Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Mindvalley founder Vishen Lakhiani interview bestselling author and researcher Shawn Achor about his research on the value of happiness – how employee well-being drives productivity.
In a 2012 Harvard Business Review article, Shawn says that “…happiness is perhaps the most misunderstood driver of performance.”
He goes on to say that that’s because people think that success comes before happiness – it’s the old ‘when I get that raise, then I’ll be happy’ or ‘when I land that new project, I’ll feel awesome.’
When the reality is, “…because success is a moving target—as soon as you hit your target, you raise it again—the happiness that results from success is fleeting.”
Shawn goes on to describe that happiness actually is key to reaching our goals:
“People who cultivate a positive mind-set perform better in the face of challenge. I call this the ‘happiness advantage’—every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive. I’ve observed this effect in my role as a researcher and lecturer in 48 countries on the connection between employee happiness and success. And I’m not alone: In a meta-analysis of 225 academic studies, researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King, and Ed Diener found strong evidence of directional causality between life satisfaction and successful business outcomes.”
So how do we become happier and achieve our business goals? See more about the benefits of happiness in the HBR article and also the sidebar in the article (“Happiness and the Bottom Line”) for details about its impact on the bottom-line.
In his Mindvalley talk, Shawn highlighted four steps that have been shown to improve our happiness.
Here they are:
Send a brief email or text praising or thanking a friend, family member, colleague each morning, first thing. Take no more than 2 minutes to write and send it. The essence of the email is to go beyond saying “you’re awesome” by praising or thanking them and to tell them why what they do is so wonderful. Studies show this demonstration of compassion not only sparks compassion in the person that receives it, they also pass it on to others. Eric Barker also has written about the benefit of the morning thank you email or text (see #5 on his list and also the article has links to studies about why this is beneficial, including links to Shawn’s work).
Express thanks – out loud – for three new things each day, and why you are thankful for them. Shawn suggests doing this each day as you brush your teeth to anchor it to a daily activity (I do it right after I finish since it’s hard to talk with the toothbrush in my mouth). You could also write them down if you like. For people who are low-level pessimists, statistically, they’ve found that this practice turns them into people who are low-level optimists.
Meditate for at least 2 minutes a day. Meditating for longer than that is good if you can do it, although Shawn highlighted that there are studies showing that meditating for even 2 minutes has benefits for us. He cited a study at Aetna, the insurance company, that showed 10 minutes of meditation, 3 times a week, provided a 62-minute boost in productivity.That averaged out to be a $3,000 gain in productivity and a $2,000 drop in their health care costs or about a $5,000 gain per employee.
Write a brief description of something positive that happened to you today and include four points about it – any information that you can recall, such as what you did, why it was important, who was there, etc. Shawn says it doesn’t matter what the details are, it’s the practice of remembering that counts because it doubles the effect in our brains. The brain can’t tell the difference between a visualization and a real experience, so when we remember something that’s positive, it reinforces the meaningful effect for us.
You can read more about Shawn’s work here. Finally, he suggests practicing these habits for 21 days to lock them in.
So far I’m on Day 3 and I feel great! Please feel free to drop me a line and let me know how these habits are working for you.
Special shout-out to Wayne Lightfoot of Wexler Marketing Group for suggesting I blog about these tips this week.