You don't have to save people from burning buildings or develop the cure for cancer to have a gratifying career, but rewards can be fleeting. The key is being "present" for those times. A well-documented study by two Harvard researchers shows that 47 percent of the time, people think about something other than what they are doing. When someone is working, they discovered, a person's mind wanders 50 percent of the time. That tendency is a cognitive achievement that comes with an emotional cost, say the researchers in the journal Science, adding, "A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind." To up your odds of occupational happiness, stay focused on your work by cutting out distractions and being mindful of your thoughts.
Save Facebook for later
It's easy to let your mind wander at work. Just look at all the distractions. The sounds of people around you on the phone, using equipment or just walking by. If you're like many, you're multitasking — and there's a fair chance one of those tasks is your next move on Words With Friends. Cut out as many distractions as you can — and log off Facebook now.
Don't let emotions rule your day
There's that anger you can't shake over yesterday's interaction with a client or co-worker, or the frustration with your child's day care provider that you stew over all day. The researchers found that things like worrying are "incredibly destructive to happiness." Even when they looked at more pleasant mind-wandering, they say it's not as good as just being focused on what you're doing.
The key, as many philosophies and religious traditions have taught for centuries, is first to notice when you're not "present" — when you're worrying, for example, rather than focusing on the task. Then make a conscious decision to "be there" for the here and now.