Posted by: goalpath | November 3, 2009

Tips for Being More Successful in Your Job, Your Business and Your Life

In a previous blog, Does Happiness in the Workplace Equate to Higher Productivity, I discussed Alexander Kjerulf’s research on happiness in the workplace. He conducted his research in this area prior to writing his book, Happy Hour is From 9 to 5. According to Mr. Kjerulf, happy workers work better with others, are more creative, have more energy, are more optimistic, are more motivated, get sick less often, learn faster, make fewer mistakes, and make better decisions. It should be obvious that to be successful at your job or business, you need to cultivate happiness in the work place. Yours and your co-workers. So what makes us happy?

Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar teaches the most popular class at Harvard, Positive Psychology, which has been referred to as Happiness 101. His first class had only 6 attendees, but today, enrollment in his “Positive Psychology” and “The Psychology of Leadership” classes has risen to 1400 students. He consults and lectures around the world to high level executives, the general public and at-risk populations. Topics include happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal setting, mindfulness and leadership.

Dr. Ben-Shahar points out that positive psychology, as a discipline didn’t really exist prior to the late 1980’s. Despite all the self help and new age proponents of positive mental attitude and positive motivational techniques, this discipline has grown to become a serious field of study. Prior to this field coming into its own, psychological research primarily revolved around mental illnesses, anxiety, and depression. Bummer, huh? 

In his lectures, Dr. Ben Shahar discusses his six secrets to happiness. According to the professor, the six secrets are:

  • Give yourself permission to be human. When we accept emotions – such as fear, sadness, or anxiety – as natural, we are more likely to overcome them. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness.
  • Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. When this is not feasible, make sure you have happiness boosters, moments throughout the week that provide you with both pleasure and meaning.
  • Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?
  • Simplify! We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much.
  • Remember the mind-body connection. What we do – or don’t do – with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.
  • Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.

His view of happiness makes a lot of sense. Suppressing emotions only leads to those emotions manifesting and erupting into an emotional outburst at a later time. If you deal with these emotions in the present your life will run more smoothly. He points out that 45% of college students feel so depressed and overwhelmed at some point during their education, they can’t function at all. If you feel that way, take time for reflection which can translate into growth. Meditation and reflection will pay dividends both at home and in the workplace. Your best ideas come when you are doing nothing. Simplify your life when things get to overwhelming. Take a time out.

If you can’t find meaning and pleasure in your day to day activities, then you should find people and activities that will provide meaning and pleasure in your life. Self concordant goals are goals aligned with your personal interests and values. You might have to do some deep reflection and soul searching to discover these goals. But it will certainly be time well spent. On the micro level, happiness boosters provide a direct impact on one’s happiness. These can include time with a loved one, a walk on the beach, volunteering at the local soup kitchen or a game of tennis or golf.

Cultivating healthy relationships is a key ingredient to happiness. Whether romantic or platonic, relationships with family, friends and loved ones are key drivers of your happiness. Make sure you take the time to cultivate and enjoy these relationships. Sure there are times when your relationships don’t always equate to happiness, but he says that in a sound relationship, positivity vs. negativity should be a 5:1 ratio. Conflict is an opportunity for growth. Deal with it.   

Another key to happiness is to get out and get some exercise. Dr. Ben-Shahar says that a good thirty minute exercise routine is like taking a small dose of Prozac and a small dose of Ritalin in terms of the chemicals released in your body. And you thought it was an adrenalin high. Exercise raises our base level of happiness, not to mention the health benefits it brings.

Finally, don’t forget to be grateful for what you have. Stop taking your life and your gifts for granted. Another research study concluded that grateful people are much happier than people who feel superior or people who control others. Since Dr. Ben-Shahar recommends some form of regular meditation, whether it be yoga or internal reflection or a walk in the woods, you can take these as opportunities to consider how fortunate you are to live in America and have the gifts you take for granted every day. The happiest people seem to be those who believe what they have today is all they need. Greed (acquiring money and stuff) is not now, nor has it ever been a path to happiness.

What makes you happy? We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you are a Baby Boomer, and haven’t yet joined my web community, www.boomeropinion.com, please do. It is free and only takes a minute to sign up. You can participate in our polls on major issues facing America and Baby Boomers. You can also join in our discussion forums or even set up your own blog at our site.

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