Can “Flow” Solve Our Current Job Crisis?

Eric L. Zielinski

For over 10 years the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has been conducting job satisfaction surveys and have compiled a wealth of data that is quite telling of the current American job crisis. In their recent 2012 report, 81 percent of U.S. employees reported overall satisfaction with their current job, 38 percent of employees indicating they were “very satisfied” and 43 percent “somewhat satisfied.”

Global Job Crisis

Don’t let the statistics fool you. Prima facie, an 81 percent “overall satisfaction” rate may appear to be high, but the question that is begging to be asked is, “What does overall satisfaction really mean?” Being subjective in nature we will never know how each participant defined overall satisfaction when they completed the SHRM survey, however, we do know that it is quite different than being “very” or “somewhat” satisfied which would imply actually enjoying their work.

Crucial to this discussion is that even though a vast majority of people clicked the “overall satisfied” button in the survey, they really didn’t like their job or else they would have selected another option. In other words, this survey shares that only 19 percent of U.S. workers are happy at work.

This is evidenced by other surveys like the one Forbes recently reported on – the 2012 Right Management survey – that underlines the high rate dissatisfaction among American workers.

  • 19 percent said they were satisfied with their jobs. (Interesting that they came up with the same 19% as the SHRM study, isn’t it?)
  • 16 percent said they were “somewhat satisfied.” But the rest, nearly two-thirds of respondents, said they were not happy at work.
  • 21 percent said they were “somewhat unsatisfied.”
  • 44 percent said they were “unsatisfied.”

A Global Look

Sadly, this is not just an American trend. Mercer surveyed 30,000 employees in 17 spots around the globe between the fourth quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011 and discovered that between 28 percent and 56 percent of employees expressed a desire to leave their jobs.

Ed Diener, PhD – the world authority on Positive Psychology and happiness research – has studied 155 countries (99 percent of the world) and has determined that one commonality of all the happiest countries on earth is true job satisfaction described as people using their skills, mastering a career, and loving what they do for a living. Contrary to popular thought, income is generally not a factor in this equation.

Thus, to reverse the job crisis – where most people are unfulfilled and lack purpose in their work – people must focus on work that exemplifies their talents, desires, and inner ambitions. In other words, if you would do something for free, it is probably a good career choice for you.

How Can “Flow” Boost Job Satisfaction?

Intrigued by people who subjected themselves to strenuous physical, mental, emotional, and even financial stress to accomplish their goals, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD discovered that happiness lies in someone’s ability to “flow.” Flow is a place where people have very clear goals and is what athletes commonly refer to as “the zone.” Moment-by-moment, people who flow know exactly what they have to do in an almost surreal, out-of-body experience where life-purpose and satisfaction are at the pinnacle. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning.

Ever wonder why professional athletes keep coming out of retirement or why politicians never seem to retire? They probably flow at work a lot. In fact, they probably don’t even see what they do as work!

To be happy in life and reverse the current job crisis that plagues our nation people need to strive for that “flow” experience as much as possible in their work environment. Do some soul-searching and discover what makes you flow. You may be surprised that a career change is in order.

Sources for this article include:

  • Shadyac T (Producer), & Belic R (Director). (2001). Happy [Motion picture]. United States: Documentary.
  • Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Flow theory and research. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 195-206). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
About the Author: Health coach, life coach, author and speaker, Eric L. Zielinski is a Chiropractor who continues to seek out ways to influence the world toward sustainable living and alternative health care. As a writer Eric’s work can be seen in a wide variety of venues including Christian, health/wellness, and academic peer-reviewed literature. To read more articles by Eric, please visit
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