Locating the source of joy in your work can be narrowed down to three elements: excellence, ethics and engagement.

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‘Tis the season of joy. Even at your job.

No way, you say? Or even, “What kind of Pollyanna nonsense is this?”

But think for moment how important joy is. Certainly, you can live without it for a time. We have all experienced this. If it goes on too long, though, it starts to wear you down. Imagine yourself in 30, 40 or 50 years. Do you want to look back on a lifetime of arid, cheerless drudgery?

Of course you don’t, which is why it’s a good idea to consider how to find joyfulness in your daily grind. And what better time to start than right now, in this season of joy?

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(Which sometimes feels like enforced jollity, to be honest, and which is why looking for the real thing is so important!)

The first thing we need to do is to define the source of job joy. And I mean true job joy, not just the fleeting thrill that comes from a boost in the size of your paycheck or the sight of your name on the door.

No, true job joy comes from the work itself. We can break this thought down into three elements:

Excellence. First, the deepest job joy stems from being excellent at what you do. It’s funny, because you’d think that excellence is a result of liking your work, not the cause. But a sense of mastery is a great source of daily satisfaction. Working to our highest potential is exciting and nourishing. In short, joyful.

Ethics. Second, to qualify as joyful, our work must be in line with our values. If you feel that your work is harmful — to yourself, to the planet — it can’t bring you joy.

Engagement. Finally, joy on the job comes from a sense of engagement. Engagement is when every day we look forward to new delightful problems that we have the ability to solve. Engaging work is challenging work, hard work, demanding work — and joyful too.

In these still-uncertain times, many people feel lucky to just have a job. But you only have one life to live, so why not put a little thought into what it means to have joyful work? For a start on how, see above.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.