While the concepts of happiness and satisfaction are sometimes used interchangeably, behavioral health experts would argue these are two truly different experiences.Dr. Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., a Nobel prize winner in the field of cognitive psychology, defines happiness as a momentary experience of joy. Satisfaction, he argues, is a long-term sense of contentment that comes from pursuing personally meaningful activities or goals.
Given their high levels of job satisfaction, Kahneman would say fire fighters are doing something right. Instead of striving to be happy, we should strive for satisfaction.
Why Is Being a Fire Fighter Such a Satisfying Profession?
When we ask fire fighters why they find the profession so satisfying, the range of responses include:
The ability to help someone in need
The opportunity to save a life
Having a second family in the firehouse
The bond of brotherhood and sisterhood
Respect and appreciation from strangers
Having an alternative to the nine-to-five schedule that allows for consecutive days off and time to be home for kids and family
A stable salary, health benefits and retirement security
Is There Another Side to America’s Most Satisfying Occupation?
IAFF members already know that being a fire fighter is a deeply rewarding occupation. Simultaneously, the rewards and satisfaction of a job in the fire service can come at a high price.Despite the inherent dangers of running into a burning building or responding to a medical emergency, the real toll of the job is often an accumulation ofinvisible wounds that build up over the years, including:
A front row to devastation and human suffering
Long hours away from family and friends
Increased risk of cancer and respiratory disease
Post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Strained marriages and divorce
As a fire fighter, which side of the occupation resonates with you? For many in the fire service, it’s both. Sometimes, the sacrifice you’ve made for the job outweighs the satisfaction. And while most fire fighters will experience post-traumatic stress during their career, all will struggle the same emotional, family and financial stressors experienced in the general population.
Without good self-care, daily stress can build up and contribute to serious behavioral health problems. If you are feeling chronically depleted, irritable, unable to enjoy life or regularly using alcohol to cope with the day, these are signs it’s time to consider professional help.PTSD, majordepression,suicidal thoughts orsubstance abuse are not normal reactions to stress and warrant a response. With the right treatment and support, you can learn to manage stress, take care of yourself, and return to a satisfying career.
If you are considering seeking help, the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health and Treatment and Recovery is a place to start. This comprehensive treatment center is designed exclusively for IAFF members struggling with behavioral health problems stemming from both occupational and personal stress.
Call today to learn more about treatment with no obligation, or to participate in a free screening.