There’s an anglicised Greek word – eudaimonia – the pronunciation of which I’m yet to figure out in English. Which is obviously not important. What’s important is what it represents. And what it represents is happiness, satisfaction and wellbeing. It’s something that characterises entrepreneurs and the self-employed much more than those of us who are salaried workers. The question is: why?
That question has now been answered conclusively in studies published in two of the world’s most immensely respected academic journals.
The first can be found in this month’s Journal of Business Venturing by scholars who describe entrepreneurship as a “roller-coaster ride” with valleys of “adversity, unforeseen challenges and even failure … Entrepreneurs face extreme working conditions – a higher level of uncertainty, job insecurity, more extended work hours, role ambiguity and intense time-pressure.”
And yet the peaks, for many startups, make the lows entirely worthwhile.
It’s those peaks with which the researchers were most concerned, hence why they analysed interviews conducted with more than 1700 entrepreneurs across 29 countries. They discovered their superior wellbeing is “almost entirely” attributable to certain psychological outcomes.
Three psychological outcomes stand out. One of these is “purposeful engagement with life” since entrepreneurs are unconstrained by an employer’s rules and procedures, thereby freeing them to “pursue activities and objectives they find personally meaningful and fulfilling”.
The other two are the greater use of their talents (since their business is often crafted to suit their personal strengths) and the formidable resilience they cultivate as they adapt to the dizzying roller-coaster ride that symbolises their entrepreneurial ambition.
The results of the second study, which comprised in excess of 22,000 individuals across 16 countries, have been published in the Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice journal. These scholars reached a similar conclusion, specifically that “the self-employed experience their work as more meaningful and report higher work autonomy as well as higher [wellbeing] than wage employees”.
Which means salaried workers may earn more but are generally not as happy. In contrast, entrepreneurs are liberated to “independently decide how, when and with whom to work”.
Fuelling this further is that entrepreneurs frequently associate their identity with their job. Their business therefore becomes an expression of who they are and is “shaped by their values, skills and needs”. As such, they don’t perceive themselves as having a job but as pursuing a calling.
The researchers focused especially on the extent to which entrepreneurs felt they possessed “positive energy and a state of physical and mental aliveness”. In essence, their sense of vitality, which has been proven to be a major driver of motivation, performance, creativity and action – all of which are “crucial for engaging in self-starting proactive and innovative behaviour” while also equipping entrepreneurs with “the energy to persist and overcome barriers”.
It’s true they’re still confronted by work that’s menial and repetitive and dull and precarious, particularly in the early stages when they’re a jack-of-all-trades, but those less-inspiring tasks are subsumed by the more-inspiring “meaning entrepreneurs attribute to their work”.
There’s something in that for everyone and it’s not necessarily that we should all consider starting our own businesses. It’s more about exploring how we could incorporate meaningfulness even if we’re simply salaried employees.
That begins with identifying our strengths and finding opportunities to weave them into our job, even if it’s only in subtle ways. Just as subtle could be the favourable moments we observe during which we can exert some level of influence in our workplace. Meaningfulness can also involve clarifying our values and articulating how they’re connected to our job and indeed reminding ourselves of the reason we’re working in the first place.
That in itself might be all the meaning we need.
Source: Thanks smh.com