Happiness Versus Joy In The Workplace

Voloshen - Happiness In The WorkplaceThere is a lot of discussion about happiness at work and how it can change an organization.  There is even a “science to happiness”.  I’d like to clarify the definition between happiness and joy because it is often misinterpreted or misunderstood.

According to the dictionary, joy is:

  • the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation
  • a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated

And happiness is:

  • the quality or state of being happy
  • good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy

They sound very similar but there are some distinct differences.

  • Joy comes from within, an inner sense of peace, as well as enthusiasm, excitement, passion and optimism, long lasting, an attitude of the heart—a state of being
  • Happiness is external, being happy with the situation, circumstances, more temporary in nature—a positive emotion

There is an entire segment of research and academics that are studying the Science of Happiness.  An acclaimed psychotherapist, Martin Seigelman is the founder of positive psychology and has created the PERMA model.  We find the PERMA model encompasses all the elements when you have joy in your life.  PERMA in short is Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.

Positive emotions

For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotion in our lives. Any positive emotion like peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, or love falls into this category – and the message is that it’s really important to enjoy yourself in the here and now


When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow: time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present.


As humans, we are “social beings,” and good relationships are core to our well-being.  People who have meaningful, positive relationships with others are happier than those who do not. Relationships matter!


Meaning comes from serving a cause bigger than ourselves.  It’s the way that we contribute to the world and make a positive difference.  There needs to be a higher purpose to what we do and we need to know what that is.


We feel good when we have set goals and have accomplished them.  This gives us the road map to do what we do, and to measure it by whatever standards we give it.  We can think big with our dreams, and then break it down into smaller goals, and then plan the action steps to accomplish what we set out to do.

Happiness In The Workplace - Karin VoloWhether you choose to focus on happiness or joy isn’t so relevant because they are so similar.  But finding joy is a longer lasting state of being and not dependent on the external circumstances.  It comes from within and therefore is a deeper and more authentic way of living.

It is possible to change your perspective of how to view the world from conditioned negative tendencies to a more positive outlook.  What you focus on is what you will see in your life.  Imagine that you are skiing through the trees.  Instead of being afraid of hitting the trees, focus on the spaces between the trees and you’ll glide through the forest.  When you change your focus from being afraid to hit the trees to going through the space between the trees, you’ll get down the mountain unscathed.  Life works the same way!

Imagine that you enjoy your work and feel excited to contribute each day to your business.  Reaching a state of joy means learning to feel good now.  That means finding those things in your life now that you can appreciate and focus on, just like that spaceJoy In The Workplace between the trees.

Look at what’s working well instead of what’s wrong

What you focus on will expand in your life.  It’s a matter of reconditioning the brain by understanding how it’s possible and through practicing simple exercises – this works in ALL scenarios: individuals, families, and companies.  Some very small shifts in thinking can make radical changes in a person’s life and in an organization.  Then you’ll be able to bypass many of the problems that might otherwise hold you back.

1 thought on “Happiness Versus Joy In The Workplace”

  1. Nice piece of clarity about the subtle nuances between joy and happiness. And so true when wanting to live life from an inner compass of joy and know that happiness can come and go. Thank you for the post.

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