It was the fall of 2016, and I was on site of my first Hampton Inn conference. More than 2,000 general managers were gathered for the event, where the theme was happiness. The topic was the focus of all speaker presentations and breakout sessions. On the second day of the conference, Shawn Achor – happiness researcher and author of The Happiness Advantage – talked about the importance of happiness and how it stems from within a person and not from their success.
Hmm. That’s interesting, I thought.
Fast-forward to a few weeks later, when I was gifted a copy of his book. I decided to give it a read, hoping to learn a thing or two. That was three years ago. Ever since, I’ve been striving to instill more happiness and wellbeing into my life, as well as in the corporate world – through people.
Coincidently, my passion for happiness matches the mission we have at Root. Each day, I work alongside a team of people who are equally passionate about proving that change is possible. The main challenge we face is that people might not always be ready for change. They need to be in the right mindset to 1) accept that change is necessary and 2) to do the work to ensure the change really “sticks.”
Happiness Should Be a Priority for Your Business
If being happy is so important to your organization, it’s time to ask yourself, “Where’s the focus on the people?” And I’m not talking about getting another foosball table or offering free lunches to show employees they’re appreciated. People don’t need an extra cookie. What they do need is help uncovering happiness and understanding the power of it themselves. People are the cornerstone to creating a successful business; their happiness should be a priority.
Sadly, most leaders seem to overlook this fact. Employee retention is at an all-time low. Millennials – who make up the largest generation in the workplace, according to the Pew Research Center – are on the move. They want to find an organization that is the best cultural fit. This means businesses have to work harder than ever to ensure their people are happy.
But ensuring people’s happiness is well worth the effort. Achor found that when it comes to productivity, negative emotions narrow our thoughts and range of actions, which limits our potential and the possibility of creativity and innovation. Achor also found that when employees are unhappy, they take more sick days, staying home an average 15 extra sick days per year. That’s not very good for work! By helping your people achieve happiness, your organization will benefit from increased employee retention and productivity – so it’s a smart decision to make the happiness of your people a part of your business strategy.
Employee Happiness: How to Make It a Reality
It seems obvious that helping your people achieve happiness is beneficial for your business. But how exactly do you do it? If getting people to change is so hard, can you really help people change their mindsets to focus on the positive? Yes! Studies have proven that our brains can change. This fact is supported by rigorous, cutting-edge research and is the basis of Achor’s book and life’s work. I can also attest to this. Having experienced my own fair share of negative life experiences, I decided I wasn’t going to let these situations define who I am, so I decided to start looking at the positive of every situation. I live by the motto of “everything happens for a reason.” It’s up to you how you learn from the situation.
I’ve been researching happiness techniques for three years, not only for my own benefit, but to share this knowledge with others to help them develop a more optimistic perspective. This has led me to uncovering my purpose in life: to help others live their best lives.
I would be lying if I told you that it’s easy. It takes time and dedicated practice to rewire the brain to be more positive, creative, resilient, and productive. However, I’ve found that the following techniques are the most beneficial for anyone looking to get started. Best of all, they’re simple shifts that have a big impact. The time to start is now.
Five Techniques to Becoming a Happier, More Positive You
- Motivation is a trick. According to Mel Robbins, your brain gives you five seconds to make a decision and act. Robbins is the author of The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage. She says it takes five seconds before your brain kicks in and tries to “save” you from what you were about to do. Our brains are wired to protect us – from embarrassment, from wrecking our careers, and from being uncomfortable. This means we have only five seconds to act in ways that lead us to change – to act in more positive or creative ways instead of waiting. You have to be proactive about thinking positively until that becomes your default mindset during that five-second window.
- Stop trying to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Realize that feeling uncomfortable is a good thing – not something to avoid at all costs. In fact, the biggest rewards come when we feel the most uncomfortable! When we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, we become more creative and more productive. We have an easier time dealing with new and unpredictable situations, and find it easier to push past our boundaries. In doing so, we better ourselves and gain new skills and abilities.
- Truly answer the question, “What makes you happy?” Remind yourself about what makes you happy each day. Post this thought somewhere private, where only you can see it. Identifying what makes you happy and thinking about it produces results. It will bring you closer to that true state of happiness. Thinking positively floods the brain with dopamine and serotonin, which enhances the learning center of our brain so we can open up creatively.
- Become self-aware, but don’t look to your past experiences to do so. Understanding who you are is hard but has a purpose. People who are self-aware are more trustworthy, honest, and promotable, and are more effective leaders. “Thinking about ourselves isn’t related to knowing ourselves,” organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich says. Stop looking at your past experiences and asking yourself why things happened the way they did. Eurich found that this leads us away from the truth. We can’t excavate our unconscious thoughts, so we start inventing answers that feel true but aren’t. Asking “Why?” creates alternative facts that lead us away from discovering who we truly are and fog our perceptions. Focusing on the “why” can hold you back. Instead, start asking yourself, “What can I do?” or “What’s important to me?” These are the questions that lead us to finding happiness.
- Don’t let internal noise influence your decisions. We all use past experiences to make sense of situations. But this can cloud your current reality, because what happened to you in the past shouldn’t necessarily dictate how you feel about what’s happening now. This internal noise creates alternative realities or fictional perceptions that cloud our judgement. Being aware that your brain works this way is a great start to understanding how it might hinder how messages is received and interpreted.
Lead with Happiness and Help Your People Find Theirs, Too
Your starting point to creating lasting change lies in yourself and your organization. Only you can define what happiness means for you. Remember, leading by example goes a long way in an organization. Practicing techniques for happiness and positivity in your personal life can increase the momentum of happiness in your organization. Yes, it takes practice and perseverance, but change is possible. The beauty is that you don’t have to be a pro at this before implementing happiness into your organization and life, either.