Despite popular belief which says that happiness comes after success, The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor aims to prove that happiness is a precursor to success. Those who are happiest are primed for increased levels of success in life. Success can look like a lot of things such as higher productivity at work, decreased mistakes during surgery, or higher grades on tests.
Happiness, however, is a mindset that one has to believe through a Growth Mindset, and then live through actions. If you look for the negativity, you’ll see it. If you look for the positivity, you’ll see it. Two people can see the same thing, but experience it in completely different ways, depending on what they are expecting to see.
So how do you become happy? First off, you should know that happiness can grow over time and isn’t something you are either born with or not. Secondly, happiness is something unique to each person. I love this definition from the book, “Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future.” Lastly, happiness has biological roots that expand our thinking beyond the well known “fight or flight” theory. Someone with a more positive outlook on a situation will have a broader scope of cognition and behavior, reduced anxiety, and even increased peripheral vision. In short, happiness is a serious competitive advantage.
Seriously Tom, how do you become happy? Ok well, the biggest predictor of success and happiness is an individual’s social support network. “When we make a positive social connection, the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin is released into our bloodstream, immediately reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus.” Beyond that, here are some other ways the book suggests can increase your own happiness:
- 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
- Expressing Gratitude
So you want to start implementing some of these happiness techniques? Well, there’s one small problem you are going to run into…it’s called willpower. The surest way to maintain an action is to turn it into a habit. To turn something into a habit, you have to repeat the action over an extended period of time. To do an action, you need the willpower, and sadly willpower isn’t an unlimited source. Willpower comes and goes throughout the day. Try resisting that cookie on your desk all day and watch what happens at the end of the day. If you want to make sure you do an action, do so when your willpower is at its highest, and also reduce the amount of “activation energy” needed to perform the action. For example, wear your running clothes to bed and run in the morning.
Oh, and if you want to avoid a bad habit or action, increase the “activation energy” needed. The book suggests a 20 second buffer between the trigger (bowl of candy) and action (you eating a piece) is enough to stop the action.
When employers/managers make it a priority to ensure the happiness and well being of their team by offering some of the happiness tactics listed above, the value back to the company is ten-fold. Happiness, as a workplace value, pays dividends!
- Coors Brewing Company conducted an internal study where they found a $6.15 return in profitability for every $1 spent on their corporate fitness program.
- Encouraging managers performed 31 percent better than managers who were less positive and less open with praise.
- Positive social interactions is a foundation for workplace engagement. Employees can work for longer hours, with increased focus, and under more difficult conditions.
- The more socially connected the IBM employees were, the better they performed. They could even quantify the difference: On average, every e-mail contact was worth an added $948 in revenue.
So next time you are at work, the book says that introducing two employees who don’t know each other is a great, and easy, way to invest in social dividends. And of all the relationships formed at work, the boss/employee relationship, also know as a “vertical couple,” “is the single most important social bond you can cultivate at work. Studies have found that the strength of the bond between manager and employee is the prime predictor of both daily productivity and the length of time people stay at their jobs.”
Lastly, because we all have these mirror neurons that mimic the feelings, actions, and physical sensations of another person, our emotional state rubs off on those around us. When three strangers meet in a room, the most emotionally expressive person (positive or negative) transmits his or her mood to the others within just two minutes. Your happiness is contagious!