THE BLOG
11/11/2013 09:36 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Lessons We Can Learn From the Military About Happiness

On the first anniversary of Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that day as a time to honor the veterans of that war. Nov. 11 subsequently became Veterans Day, a day to honor all those who have served our country in the military.

It's also a good time to reflect on lessons we can learn from the almost 1.5 million men and women on active duty in the armed forces. While we do read a lot about the negative aspects of life in the military and it's certainly not an easy one, all four branches of our armed forces as well as the National Guard were ranked at the top of the list of "blissful places to work" in a survey conducted by CareerBliss, an online career-guidance tool, in 2010.

In fact, they all ranked in the top 11 out of 50, even beating out Disney, "the happiest place on earth," with results gathered from more than 1,000 appraisals completed by members of the military.

I believe members of the military community report being happy because their lives allow them the opportunity to take advantage of the three keys of happiness: relationships, engagement and making a difference.

• People in the military have a built-in community that others may lack.

It's not that uncommon for many Americans to live in a neighborhood where we may not even know our next-door neighbors and go to work where we have little in common or outside contact with our co-workers.

When you join the military you automatically become a member of a community of people in a similar situation and may even live together on a base.

There are also organizations, like the Family Readiness Group for the Army and National Guard, that provide support and activities for families as well as several online communities like MilitaryWives.com.

• People in the military are provided tools to learn and grow and becoming more highly skilled, allowing them to be engaged in their work.

People who feel engaged in their work and participate in challenging work where they can apply their skills and knowledge report being happier.

An additional advantage is that members of the military enjoy a level of job security rarely seen in the civilian world. They can't get fired or laid off.

• People in the military have a chance to feel they are making a difference.

Veterans Day is a good reminder that the work these people are doing is instrumental to the freedoms our country enjoys and critical to our safety and enjoyment of the privileges we enjoy as United States citizens.

When the blissful places to work survey was released in 2010, a psychology professor at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma voiced his opinion on why workers in the military are happy. According to Bradley Brummel in an article that ran in the Christian Science Monitor, "U.S. Military Beats Out Disney as Happy Place to Work":

Despite challenges that may occur when serving our country, including the possibility of going to war, the military provides many of the essential elements to finding happiness at work, including having a meaningful impact on the world, having true camaraderie with your co-workers and having the opportunities to develop skills.


I hope you have a wonderful Veterans Day and take a moment to consider the contributions of those in the military. And think about the lessons we can learn from them.

David Geller is the author of Wealth & Happiness: Using Your Wealth to Create a Better Life. He is the CEO of Atlanta-based GV Financial Advisors and is available for professional speaking engagements.