How Happiness Affects your Success at Work

Happiness research and common sense tell us that happy people are more successful at their jobs. It makes sense that when people love what they do, they do a better job. Is it because of their success that they are happy? Is it because of their happiness that they are successful?

Shaw Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, did a great TED Talk last year that explains it.

We’ve had happiness in the work place all wrong. The standard equation for happiness has been “work hard and be more successful; be more successful and be happier,” but by equating happiness with success, we made both unachievable. This formula keeps pushing the envelope: the harder we work, the more we achieve, the more we are expected to do, the harder we work. We become like hamsters on a wheel, never quite reaching the goal. Achor explains it this way: “If happiness is on the other side of success, your brain never gets there.”

Harvard research and Achor tell us that the brain works the other way round: the happier we are, the better we perform at work (and at life in general). “If we can raise someone’s level of positivity in the present, then the brain can experience a happiness advantage.” Brains in the positive mode are more productive, creative, and intelligent than they are when neutral or stressed. “The benefits of positive emotions don’t stop after a few minutes of good feelings subside. In fact, the biggest benefit that positive emotions provide is an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life.” ( Your grandmother may have told you this, but today science backs it up.

Achor conducted a study among Harvard students to try to retrain their brains for greater happiness (which resulted in great productivity, creativity and energy). He found some pretty surefire techniques that will raise happiness levels for the long term with very little effort. He calls it “Creating Lasting Positive Change.” Each of these exercises should be done a few minutes each day for at least 21 days. Here they are:

  • 3 Gratitudes
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Random Acts of Kindness

Do these five things, just a few minutes each day and you’ll create new patterns in your brain. By getting into the habit of writing down the things for which you are grateful, you’ll train your mind to start to look for them. Journal about one positive experience each day, again you’ll retrain your brain to look for the good. Neuroscience and millions of meditators over thousands of years support the meditation claim. This article in Psychology Today describes in greater depth why the magic five really work.

The brain functions better happy. It’s simple though not always easy.