Happiness isn’t Apathy – How to defeat the Beast of Dissatisfaction

“Management’s overall aim should be to create a system in which everybody may take joy in his work.” Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Sad cat.

Every opportunity for improvement is an accusation when dissatisfaction drives achievement.

7 reasons for dissatisfaction:

It wouldn’t surprise me if you’re dissatisfied right now.

  1. Lack of opportunity – feeling stuck.
  2. Too many monkeys – feeling frantic.
  3. Low pay – feeling underappreciated.
  4. Lack of development – feeling hopeless.
  5. Poor performing individuals or teams – feeling undermined.
  6. Pressure from above – feeling misunderstood.
  7. Internal dissatisfaction – fear of enjoyment.

The unvirtuous cycle:

Every opportunity for improvement is an accusation when dissatisfaction drives achievement.

Nothing is good enough when dissatisfaction drives achievement.

You never find satisfaction when you fear that enjoyment leads to apathy. Your internal monster devours every glimmer of joy the moment it appears.


Dissatisfaction is an emotional distraction. You typically react to judgements, not events.

  1. Event. You didn’t make the numbers.
  2. Judgement. You call yourself a loser. (Some expression of emotional dissatisfaction.)
  3. Reaction. Beat yourself up. Pressure people to work harder.

Remove emotional judgment from the above sequence and respond to realities. You didn’t make the numbers. Now what?

Drama distracts you from responding to actual events. Instead, we respond to emotional judgements.

Three questions that drain the drama:

  1. What happened?
  2. What do we want to happen?
  3. What’s the next step?


The opposite of dissatisfaction isn’t apathy. It’s enjoyment.

Dissatisfaction is painful motivation. Enjoyment is energy without pain.

  1. Enjoy past progress. Celebrate just for a moment.
  2. Enjoy today’s opportunity. It may not be the opportunity you hoped for, but don’t let it slip through your fingers because it’s not the perfect opportunity.
  3. Enjoy making a difference for someone. The world isn’t as it should be, but you can serve someone. Enjoyment includes thinking beyond yourself.

Happiness is energy, not apathy. You work hard at what you enjoy. Dissatisfaction is energy too. But nagging dissatisfaction creates an unvirtuous cycle that eventually drains energy.

Where might you find enjoyment today?

How might you create an environment where enjoyment is more likely?

Job satisfaction: How to make work more rewarding – Mayo Clinic

Dr. Deming’s Joy at Work, Happiness & the High Performance Organization | IndustryWeek