Fact. People are staying longer in jobs they don’t like, or don’t want than they would in previous decades. Blame it on the crappy economy all you want, but that doesn’t change the truth that there are more people in the workforce who aren’t necessarily in a position they want to be in. Does that mean the entire workforce should be going around grumbling and moping about their poor life outcomes? Nope!
Shawn Achor discusses this very subject his TED Talk, “The Happy Secret to Better Work,” see previous post. He says happiness is not dependent on achieving life goals. As you’ll have noticed in your own life, it’s human nature that once you’ve achieved one goal, to simply set another milestone. If you get a good job, then you want a promotion so it’s a better job–meaning you’ll never be happy on your little hamster wheel if your happiness is totally measured by external goal posts. If happiness =success (in career or otherwise) you’ll never get there because your brain is constantly pushing what success means “over the cognitive horizon” with the next marker to meet.
So, happiness cannot be predicted (entirely, or even mostly) by external circumstances. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, posits that happiness is 50% determined by genetics. Life circumstances (age, gender, marital status, income, occupation, etc.) make up about 10-20%. The remaining30-40% is how a person thinks and acts. For her, everyone has a tendency to be pretty happy or less happy, but they can actively try to push themselves to the top or bottom of their genetic spectrum.
According to Shawn, 10% of happiness is determined by the world around us, 90% by how our brain processes the world. Luckily for us, he and Gretchen agree that you can train your own brain to process the world in a happier way by changing the lens through which it views the world to change your educational, and business outcomes. Gretchen chronicles how to make your life generally happier here.
Shawn looks specifically at how to improve your work outcomes by being happier, flipping the formula that if you do better at work, it follows that you will be happy. Instead, be happy, and work success will follow. He affirms the belief that happy employees are more productive employees, and shows through studies that if you raise your level of positivity, the brain releases dopamine which turns on the learning centers of the brain improving every single business outcome. Happy employees are 30% more productive and 37% better at sales.
Here’s his prescription to turning your work happiness around in just 2 minutes a day for 21 days.
- Write down 3 new things you are grateful for every day for 21 days
- Journal 1 positive experience you had in the last 24 hours to help your brain relive the experience
- Meditate to let your brain get over the learned ADHD of multi-tasking
- Send one positive email praising or thanking someone in your social support network to practice conscious acts of kindness
At the end of this period, your brain is rewired to work more successfully and optimistically, no longer scanning for the negative, but looking for the positive, and in turn activating your capabilities to use your full learning and performance potential, and allowing people to be more effective and happier employees.