Last weekend, I was honored to be a facilitator at the World Happiness Summit in Florida. Is it really possible to have happiness at work? What we learned there is: YES! “Fluff and stuff,” you might say. “Too woo-woo,” you might think. But scientists can prove that there are significant changes in the brain that make us more creative, better problem solvers, and more resilient when things don't go our way. Just hearing the findings from behavioral scientists Tal Ben-Shahar, Shawn Achor and Michelle Geiland, is enough to make anyone sit up and take notice.
Many think that the opposite of happiness is unhappiness. However, the opposite of happiness is apathy. Happiness is "the joy you feel moving toward your potential." This means that you can experience happiness even when life is not pleasurable. Even in stressful times or the worst possible situations, you can persevere, see strengths emerge and teams come together.
In honor of international World Happiness Day (declared March 20 by the United Nations), I would like to share some of the strategies that we learned at the World Happiness Summit.
Start with realism. Often we complain, get frustrated or angry, look for why something won't work, and disengage with the situation or people involved. We dig in our heels, sure we can change or ignore what is happening. But, when we accept what the circumstances are at that moment, we open our minds to see new possibilities.
Practice the “10-5” rule. Achor shared a story of a hospital that positively turned around employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and doctor performance doing this. When you are within 10 feet of someone, smile. When you are within 5 feet of someone, say "hello". I practiced this throughout the weekend at the hotel where I was staying. On my last day there, one employee remarked that one of the wait staff who was usually gruff and noncommittal with customers and coworkers was less gruff, and more likely to make eye contact than four days before. That employee told me that he felt his coworker’s change was a direct result of the smiles and "hellos" I had intentionally shared with the coworker once a day.
Daily 2-minute positive notes. This practice involves writing a 2-minute note to someone about the positive influence they are having, or something they are doing well. Achor suggests doing this for someone different each day. It can be an employee, coworker, boss, customer, or family member. Research shows that this resets our brain to look for positives in our environment, making us happier. In addition, we are spreading happiness to the recipient of the note!
I have often recommended this practice to the leaders I work with. One young woman became supervisor of a team of women who were all 20 years older than her and she was struggling with strong resistance from them. She used this strategy for each team member over a period of two weeks. She reported that after the first week, team members were actually coming to her office to chat for a few minutes. By the end of two weeks, they were actively participating in a change initiative they had completely resisted weeks earlier. This young supervisor still continues her practice of the 2-minute positive note.
It takes a lot of bravery to invite happiness into a circumstance consumed with problems. We think, when I achieve this, or do that, or get to this position, or have that much money, then I'll be happy. But, if we wait for all the problems to be "overcome", we will miss out on the most competitive advantage of happiness: the ability to think creatively, problem solve more quickly with better outcomes, and create the resiliency that can catapult a business or an individual into success. Small positive changes to people’s lives can help negate even the worst environments and most unhappy backgrounds.
If you need help looking past the big picture to identify small positive changes, contact Joy. She will provide you with the tools you need to create a happier environment, get people more connected, boost productivity and create the customer satisfaction you desire. After all, happiness in the workplace CAN be achieved!