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Book Review: The Art of Happiness At Work by Dalai Lama

Posted in Book Reviews, Lifehacks, Technology by engtech on May 28, 2006

After reading Paul Coelho’s the Alchemist, I thought this would be a fantastic follow up. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Where the Alchemist was a very focused tale examining a specific theme of following your dreams, TAoHaW was more of a diatribe between two people exploring a subject without a clear hypothesis. I think there is some good wisdom in this book, but so much of it is common sense that you already know.

One very interesting distinction is where the Alchemist encourages you to follow your dreams no matter what the cost, TAoHaW suggests that happiness comes from within, from accepting your circumstances and making the most out of them (although it is important to recognize when a work environment is bad).

I really wasn’t impressed with Howard Cutler (the author of the book). His writing style was very vague, and it seemed to be filled more with his own explorations and thought process without any real conclusions. Some of the facts and statistics he spouts seem a bit shoddy as well (but then again I’m part of the “all statistics are lies camp).


Unhappiness is ultimately caused by the gap between appearance and reality, the gap between how we perceive things and how things really are.

Misplaced patience or forbearance refers to the sense of endurance that some individuals have when they are subject to a very destructive, negative activity. To passively tolerate it is the wrong response. The appropriate response really is to actively resist it. One should take some action.

If a boss gives more work to do and it is beyond their capacity, they have to say something.

You shouldn’t confuse contentment with complacency. You shouldn’t mistake being content with one’s job with just sort of not caring, not wanting to grow, not wanting to learn, just staying where one is even if one’s situation is bad and not even making the effort to advance and to learn and to achieve something better.

Quite often, however, while our complaints may be received with outward expressions of sympathy, they may more likely be met with inward annoyance.

In all human activities the main purpose should be to benefit human beings. We should take special care to pay attention to the human relationships at work, how we interact with one another, and try to maintain basic human values, even at work.

Humans are social animals; we are built to work cooperatively with others for our survival. No matter how powerful a single person may be, without other human companions, the individual person cannot survive.

If we choose an external marker as the measure of our inner worth, whether it is the amount of money we make, or others’ opinion of us, or the success of some project we’re involved in, sooner or later we’re bound to be battered by life’s inevitable changes.

The trouble with pursuing money just for the sake of money is that this makes us a victim of greed, never-ending greed. Then we are never satisfied. We become slaves of money.

Genuine power results from the respect that people give you. Real power has to do with one’s ability to influence the hearts and minds of others.

No matter how much money they make, no matter how high their salary is, there is still a kind of nagging worry about not having enough money. This is because the more money they make, the more lavish and expensive their lifestyle becomes, and then of course their expenses increase accordingly.

Those who never lose sight of the purpose of money and have the ability to relate to money with a healthy perspective, even though such people may actually possess less money, will enjoy a greater sense of well-being with regard to wealth and money.

With too much challenge, workers experience stress, strain, and deterioration of work performance. With too little challenge, workers become bored, which equally inhibits job satisfaction and hinders performance.

Boredom arises when we are engaged in some kind of repetitive task and we are not adequately challenged.

The harder the work, the greater the sense of satisfaction.

By engaging opposition, a deeper understanding of one’s own standpoint emerges. If you just think about your own viewpoint and you have no willingness to open your own viewpoint and you have no willingness to open yourself to opposing viewpoints, there will be no room for growth or improvement.

To be in flow means to be totally absorbed in whatever one is doing at the moment. It occurs when one is fully present and completely focused on the task at hand.

True happiness is associated with a sense of meaning, and arises on the basis of deliberately cultivating certain attitudes and outlooks. Rooting out destructive states of mind such as hatred, hostility, jealousy, or greed, and deliberately cultivating the opposing mental states of kindness, tolerance, contentment, and compassion.

It is a mistake to rely on work as our only source of satisfaction. Just as humans need a varied diet to supply a variety of needed vitamins and minerals to maintain health, so we need a varied diet of activities that can supply a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction.

A third of people see their work as a job, a third as a career, a third as a calling. [irregardless of the job, it’s the attitude]

Relying on something external for happiness will always let you down.

There is great importance on having a sense of self that is grounded in reality.

When I read books I make a connection with my own experiences. I don’t separate my life into academic pursuits and personal experiences – they are interrelated. So then instead of the material or presentation becoming dry and academic, it becomes something living, something alive. It becomes something personal, something related to my own inner experience.

Self-appraisal – developing an accurate and realistic sense of self through careful observation – leads to greater self-understanding.

If you recognize the tremendous value of self-understanding, then even if you try a certain kind of work or a new job and you fail, it reduces you disappointment because you can look at that experience as a means of increasing self-understanding, as a way of knowing better what you capabilities or skills are or are not.

People with a strong sense of their own identity not only had a greater work satisfaction, but also higher levels of personal well-being and overall life satisfaction.

Those with self-confidence have a valid basis for their confidence, they have the skills and abilities to back it up; where as arrogant people are not grounded in reality – they have no valid basis for their inflated opinion of themselves.

Some people identify so strongly with their role at work, their self-concept is so mixed with the role they play or sometimes the amount of money they make, that it is as if they don’t exist once they lose their job. Those are people whose value system places the greatest emphasis on money or status or those kinds of things, rather than inner values, basic good human qualities.

Those who love their work, would continue to do it even if they didn’t get paid (if they could afford to), who become absorbed in their work, who integrate their work with their values, their lives, their very being – these people have a calling. In addition, those with a calling see their work as meaningful, with a wider purpose and ideally even contribute to the greater good of society or the world.

“If you can, serve others. If not, at least refrain from harming them.” – Dalai Lama

Despite the attempt by some researchers to quantify the precise degree to which work contributes to our happiness it is difficult to generalize and it is largely an individual matter.

Since he had no need for pretense, for acting a certain way in public or while “at work”, and another way in private, and could just be himself wherever he went, this made his work seem effortless.

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  1. […] The Art of Happiness At Work [2] they state that “A third of people see their work as a job, a third as a career, a third […]

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