A recent public opinion survey indicates that since 1990, the number of Americans who report being “not too happy” increased by 50%. Even more so, Americans report a 6% decline in overall life satisfaction between 2007 and 2018.

Another indication that people are unhappy is in the workplace. A Gallup survey found that only 34% of employees report feeling engaged in their jobs, 53%of them are disengaged, while 13% are actively disengaged.

In “Mean People Suck: How Empathy Can Lead to Bigger Profits and Better Lives for Everyone,” I make the case that it doesn’t have to be this way. By cultivating empathy in our day-to-day existence, we can create lives we love.

Why people are less satisfied in 2019

While many factors play a role in the overall decline in happiness within the last nearly 30 years, research indicates that technology has harmed how we feel. It has changed how we spend our leisure time, especially among young adults.

The University of Michigan for Social Research found that we are 40% less likely to describe ourselves as being empathetic today than we were 40 years ago. The steepest decline in the numbers has occurred within the last ten years.

Not only has technology impacted our mood, but it has disrupted our businesses. In the last 20 years, digital disruption has played a role in the disappearance of over 52% of S&P companies closing.

Customers have different expectations from brands in 2019 than they did nearly 20 years ago. Technology has changed the way brands, and consumers interact. Before the Internet, brands relied on a one-size-fits-all message to attract and retain their customers. Now, brands must understand their customers and their needs before the first point of contact is made in the sales process.

To create happier lives at home and work, we need to start with empathy. Unlike other inherent traits, humans are not born with empathy. It is a skill we must develop, and it is the key to get getting the lives and careers we want. The following explains where people can get started on their journey.

Creating a life you love

In the process of writing Mean People Suck, I came across the the Japanese term “ikigai.” Commonly used by residents in Okinawa, Japan, the term loosely translates to mean a “reason for being.” However, some define it as a “reason to get out of bed” or even a “reason for living.”

Longevity researcher and author Dan Buettner heard this term used by the people in Okinawa, Japan. The city was in what he called a “Blue Zone,” a place where people often live to 100 years, with relative health and vigor into their old age.

When I learned what the term encompasses, I saw it as an opportunity to help guide people to get lives they love. Commonly used by career coaches, the concept involves four factors that will likely contribute to your happiness and success in your career:

  • What you love
  • What you are good at
  • What you can be paid for
  • What the world needs

Or, more simply, I put it into a Venn diagram to help guide readers to see the path that will lead to happiness at work and in life.

Inspired by: https://medium.com/social-enterprise-alliance/the-secrets-of-ikigai-b39cbfa693b5

All of us must find a balance between purpose and profit. So let’s take the essence of those four and boil it down to one question that you can ask yourself:

What need in the world inspires my passion, and how can I apply my unique expertise or experience to serve that need and get paid in the process?”

Ultimately, we must make a choice to not be unhappy and to focus on others. Apply empathy where it matters most – in business, in life.

With empathy, we can find a way to enjoy their career, create meaning for customers and colleagues. Showing others that we care is the best way to create a life we love at work and at home.