Fortunately, humans love happiness. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Unfortunately, it turns out that plenty of us don’t seem to, based on the way we stick our noses to the grindstone and assume that if we work harder we’ll achieve success and happiness. Fortunately, the relatively new science of positive psychology is finding ways to help us achieve business success. Unfortunately, many of us are currently doing it backwards, and hobbling our professional capability in the process. Fortunately, all we have to do is be happy and grateful in the present moment, and we become more effective at what we do and more likely to achieve success.
Here is an entertaining and mind-blowing TEDx video by Shawn Achor that synopsizes this research.
What I love about this new approach to thinking about success is that it recognizes that fact that we create our own reality and places the responsibility for creating a reality we want squarely on us. This is the foundation of InPowerment. Choice is power. Any time you’re feeling powerless, just make some choices – about almost anything – and watch your internal power meter go up. In essence when you’re making a choice, you’re training your brain to remember that you have control over your reality. We’re adjusting our “lens” on reality, which this new psychology shows is our key to high-performance, success and happiness.
A New Lens on Success
Most of us believe that our external circumstances – what we’ve achieved or not, what we have or not – predicts our happiness. We also believe that happiness has little to do with whether or not we achieve success (some of us even believe that happiness and success cannot coexist!) Turns out the reverse is true on both counts. Our external situation only predicts about 10% of our positivity, and happiness is one of the greatest predictors of success. Intelligence is only 25% predictive of job success while optimism is a 75% predictor. In particular, Shawn notes in the video above, the more we can see stress as a challenge instead of a threat, the more likely we are to be successful on the job.
You also perform better if your brain has the “happiness advantage” — which increases your intelligence, energy, productivity and resiliency — you’ll be less prone to burnout and stress problems. Positive brain functions are corollary to 31% higher performance and 37% better sales. Doctors are even 19% more accurate at diagnosis when positive. (I just switched to a happier doctor, by the way.)
Positivity releases dopamine in your brain, which not only makes you happy, but it turns on the learning centers in your brain. You get better faster when you’re happy.
Retrain Your Brain – In 21 Days
Here’s why the popular belief that hard work equals success equals happiness is not only bad for your career, but setting yourself up for a less-than-happy life. Your brain is Lucy with the football. Remember how Lucy used to pull the football away from Charlie Brown every time he tried to kick it? That’s what your brain does to you when you succeed under the work-harder brain pattern. You think when you become a manager, you’ll be happy but then you make it and want to be a director, then a VP, then a CXO then a CEO, then what? “When you put happiness on the opposite side of success your brain never gets there,” says Achor.
How to get your brain to shift into positivity when the world isn’t always sunshine and bliss? The simple explanation is to train your brain to notice the good stuff and look for patterns of positivity. Here are some suggestions, a mix of Achor and me. Do these for 21 days and see how your perspective begins to shift. Even if you’re already a positive person, these little tricks can bring more happiness into your life.
- Every day write down 3 things you’re genuinely grateful for.
- Every day send at least one email to someone who’s helped you, say thank you and really mean it. (This is a great way to practice InPowerment Principle #4 too!)
- Every time you have a choice, choose the thing that makes you happier. (A key to InPowerment Principle #5!)
- Play the Fortunately/Unfortunately game with yourself to tell the story of your day and always start and end on a “Fortunately” (see first paragraph above.)
What else can you come up with? Do you have trouble letting go of the unhappy, negative way to view the world? What would you have to let go of to accept more happiness?
This post originally appeared on InPower Women.