#28: Changing jobs to seek happiness won't bring you what you want.

For the last two years, we have faced different challenges worldwide. Many surroundings have made us feel overwhelmed, whether it was a pandemic, being stuck at home, or wars.

On top of that, we have daily work stress, which often significantly impacts our happiness. These situations resulted in A Great Resignation wave in many countries. While we’re in this era, I wrote an article about my suggestion to some people: do not change your job. The article got a lot of comments and criticism. One thing I realized at that time was not making it clear that I was coming up with my suggestion backed by research. Now that you’re here. Let me explain why I think you shouldn’t change your job if you’re not open to changing yourself.

In the Great Resignation, software engineering salaries skyrocketed, and they are still increasing. Many companies hired conservatively during the pandemic. However, with the virus getting weaker in every variant and vaccination spreading worldwide, people looked for a change in their lives with the hope to get more money (who can resist not doubling the salary?) and getting happier.

In the article, I said that if you really need more money, I won’t argue that you change your job. However, if you’re after happiness and you think more money will make you happy, that’s where you might be wrong.

Before you read the rest, I want to make one point prominent: As software engineers, we’re in a privileged situation where we can get a ton of money to perform our profession while sitting at a desk. When we compare with many professions, we’re in a privileged position that we should all be aware of.

There are many research projects around money and happiness relationships. There is a single chart that explains this relationship (a.k.a. fulfillment) well.

Source of the Image: Investment Moats

In this chart, the “Enough” spot depends on you. Everyone has different levels of fulfillment. But many software engineers are already above their comfort level.

Let me quickly tell the story of Buddha, a well-known spiritual leader. Buddha was born into a wealthy family. Being able to reach out for anything he wanted didn’t make him happy, and he looked outside and saw that people are happy outside of his palace. So, he sought poverty, thinking it would be a satisfying life as he saw poor people happy. That didn’t work either (as we can all expect). He started thinking about the reasons and eventually found happiness in the middle ground. That point is the comfort point of the fulfillment curve you see above. For Buddha, comfort was enough.

Finding where is that top point in your life is the tricky part of happiness. And that’s the part I want to talk about. According to scientific research, our happiness is 50% genetic; we have nothing to change there; our personality has a huge impact. Of the remaining, 10% is the environmental impact; what’s happening around us, the company, and the world. This is the part Buddha tried to change at first by leaving the palace and living on the streets. It’s only 10%, yet we expect more happiness from the environment than we attribute more to our inherited genetics. The remaining 40% is intentional activity; this massive chunk of happiness literally depends on us. How we approach events around us, think about what we do, and understand and interpret our life and work experiences form 40% of our happiness. This portion was what Buddha found out when he sat down and thought about life.

When you change jobs to be happier, you are—hopefully—improving less than 10% of your happiness by changing the work environment. If money is not the problem and you’re living comfortably, changing your work won’t make any difference. You will be the same unhappy person just working in a different company.

If you have a toxic company culture, improving that <10% may help you improve your overall life. But if you’re working in good company culture, that change might not affect you. In the research studies, scientists found that moving to a new place with a view after retirement or making lots of new friends, or even getting married showed some positive outcomes only in the short term. In the long term, people returned to their original happiness baseline. So, what can you do?

The 40% happiness, the intentional activity, is what you can change. The bad part of this 40% is that it doesn’t happen by itself. As it is intentional, it demands effort. The 10% environmental part happens to you, but the 40% is the activities you act in your circumstances. For example, if your company changes your project, it depends on you to be happy or not. You might blame your organization for moving you from a great project to a bad one, but you may as well see it as an opportunity to handle a bad project and make it a success. How you interpret the situation defines your happiness.

When you change jobs, you might be hired for a specific project. However, you may be assigned to another one after six months because your initial project will be shut down. If you value stability and want to keep working on that project, you won’t be happy. That’s the part you can change your attitude. These events will happen everywhere, and your happiness will depend on how you interpret them. Think twice—or even three times—before sending your resignation letter. Evaluate the situations and your perspective together. How you think about any problem can impact your happiness more than you imagine.

I will close this week’s letter with the same paragraph from the article I wrote:

If you’re leaving for more money or safety, I will never argue. If you’re leaving for a different type of experience (e.g., remote work vs. in-office, big co vs. start-up) or different company cultures, I won’t argue. …… If you’re leaving your company because the market is hot right now and your company can’t give you a raise that might not even change your life, then maybe you should question again. Don’t get caught in the great resignation wave.

P.S. Deep Walks to increase life and work satisfaction.

A Quote I’m Pondering

"Many of our beliefs are cultural truisms: widely shared, but rarely questioned."
— Adam Grant

Updates from The Last Two Weeks

🎙 Software World Season 3 Trailer

I'm starting the new season in the Software World with Candost Podcast next week! I carefully planned the new season with all the learnings and feedback from the first two seasons. There is one theme in this season: learning. While creating the content plan, I chose topics that either I’m either ignorant about them or I’m doing them intuitively. That means each episode will be massive learning for me. I extensively research and learn before I record an episode. In some episodes, I will use my expertise and retrospect on my past learnings and extract the methodologies and systems I use.

With all that, I prepared a short trailer for you to check out what we will talk about this season.

Newsletter Last Updated: Apr 5, 2022