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Don’t be Lazy! Effort as a Pivotal Element for Present and Future Well-being

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Abstract

The link between effort and individual well-being has been the subject of contentious debate. Economic and some psychological models analyze effort as a cost or a disutility, while other philosophical and psychological theories argue that personal effort is a pivotal element for a flourishing life. These theories also distinguish between higher and lower pleasures. To assess the contested contribution of effort to personal well-being, we analyze survey data gathered from 1954 working adults aged 25 to 65 in Israel. We analyze their subjective assessments of the effort they exert in different life domains and support the validity of our analysis by comparing them to choice scenarios in each domain. The results contribute three key findings: 1. Effort in five life domains—work, leisure activities, friendship, community and health—as well as effort of managing work life balance, was found to be positively associated with at least one component of subjective well-being, while effort to make work more intrinsically rewarding was found to be associated with all three components—affect, cognition and meaning—of an individual’s subjective well-being. 2. These efforts are not strongly correlated among themselves, implying that people can choose how to allocate their efforts among the various life domains. 3. People’s assessments of their future subjective well-being are positively correlated with their expectations regarding future effort. These results suggest that effort and well-being are correlated through hedonic capital accumulation.

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Notes

  1. Martela & Steger (2016) review literature according to which personal meaning consists of three components: “(1) cognitive component, which is about making sense of one’s experiences in life, (2) motivational component that is about pursuit and attainment of worthwhile goals, and (3) affective component that is about feelings of satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness accompanying goal attainment” (p.532).

  2. For example, in some countries (Portugal and France), the law forbids employers from contacting employees after work hours. See https://mymodernmet.com/french-law-bans-workplace-communication-after-work-hours/ and https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/11/success/portugal-employer-contact-law/index.html

  3. “One advantage of using measures of emotions during the previous day is that it reduces the extent of memory bias. Thus, the reports are more likely to be anchored in actual experience than are reports of long-time periods or reports of emotions in general.” (Diener et al., 2010, p. 54).

  4. The options were: (1) Did not finish high school, (2) High school without a matriculation certificate, (3) Matriculation certificate, (4) Non-academic training; (5) Bachelor’s degree (6) Master’s degree, (7) Doctorate.

  5. We also asked the total monthly net income of the household, based on the Social Survey 2020 conducted by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. There were 10 possible answers, in New Israeli Shekels (NIS). (1) Less than 2,500 (2) 2,501–4,000 (3) 4,001–5,000 (4) 5,001–6,500 (5) 6,501–8,000 (6) 8,001–10,000 (7) 10,001–13,000 (8) 13,001–17,000 (9) 17,001–24,000 (10) More than 24,000. However, in the analysis we did not use this variable since financial satisfaction is a better variable than income level in this case, consistent with the findings of other studies (Dolan et al., 2008; Sherman & Shavit, 2018).

  6. Note: For positive emotions, the coefficient of age is non-significant, but close to significant (p = 0.058).

  7. Note: For negative emotions, the coefficients are negative meaning lower negative feelings and higher SWB.

  8. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) in November 2021, the number of resignations exceeded 4.5 million and set an all-time record.

  9. https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=AVE_HRS

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Sherman, A., Shavit, T. Don’t be Lazy! Effort as a Pivotal Element for Present and Future Well-being. J Happiness Stud 24, 2599–2625 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-023-00694-8

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