurs only occasionally and
can't be sustained.
The term "intrinsic" job satisfaction is misleading because you
can't attain it without the job--which is controlled by employers.
Also, it is human nature that as you age and your interests evolve,
you will want more or something new and different, which makes it
impossible for employers to satisfy all employees all the time.
Because satisfaction isn't always possible and can't be sustained,
employers are unintentionally inviting complaints by propositioning
you with job satisfaction. Complaints arise as the result of your
expectations not being fulfilled. And though employers expect you
to be content, you were never trained how to recognize and leverage
your contentment to endure without complaining.
A move to what you can control
The idea of training to enable contentment may be a surprising
revelation for some because it's assumed contentment means
"settling for less." However, the word "content" originates from
the French and Latin words "contain" and "enclosed," suggesting
that when satisfaction isn't possible, the contented person endures
with a calmness protected by their own self-sufficiency. Rather
than complain about what they don't have, the contented person
reasons to persist and endure with what they do have. This is an
important but overlooked feature of contentment.
Understand that while satisfaction is a condition dependent on
people and things you don't control, contentment is a state of mind
only you control. Contentment comes from within and is dependent
only on how you think, and by reasoning alone you can choose to be
content in any situation you believe is worthy of enduring. As
such, contentment enables resilience so you can potentially do more
with less, or otherwise fulfill your purposes with or without job
satisfaction. Without contentment your options would be to quit or
complain and thereby suffer the effects of job stress and
dissatisfaction, including your declining performance and career
Beyond enabling resilience, your contentment opens a pathway to
performance improvement. Positive psychology teaches that you live
and take action in response to your emotions, which are caused by
what you think. By reasoning or changing how you think, it's
possible to improve how you feel and the effectiveness of what you
do. A contented mind inspires favorable emotions associated with
already having (joy, optimism, excitement, enthusiasm, and
gratitude) and is less burdened by the harmful emotions linked with
needing, wanting, and not having (fear, worry, envy, doubt, and
anger). By maintaining a predisposition to feel content, it's
possible you can improve your own performance despite
Finally, your contented emotions associated with work act as an
internal guidance system that point you in the direction of your
calling and keep you on track to fulfill your evolving purposes.
Career contentment explains why you won't accept just any job, no
matter how satisfying; why you may stay in a job despite
dissatisfying conditions; or why you may leave a job despite the
best efforts by employers to keep you satisfied and engaged. You're
on a mission, and job satisfaction is secondary to your sense of
contentment related to work that is meaningful to your calling and
purpose. Careers are not guided by transient and unreliable job
satisfactions but by your sense of career contentment.
Contentment has been overlooked due to our love affair with job
satisfaction and our misunderstanding of what this term actually
means. But remember that true happiness starts from within, whereas
satisfaction is always dependent on people and things outside of
you. Rather than jeopardize your job, state of mind, or health by
complaining, learn how to reason and recognize your career