Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think and Author of The Happiness Advantage, thinks companies might have their view of success a little mixed up.  We live in a society where reaching success simply means to start reaching higher.  You made good grades?  Now get better grades.  You got a good job?  Now get a better job!  You made your sales quota?  Good for you, we are doubling it.  The problem with this is that our brains never really get to enjoy success.  The belief is that if we work hard then we will be successful, and if we are successful, only then will we be happy.  This view is flawed, and in fact we are more successful when we aim to be happy first.

Shawn notes that during his time studying students at Harvard University, he noticed that within two weeks of being there, the students had lost all excitement of getting into Harvard.  They were overcome by stress, competition, and the overall burden of schooling at the prestigious university, including students with scholarships.  You wouldn’t think they would have much to be upset about, some getting a free education at an exceptional school, but happiness actually has very little to do with our external world.  Only 10% of our happiness comes from the external world, 90% of our long term happiness comes from how we view the world.  As Shawn says, “It’s the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”

So where does this come into business?  Turns out only 25% of job successes are attributed to IQ.  75% of them are based on happiness, social support, and seeing stress as a challenge instead of a problem.  Happiness has a bigger impact on your job performance than you realize.  I won’t say that it is better to hire a happy person or a smart person, but a positive brain has higher intelligence, creativity, and energy level than a neutral, negative, or stressed brain.  In fact, a happy brain is 31% more productive than a negative or stressed brain.  Happy brains are also 37% more effective at sales, and happy doctors are 19% more accurate when diagnosing illnesses on patients.  The brain releases Dopamine when it is happy, which beyond making you feel good, also opens up all of your learning centers, allowing you to better adapt to situations and react accordingly.

So let’s assume you are with me to this point, and you want to change your patterns.  There are a few steps you can do to help improve on your happiness.

  • Gratitude – Write out 3 (different) things you are grateful for every day for a month. This makes you focus on all the good things in your life.
  • Journal – Keep a journal. Write at least one positive experience in it each day.
  • Exercise – This teaches your brain that what you do matters
  • Meditation – Allows you to focus on a single issue and relaxes your brain that is constantly forced to multitask
  • Random Acts of Kindness – Write a thank you email to someone you appreciate, buy a coffee for someone at the office, do something random you can feel good about every day.