Happiness is not only good for your health, according to a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences but apparently it’s good for business too. In his Harvard Business Review article, Shawn Achor sites that happy doctors diagnose 19% faster and happy sales people increase sales by 37%. He goes on to say, “Happiness is the single greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy.”
Over the last 17 years, I’ve seen dramatic business turn-around’s occur in as little as a week. The only change being an increase in a persons happiness. The results I’ve witnessed have been dramatic. My clients on Wall Street made better trades, CEO’s made more profitable decisions and sales people made more sales all with a shift in their mindset, which lead to greater well-being. Having been trained that correct business systems trumped all human factors, the outcomes that occurred from “enhancing one’s mood” were shocking.
As a result, in the late 90s I decided to focus my career on the pursuit of happiness and fully investigate its impact on the success process. Over a ten year period I found that happiness was a skill that anyone could learn and that happiness was a hidden determinant in success. Bottom line; when entrepreneurs learn the skills to be happy, they have unexplainable increases in their results.
4 Happiness Skills Anyone Can Learn
There are a set of specific, actionable skills & tools that will cause a person to be happy regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in. The following is the short list that I suggest to all new clients.
1. Give up being right.
Most people are addicted to being right and they don’t even know it. This leads to endless amounts of argument and strife. To be happy, you must let go of this ineffective habit of thought.
Try this: Notice that The Drunk Monkey (my nickname for the chatter in your mind) has an opinion on everything including things it knows nothing about. Opinions are vanities and are always from your perspective. Your perspective my be right for you, but certainly not for everyone and everything. And yet, when you pay attention to The Drunk Monkey you see that it actually believes that it is right about almost everything.
The desire to be right often puts you into a resistant state which does not lead to happiness. When you are in a resistant state of mind – trying to prove your opinion is right – you will not be as effective as when you are open to all possibilities.
To give up being right, put yourself in the other persons shoes. Look at the world from their perspective and acknowledge that there are multiple ways to view the situation. In short, have compassion for others.
2. Accept the situation as it is and then take action.
A client of mine found himself in an unpleasant situation. His company was merging with another company and he was informed that he would be losing his coveted office with the sun shining into the windows that he was accustomed to. This may sound trivial. For him, this was the end of a 10 year era and he was very attached to what the office represented in his life. He had been angry for a week when we finally spoke. The merger had not yet happened. Yet, his anger was creating dysfunction in has ability to produce sales results today. He was suddenly procrastinating on things that were important. His sales were suffering.
In a short period of time I helped him to realize that he was moving no matter how angry he got. Ultimately he accepted this as the case and promised to stop complaining simply because it was not making him feel good. Next I asked him a question I want you to ask yourself when faced with adversity, “What are you committed to?” We shifted his focus to defining what he wanted to create out of the merger. He described his best case scenario. As he did, new options began to be illuminated, his mood changed and his energy went up. Getting happy allowed him to get out of his resentment, see new possibilities and get creative.
In the following weeks his sales results returned and he discovered a compromise that would work for his new working environment. If you don’t accept the situation as it is, you become frustrated, and unhappy, which makes you feel stuck and you can’t move forward. You literally get blinded to all your available options.
3. Quit pretending you are a psychic who can tell the future.
Just the idea of a change to his office environment caused him to hallucinate about a future he didn’t like. Problem is, he’s not psychic so he doesn’t know what the future will hold. Yet he was suffering, right now, as if the negative future had already occurred. This is a trick The Drunk Monkey plays on people to strip them of their happiness.
The Drunk Monkey in your head is not your friend. As a biological survival mechanism one of its functions is to predict potentially negative situations and then mobilize the body to avoid them. Problem is, most of your life is not dangerous. The salesman moving into a new office is not dangerous and yet, The Drunk Monkey invented futures that caused his body to be filled with chemicals that created great stress. Nothing had happened and yet his life experience had been degraded by a figment of his imagination.
Today just remind yourself that you are not psychic and that you can not predict the future. Work to see the situation with exacting clarity by removing your fear and your opinions. Next identify what you want to have happen. Only then will new and interesting possibilities arise.
4. Stop protecting yourself from people who aren’t attacking you.
A Wall Street executive was managing billions of dollars in assets and yet he felt like nobody listened to him and that he wasn’t important. This perspective had him feel repressed and defeated. His positive results didn’t seem to match his unhappy mindset. He was making money for his firm and the firm was doing well as a whole. With further investigation it turns out that he felt like other people in the firm didn’t think what he had to say was important and therefore he was an outsider and not involved in making critical decisions. He realized that taking on more responsibility was important but felt powerless to do so.
I asked him how he knew this was true. He told me about incidents that had occurred the year before. I asked him to give me something that happened this week. He couldn’t even think of something that had happened in the last six months. The Drunk Monkey was at it again.
The Drunk Monkey creates generalizations. Example; you walk over, pet a dog and it bites you. The next time you see a dog, it shoots your body full of chemicals that put you on the alert. Do all dogs bite? No! But the survival mechanism will steer you clear of anything today that might have seemed dangerous in the past.
This system is great for making sure kids don’t touch the hot stove more then once but it’s terrible for everyday life. A couple incidents that occurred a year ago that made him feel angry and unappreciated. Since then, he’s been protecting himself against a whole bunch of people who aren’t attacking him and frankly, don’t even remember what happened.
I asked him to consider that he had changed, they had changed, times had changed, and the world had changed since then. I asked him if he would be willing to run an experiment to put The Drunk Monkey into place so he could return to happy, fulfilled and satisfied with work. He agreed. Here’s what I told him to do.
Instead of trying to keep his ideas safe, instead of wondering how he could move his objectives forward; for the next week, find out what other people were committed to. See what the other people in the company were working on and discover ways to contribute to each of the people in the company. Make it a game. See if you can contribute something to someone everyday for the next seven days. An idea, a contact, a resource or even just an encouraging word.
Through this process, he shifted from protecting himself from all the people who weren’t attacking him, to being supportive and giving. Within the year he became one of the most celebrated people in his company. Everyone wanted to get him involved in their projects. He was suddenly important. The next year he was recruited away by a superstar in his industry and made a partner in the firm. This was a five year dream that came true in one. The trick was simple, he needed to be the change he wanted to see in the world, just like Gandhi said.
When you are happy, you are creative, approachable, flexible and easy to be with. Add those characteristics to your skill set and you will see an immediate positive benefit.
Most people believe that happiness is something that occurs when the conditions of life are favorable. But the truth is, happiness is the skill navigating challenging situations without getting reactive. If you wait for happiness to find you, you’ll be waiting a long time. Happiness is an inside job.
Matthew Ferry is a happiness and success expert. For more, visit www.matthewferry.com.