According to an assessment I took as part of the Power of Self leadership training group, my top personal strength is LEARNER, meaning that I want to continuously learn new things and improve in all areas. Well, no surprise there! As a friend once said to me, “You are never without a goal or project. You are always working toward something!” It, then, is only to be expected that I find myself reading one of Shawn Achor’s books, The Happiness Advantage.
Achor, a Harvard graduate who remained at the school to teach sections of classes and serve as a counselor for students who were struggling with stress, found himself in the enviable position of being in the perfect place to conduct research on high achieving students and what made some of them thrive, while others cratered; the result of some of this research is the foundation for this book. The results are the basis of what he has delivered in speeches at top companies, and numerous conferences around the world: the practices that are scientifically proven to increase levels of personal happiness and, at the same time, improve results in businesses, medicine, and, virtually, all walks of life.
His book shows us that what we always heard, work hard and you will be successful, and then you will be happy, was actually backwards. The truth is when you are happy, you will then be more successful at whatever you do. According to Achor,
“…doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic sales people outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking a math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers.”
One can find happiness when they adjust their mindset in a way that gives them the power to be more fulfilled and successful, or when they teach themselves to retrain their brains to spot patterns of possibility…and then seize that opportunity. Others find happiness by realizing the lessons learned from a defeat, stress, or crisis, and become happier and more successful because of that experience, or even just setting one small goal at a time, and eventually enlarging those steps to achieve even more.
Achor’s findings came during a time when Martin Seligman, credited as being the father of positive psychology and its efforts to scientifically explore human potential, along with colleagues near and far, were searching for what led to happiness, rather than researching how to “fix” the problems encountered through stress, depression, and other negative manifestations. The proven strategies are not difficult; in fact, they are so simple that many fail to realize their benefits:
- Meditation: even five minutes a day is proven to be one of the most powerful happiness interventions; it can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, and even improve immune function
- Find something to look forward to: anticipating future rewards can provide a boost of happiness when you remind yourself of that upcoming event
- Performing conscious acts of kindness- plan in advance to look for five acts of kindness that you can perform in one day; NOTE: looking back on the day and saying, “Oh, I could count that one” doesn’t count. You have to be intentional about what you are doing
- Fill your surroundings with positivity: whether pictures or quotes, the things that bring out positive emotions for you are important to have around you
- Exercise: the exercise of your choice will boost your mood and enhance your work performance
- Spend money on experiences, rather than possessions: memories of those experiences will create positive emotions that will mean more and will last longer
- Exercise a signature strength daily: if you’re not sure of what your signature strengths are, try a free online resource to identify your strength and try to use it in a new way each day for a week
While none of these strategies may be new to you, it may be new information that they can lead to a happier you…and a more successful one, too!
Here’s to your happiness!
Photograph by Jared Erondu