We once believed the sun orbited round the earth. Just like happiness orbits around success. Make yourself successful, then you’ll be happy. Right?
Wrong. Major advances in neuroscience, reveal the opposite is true. If we train our brain to be happy, rather than relentlessly chasing success, not only will we walk round with a smile on our face, but we’ll increase our performance, productivity and wealth.
For anyone who’s been working in the same organisation for years on end, it can be hard to go into work with the same levels of happiness and motivation you once did. ‘Wasn’t all this meant to make me successful?’ you ponder, as you park up in the same space you’ve been occupying for the last 20 years.
Sameness and familiarity, while comforting for some, also blunt the imagination and reduce our ability to think creatively. We begin to feel uninterested, deflated and, if we’re not careful, depressed. None of which is at all good – for the individual’s well-being or their performance for the business they work for.
But if we can find strategies to feel happy when we arrive at work, then, according the brainiacs, not only will we feel better but we’ll also start performing to a higher level.
Shawn Achor’s great book “The Happiness Advantage” is well worth a read if you’re skeptical.
It’s full of amazing stories of the research this Harvard academic carried out into the connection between happiness and performance. Like the students who were told to think about the happiest days of their lives before taking a maths test: they outperformed their peers doing the same test.
And there’s lots more, involving the staff of many major corporations, who experienced real increases in levels of performance and productivity by following Achor’s advice.
Achor tells us to meditate, find something to look forward to, commit conscious acts of kindness, write gratitude lists, take exercise, and spend money on doing nice things. It all sounds too easy, but here’s the thing: it’s been psychologically shown that if we change our mindset, not only do we change how we feel about an experience, we actually change the results of that experience. So if we’re primed to feel happy about our work, it’s going to be reflected in our performance.
And Achor’s not alone in connecting a positive mindset with healthy outcomes at work. In their Harvard Business review article “The Powerful Effect of Noticing Good Things at Work”, Joyce E Bono and Theresa M Glomb explain their “three good things” intervention. In it, they asked a research group of workers to record three things that had gone “really well” that day – and to explain why.
“This simple practice,” they say, “creates a real shift in what people think about, and can change how they perceive their work lives.” What’s more, this paying conscious attention to the good things can lead to increased creativity, better sleep, reduced stress and improved connections with others.
All good for arriving at work up with a skip in your step and a positive attitude – even after you’ve received your umpteenth long-service award.
Take the happy pill. Because success orbits round happiness, not the other way round.