After interviewing more than 35 CEOs and leaders, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that it's possible to be both ethical and prosperous. In 1975 he coined the term "flow" to describe the feeling of energy, total immersion, and satisfaction in what you're doing; his book, Good Business (Viking), explains that when people achieve flow at work, they're more humane and successful.
What's the first step in being humane at work?
The two things that people want in a job are variety and respect. You can't do that much about bringing in variety, perhaps, but you can do a lot about being respectful of other people. Doing good work by helping and being nice to your coworkers, clients, and customers immediately makes your job more meaningful. You get more satisfaction, and you'll probably get ahead faster.
Can you achieve flow if your job is a menial, repetitive snoozer?
There are people in situations where the job is anything but flow producing, yet they transform it. The thing to focus on is what you're doing. To concentrate and see all the little things involved in ironing a shirt or mowing the lawn or slicing salmon for a bagel. Even if nobody else notices it or praises you for it, you know you did something well, and that in itself can create a sense of flow. We have so many opportunities to do something we're proud of.
Can you be satisfied working in an atmosphere where goodness and morality aren't valued?
If the contrast between what you consider to be right and what's happening is too large, the best thing is to look for another job. It's difficult to stay in a position where you feel guilty when you get up in the morning. Something less drastic is to speak to your boss or supervisor about what you think is unjust. Some supervisors will pooh-pooh the idea, some will fire you for being a troublemaker, but many can change what's happening. If enough people refuse to go along with corrupt people, they'll lose their power.
Change Your Workday for the Better
From the April 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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