Find career engagement and find happiness

Get lost in your work by challenging yourself and employing your strengths

Graphic by Kelly Campbell.

Engagement is a critical ingredient in a rewarding career.

You know the feeling when you are one with the task at hand, completely immersed in what you are doing and working at your fullest potential? You become so fully engaged in what you’re doing, you do not feel hungry, tired or distracted. You look up after hours have passed and it feels as though it has only been minutes.

This state is called flow.

This powerful psychological experience is correlated with many amazing outcomes — and since we spend such a huge proportion of our lives at work, finding ways to induce this intense engagement on the job sets us up for a rewarding career.

People who experience flow at work are typically more efficient, happier and have increased performance. It is also associated with higher self-esteem and lower stress.

Ultimately, these workers have increased job satisfaction.

Flow not only makes you a happier professional, but also makes you better at your job.

With this in mind, identifying ways to achieve engagement on the job can be a great strategy for success.

Consider trying tactics that can increase the likelihood of flow attainment.

First, flow only happens during activities difficult enough to utilize all our mental energy, but not so difficult that we give up. If your work is boring, find ways to challenge yourself.

This is something you should evaluate regularly because the more skilled you become at your job, the less challenging it will be for you. This means you will need to be creative in finding ways to continuously challenge yourself at work.

Flow is also more likely to occur when we are fully using our gifts and talents. Identify your strengths and ensure you are utilizing them at work. There is a bonus here: utilizing your strength at work is linked to perceiving your work as more meaningful.

It can also be helpful to have clearly defined goals and an understanding of the process required to achieve your goals. Try setting small goals so the totality of your work feels more achievable and rewarding.

This will allow you to be challenged without stepping into feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

To summarize, seek out activities that are challenging and utilize your skills. Break tasks down into manageable goals and keep the impact of your work in mind to increase your perception of its meaning.

Once you identify opportunities for engagement in your life, experiment with different ways to reach this state.

Use flow as a clue to determine what jobs are the most engaging for you. Track the activities you find fully immersive. From there, begin to consider which occupations use these skills.

You can also use this self-understanding to alter your current job to be more engaging for you. How can you minimize the activities mentally draining you while maximizing engaging activities?

Sometimes it is possible to redesign your current position. To do this, volunteer for projects at work that are interesting to you. You might even meet with your manager about adapting your job to incorporate some of your passions.

Understanding the activities that induce flow for you can also help you to alter the way you do the activities you like less. Consider whether there is a new, more enjoyable approach to an aspect of your job you hate.

If much of your work is painfully boring, though, it might be time to seek new job that is a better fit.

Use these same principles to evaluate your coursework as well. If you hate your program, this might be a clue it is time to consider a new path. Your enjoyment (or disdain) for what you study in school can be a hint as to the suitability of related professions.

If you hate chemistry, your dream job as a pharmacist might not be as dreamy as you imagine.

With the amount of time you spend at work and school throughout your life, you deserve to be doing something engaging you love.