Considering Words, Work & Happiness


Photo by Jacqueline Munguía on Unsplash

When a construct becomes culturally significant — words naturally arise to describe it. In a sense, the language of that culture expands to accommodate its importance.

The term “employee engagement”, for example has gained a certain level of notoriety — helping us move beyond the 9 to 5 definition of our jobs. With that recognition, we acknowledge that work isn’t just work for many of us. We are realizing that the core of our work should align with who we are — or how we would like to contribute. So, why has it taken us so long to find the right words to describe this dynamic?

Within other cultures the vernacular has already developed to properly represent the importance of meaningful work within our lives. In Japan, for example, the storied concept of Ikigai, represents our “reason for being”. (See the Venn diagram below, with intersecting circles representing what you love to do, your strengths, what the world needs and what you can be paid for.) In Scandinavian cultures, the word was “Arbejdsglæde” captures this. Translated into English this means “happiness at work” or “work joy”.


These are more than compound words which sling together “work” and “happiness”. These words capture the notion that to feel worthy — we all need to contribute in a way that we feel is meaningful. That immediately elevates how we view our work.

I’d say we need at 100 words to express that.

Read more about it:

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

1 thought on “Considering Words, Work & Happiness”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s