If I asked you who gets the most satisfaction from their work, how would you answer? Would you assume that the investment bankers and corporate lawyers are happiest because of their fat salaries? How about the teachers and nurses, with their important role in shaping future generations and saving lives? Well, it turns out that the happiest people are none of the above. According to a recent story by Christopher Hope in The Telegraph, the happiest workers in the U.K. are the farmers, fishermen and forestry workers. (You’ll notice, of course, that none of these careers are considered particularly lucrative or status-raising.)
I recently wrote about the health and happiness benefits of being outdoors, and particularly close to water. But these jobs, the happiest jobs, have something else in common: they all involve work that results in a physical product. Farmers harvest the corn and pluck fresh eggs out of the henhouse. Fishermen head back to shore with a boat full of lobster. And forestry workers get to watch saplings grow taller with every year. Most of us work every day and have little to show for it beyond a still-cluttered inbox and a few file folders. I can only imagine that it’s terrifically satisfying to work hard and actually create something tangible, whether it’s a wooden table, a crocheted sweater or a peach pie.
There’s also something to be said for being closer to a natural process like our supply of food. The berries I pick myself every summer always taste sweeter than the ones I pick up at the market. Last year, I spent some time at Hacienda de San Antonio in Mexico, an inland resort at the foot of a volcano. What makes the Hacienda so special is that they’re committed to free-range, organic production. The cows and ducks toddle around in the sunshine. The organic greens sway happily in the warm breeze. The cheese, chocolate and coffee are produced in small, conscientious amounts. I didn’t have a hand in creating any of those things, but just being closer to the process, and seeing how thoughtful it was, made everything more delicious and made every meal that much happier.
We can’t all be farmers, of course. But there are a couple of great lessons to be drawn here. First, those of us who live in cities would be wise not to alienate ourselves from natural surroundings. Getting out into nature, if only for an afternoon of hiking, can offer a serious boost in the well-being department. And second, we derive serious satisfaction from physically making things and developing a closer connection to the things we consume. I’ll never be a fisher-woman, but I do get a boost every time I bake a loaf of bread, and not just because I then have a loaf of bread to eat.
Do you find your job satisfying?