Would you like to predict, and even create, success and achievement? For yourself, your team, your colleagues?
Happiness Leads to Success in nearly every domain, including work, health, friendship, sociability, creativity, and energy.
~ From a meta-analysis of over 200 happiness studies on nearly 275,000 people worldwide.
This article is based on the book, The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Acher. It is about “Learning how to cultivate the mindset and behaviours that have been empirically proven to fuel greater success and fulfillment.”
I’ll leave it to you to read the details of each Principle. But here are some helpful hints for making them work for you, so you become even more successful and productive.
The Happiness Advantage
The most successful people aren’t the ones who keep looking to the future for in the hope of being happy when they get the great reward of super success. They are the ones who capitalize on on the positive and reap the rewards on every step of their journey. Still, in business, we tend to denigrate the concept of happiness. For those who pay attention to the research that shows happiness drives success, here are some tips on achieving and maintaining a happy, positive attitude as a stepping stone to success.
- Find Something to Look Forward To
- Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness
- Infuse Positivity Into Your Surroundings
- Spend Money (but not on Stuff)
- Exercise a Signature Strength
The Fulcrum and the Lever
Learn to manage your mindset. Adjust it to give yourself the ability to be more fulfilled and successful. Mindset is the fulcrum that balances our Lever – our power to succeed. To help yourself build a positive, growth mindset:
- Believe in your Abilities
When faced with a real challenge or just a tough to-do:
Focus on all the reasons you’ll succeed, rather than why you might fail.
Remind yourself of the relevant skills you have
Remember a similar situation where you succeeded.
- Believe you can Improve Your Abilities
By changing the way we perceive ourselves and our work, we can change our results – for the better.
The Tetris Effect
This is a metaphor for the way our brains see the things around us. And that’s critically important; because our experience of life is determined by what we pay attention to. We have to see it to pay attention to it.
In Tetris, the player is constantly scanning for blocks of colours. We scan for things in our environment. Unfortunately, many of us scan for negative things. Constantly looking for the negative in life causes significant stress, lowers our motivation and reduces are ability to perform or product. We see that at work all the time. How do we train our brains to scan for the positive?
- Three Good Things Exercise. Make a daily list of the good things in your job, your career, your life. Write down three good things that happened every day. Your brain will have to scan your day for good things to come up with the list. And so, you’ll start the process of noticing what’s positive.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. With Others.
- Make it a ritual. If you have your ‘tools’ (pen, paper, tablet, whatever) at hand, and do the Three Good Things exercise at the same time daily or at least 3 times a week, seeing the positive in life will become the norm. And seeing the positive is part of the optimistic attitude that is critical to success.
- Rose Tinted Glasses
Yes, ignoring serious bad things is often bad. You have to see the positive without being blind to negative things that must be dealth with. Martin Seligman refers to this as pragmatic optimistm.
“Things do not necessarily happen for the best; but some people are able to make the best out of things that happen.”
~ Tal Ben-Shahar
Bad things happen. They’re not always catastrophic, but we suffer from mistakes, failures, disappointments. What can we do to see the best in a bad situation:?
- Change Your Explanatory Style
Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology, author of Learned Optimism and whose teachings are the basis of two other Mustang Articles: The ABC’s of Resilience at Work, and Do You Give Up When Bad Things Happen?, tell sus that how we explain things to ourselves or others determines how optimistic or positive we are. And his and other studies have shown that optimistic people are more successful. Our Explanatory Style determines how we see things:
- Permanent – this is not a temporary setback, it will last forever!
- Pervasive – I’m not just having a problem with this issue, I have a problem with Everything!
- Personal – it’s my fault; it’s all about me.
Reverse that thinking, and you can help get yourself back on the road to optimism and success:
- Temporary – Well, this isn’t a good situation, but it won’t last forever.
- Specific – I’m having a problem with one person at work. Not with everyone at work. Not with anyone in my personal life.
- External – this is bad; it happened because of circumstances beyond my control or is the fault of someone else.
- The ABCs of Resilience
Looking to Martin Seligman again, we can use a technique he didn’t create but applies extremely well. You can see a summary in the Mustang article, The ABCs of Resilience of Work.
- Adversity. An event we can’t change and we don’t like.
- Belief is our Reaction to the Event
- Consequences are the effect of our Belief
- Evidence – For and against. Is it more or less likely to be as bad as we think?
