Conscious happiness at work doesn’t just make your day go by pleasantly faster; happiness can make your day up to 50% more productive. It is the same if you are a toddler or a surgeon. Take, for example, research conducted by Shawn Anchor, one of the leading researchers and experts on the connection between happiness and success. In one study, he compared the time needed for two groups of four year-olds to put blocks together, one group having been primed to be positive. The positive four year-olds put their blocks together 50% faster than the control group. The same findings occur with adults as well. Doctors diagnose 50% faster when their brains have been primed for positive thought.
Anchor’s basic definition for happiness is rational optimism, meaning that you accurately observe and state the situation while maintaining an optimistic belief in the future. In other words, if your accounting books tell you that this month the revenue is not meeting expenses, you accept it and at the same time, believe that this will not be the case next month. You are priming your brain to be positive and, in turn, priming your brain to creatively achieve more solutions than it would if it remained in a negative state.
To arrive at conscious happiness is to know that happiness is not a destination. Anchor states it this way, “What we normally thought… if you just work harder right now, you’ll be more successful. If you’re more successful, then you’ll be happier. If we follow that formula, we never actually get to happiness because every time we have a success, we merely change the goal post of what a success looks like.” In other words, if you believe you can inculcate the office with happiness because you have had the success of landing a particular client, quite quickly, you turn around and count success by landing another, more exclusive client. Thus, you end up chasing happiness because you are chasing success. Archer states that beginning with the point of happiness, you can follow your goals for success and actually reach them.
This is the big step to workplace happiness, the knowledge that happiness comes before success and happiness drives success.
The 21 or so smaller steps regard how you build a system within and without yourself to encourage your happiness. This is exactly what it sounds like, building a social support system. According to Archer, “What we find is every time the greatest predictor of your success and happiness during a challenge, every single time is your social support system.”
Archer’s 21 steps are actually the same step practiced 21 consecutive days. 21 days in a row makes the behavior a habit. The energy you put into the step each day and the positive responses you receive become a feedback loop encouraging you to continue.
One example of a step to practice 21 days in a row is when you open your email first thing in the day, write a two-sentence maximum email praising or recognizing someone, maybe a colleague, relative, friend, employee in your environment. The email doesn’t have to be any more public than you and the recipient. By the end of the 21 days, you have touchable memories of 21 people in your network and the mutual support between you and each person. You have verified your social support network. You have received positive feedback. You have kicked up the dopamine receptors in your brain which contribute to happiness.
Untangle the unproductive marriage of success and happiness. This is the big step. The 21 small steps are cultivating a habit of positive recognition. Thankfully, you don’t have to pick up any new skills, buy any new equipment or memorize any new mantras for the 21 steps. An action as simple as writing a positive recognition email grows your happiness, which is the secret to success.