“And they lived happily ever after.” Think about this line for a few minutes. Are you living happily ever after? If not, what will it take for you to get there?
This is usually a question that gets asked of us by our spouse. “Are you happy?” “Are you ok?” “Does this dress make me look fat?” Wait, that’s not right…. Either way, “happiness” as defined by my good friend Webster is “a state of well-being and contentment”, or “a pleasurable or satisfying experience”. These are rather vague and esoteric definitions and can mean just about anything to and for anyone else. Today we’ll try and keep our focus centered on the realm of professional happiness in Architecture. What does it take, what does it look like and where can it take you – these are the avenues we’ll travel down together.
Now, obviously if the Webster definition of happiness is purposely meant to be vague, than it stands to reason that professional happiness in Architecture also will be vague. And this is mostly true. Professional happiness is going to be different for all of us. None of us are wired the same and we all take pleasure from things in different ways.
What it takes:
What it takes for me to be happy in my professional career can be summed up in two areas: first, feeling a sense of worth and value at my workplace; and second, being challenged often at what I do.
The feeling of worth and value can come from two places as an Architect. First from your boss (unless you are the boss in which case I would hope you value yourself) and second from your clients. If your clients do not value your services then they will not refer others to you and by extension you will most likely not be very successful. If you’re working for a firm it can be difficult to feel that sense of value. Most times you will need to do something to stand out from a crowd, to prove yourself continuously in order to gain trust and eventually value. This is not an ideal situation and usually leads to finding new positions elsewhere.
Being challenged can also be challenging. Not all projects are glamorous…well, lets be honest, few projects are glamorous. But all projects, if seen from the proper perspective, offer unique and interesting challenges and problems to solve. Solving them efficiently and effectively is, in my mind, key to a sense of professional happiness. Something as simple as a bathroom renovation within an existing home can be very simple, but also very challenging in it’s execution. Perhaps the home sits on a slab and breaking that slab would kill the budget. How then do you deal with the placement and rearrangement of new fixtures? Small issues like this, which occur on all projects both large and small, allow us to flex our creative muscle and devise new and interesting solutions to mundane problems. This, sometimes above all else, makes me happy, and maybe even a little giddy.
What it looks like:
What does professional happiness look like? How does it work in practice? Well, if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already seen the answer – it’s up to you to find joy in your professional career rather than waiting around for either your boss or clients to give it to you. It has to be sought after, pursued and snatched from the air. In this country we have a right to pursue happiness, not a right to happiness itself.
If, as an Architect or designer, you can’t find joy in the mundane of professional practice you’ll never be truly happy even when those glamorous projects do come around because you’ll be bitter and resentful and more importantly BORED.
Where can it take you:
If, however, you can find the kind of joy in the mundane and monotonous, then you can do anything, create anything and build anything. Your boss and your clients will value you because you value yourself and your work. This will lead to new projects, new responsibilities, new challenges and new happiness.
In the end, happiness, both personal and professional, is in your own hands. You can choose to be happy and find joy in what you do and the people around you, or you can choose not to in which case….well, I feel very sorry for you indeed.