- Alternates – What are alternative possible reasons for the event? Maybe your boss had a fight with her spouse this morning and you got the brunt of it.
- Is this stress useful? Sometimes it is; and we should just embrace it. If I stress about doing a presentation I’m likely to put more prep into it than if I’m feeling pretty casual. More prep usually means more success.
- If all your disputation results in the indisputable fact that the event is bad and is factual, what’s the worst that can happen. You don’t need to bury your head in the sand. Practically determine the likely outcome and make plans to handle it. Going to lose your job? Start looking for a new one now. Cut back on expenses.
The Zorro Circle
When Zorro, the hero of television and movies, first started out he had no focus and no control. His training began with the drawing of a single circle in the sand. Don Diego told Zorro that his entire world now existed within this circle, and he had to master what was inside of it before he could move on to the next circle. Through time and dedication, Zorro mastered circle by circle, until he could accomplish his goal.
This is a powerful metaphor for how we can accomplish large goals in our careers. How do we gain control of our emotions and our situation, circle by circle?
Verbalize the stress and helplessness you feel. You can write it down or confide in someone. Many years ago, I was working with a team on a complex sales opportunity. Everyone was stressed and having a hard time being effective. When someone suggested we were just in the ‘floundering around’ stage, everything settled down. It seemed we just needed to acknowledge that this was a tough opportunity but we knew we had the skills to handle it.
- Identify what you can Control and What is Out of Your Control
Be clear on things that are just out of your control and you have to let go of. Then you can direct your energy to the things you can exert influence over
- Identify One Small Goal You Can Accomplish Quickly
After you let go of the things out of your control, you were left with a list of things you can address. Take one thing and really focus your efforts on that. Contrary to what some people believe, going for the gusto is more often a pathway to failure and frustration. Don’t stay on one small task. Add another and another. Make them bigger as needed. And of course, plan. But piece by piece, circle by circle, our small victories will lead to big success. This is the basis of the Japanese theory of Kaizen, or Continuous Improvement.
The 20 Second Rule
Turn Bad Habits into Good Habits by Minimizing Barriers to Change.
Changing our bad habits is easier said than done. Even though doctors should know better than anyone the benefits of diet and exercise, 44% of them are overweight. We all watch too much TV, or go to bed too late, or something! And largely that’s because we are driven by what we want right now – much more than by what we really want most.
How do we follow Neal Maxwell’s advice?
“Never give up what you want most for what you want today.”
The 20 Second Rule says make it easy. Try to arrange things so that it only takes 20 seconds to go from thinking of doing something to doing.
In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Acher says he slept in his gym clothes in order to form the habit of morning exercise. Literally, he put his gym shoes next to the bed and went to bed in his clean gym clothes including socks. So, he stepped out of bed, into his shoes and out the door.
My daughter at age 5 asked to have hangers arranged with days of the week labels. She arranged outfits for every day at the beginning of the week. And the night before, she lay out the outfit for the next day on the floor next to her bed, as if it were on someone! She was just born sensible, I guess. Must have taken after her father.
What Mr. Acher and my daughter were both doing was using second order decisions.
“Second-order decisions are decisions about the appropriate strategy for reducing the problems associated with making (first-order) decisions. For instance, second-order decisions may involve deciding when to decide and when not to decide, how much time to spend deciding, and what inputs to seek when deciding something.
- Make it Easy
Following the principles here, determine the fastest and easiest route to the new habit you want to create. Make it easy.
Studies show that in a stressful situation or environment, positive interactions at work returns the cardiovascular system to resting levels, lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Employees with good work relationships perceive less stress in the first place. This ability to manage stress results in reduced absenteeism costs, lower health care costs, and increases workplace engagement so employees are more productive. Ways to reduce stress in the workplace through social investment include:
- Give positive responses to good news.
- Make introductions and give referrals.
- Prioritize relationships.
- Encourage natural social interactions. Don’t try to force them with artificial activities.
- Team lunches and after hours get-togethers.
- Use language that implies a common purpose and interdependence.
- MBWA: Leaders get out from behind your desks and walk around – management by walking around.
There are many resources where you can find information on the importance and methods of attaining success in the workplace through a happy, optimistic mindset. This article relies on work from Shawn Acher and Martin Seligman:
You can see Shawn Acher give a very entertaining TED talk on his take on happiness at work:
See Here for a Simple List of all 26 Methods: 26 Tips on how to Be More Successful