There seem to be a lot of people these days talking about, and studying, our general state of happiness and whether it impacts our performance at work and helps us to find meaning and fulfillment in our lives.
Initially some might think the study of happiness is unrelated to “getting the work done” but, on the contrary, the research over the last 20 years has proven that the correlation between higher productivity and feelings of engagement and meaning in work is quite high.
In the late 1990s, Dr. Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, founded the field of positive psychology. This field is based on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences at work, love and play. He created the Center for Positive Psychology at Penn and Authentic Happiness.org a website that contains a wealth of resources, including questionnaires on all kinds of topics, such as; gratitude, meaning of life, and approach to happiness.
I discovered Dr. Seligman and the positive psychology movement a while ago and, as someone who at one point seriously considered a psychology major, but didn’t because I thought it would be a depressing way to spend my days (always talking about what was wrong and how bad people felt) I was excited about this new direction of exploring happiness, and immediately took the questionnaire. While it doesn’t talk about you specifically, it does tell you how your happiness level correlates to others in your similar demographic group. According to this, I am happier than about two-thirds of all those other guys. Not sure that that’s where I want to be. It got me to thinking, are there ways I can boost my own happiness level? Not something like buying a new sweater or having lunch with a friend that gives you just a short term boost. But are there things that I can do to fundamentally shift my happiness mindset?
Well, as it turns out, there are. Shawn Achor, a former professor of positive psychology at Harvard, gave a very funny Ted Talk in 2011 called “The happy secret to better work.” It has over 12 million views. He has also written several books on the topic and for many years taught the most popular course at Harvard on the same subject.
Both of these experts support the notion of a significant connection between happiness and success. A positive mindset, lightheartedness, optimism and yes, downright fun, all have an impact, not only on your own feelings of well-being and happiness in your life, but, also on your job success and the effectiveness of organizations.
According to Achor, only 25% of job success is predicted by I. Q. and 75 % by optimism level. The ability to see stress as a challenge rather than a barrier. He proposes that it’s all about perspective and shares a hilarious story in his Ted Talk about his sister Amy and how he used this concept to convince her that she was “Amy the Unicorn.”
He suggests that small actions can have a big impact and trying these simple daily practices will jumpstart your shift in perspective – just like Amy!
21 Day Happiness Bootcamp
- Write down three new things you are grateful for each day
- Journal about one positive experience over last 24 hours and relive it in your memory
- Random Acts of Kindness
- Create Ripples of Happiness – through simple, mindful actions
I have been practicing the gratitude exercise for a while now, consistently exercising, and I try to be aware of opportunities for random acts of kindness. The one I choose every day though is cleaning up after other pet walkers in my neighborhood to keep the yards and sidewalk free of dog poo. I always bring an extra bag with me when my pug and I go out for our walks. It makes me feel happy to remove the potential booby trap for the kids walking to school who might unknowingly step in it, or the guy running out to get his paper in his slippers while it’s still barely light.
I am working on consistently practicing the others, and, I added one of my own. I start each morning with a simple prayer for a good day and ask to be a blessing to someone that day. I definitely feel a change in my perspective, that affirmation at the beginning of the day keeps my mind from immediately racing to my to-do list, and reviewing what I am grateful for each night before I go to sleep leaves me feeling good, dare I say even happy.
Mary Vail-Grube is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.