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Insight

Happiness Is A Choice

June 11, 2013

Contributors

Three simple ways to create more happiness at work, at home and in life

Here’s the easiest quiz you’ll ever take:

“April showers bring May flowers” was coined by:

a)     A grumpy old man named Berniehappy face smile choice click optimism mood sad

b)    An optimist who chose to view inclement weather as the source of rainbows and tulips rather than bad hair and squashed worms

The most important word in the (obviously correct) answer is the word “chose.” So here’s an important question for you: Are you choosing to be grumpy or happy?

I’m beginning to think that as we approach middle age, everyone reaches an inevitable fork in the road where you have to make a critical choice: You must choose to be gloomy or jolly. One direction will leave you screaming at kids to get off your lawn; the other will get you invited to lots of neighborhood pool parties.

Here’s a suggestion: Choose jolly; choose to be happy.

Now here’s what successful people have taught me about this decision: You can—and should—make this choice much, much earlier in life.

If you spend time around enough successful people, you notice they are generally optimistic, full of wonder, curious and seem to find a way to be grateful for what life brings them—good and bad, rain or rainbows.

Happy first. Successful second.

Many of us get the happiness equation wrong. We believe that we must work hard to become successful, make lots of money, get a big title and then, only then, will we be happy.

It simply isn’t true.

Think for a minute. I bet you know plenty of divorced, sullen, grumpy, RICH people. By every professional measure, they appear to be incredibly successful; they have the house, the job and the car you’ve always wanted and yet nobody wants them at their pool party.

Saying you need to be successful to be happy is like saying that you must win a race before you can become a great athlete. Just like in racing, when it comes to being happy, the mindset, the training and the practice precedes the result. Said simply, successful people make the choice to be happy first and then they work on it, which leads to a successful personal and professional life.

Here are three simple things I’ve learned about being happy:

Your Lens Shapes Your World

My friend Dr. Daniel Friedman recently told me, “The questions you are asking yourself today will shape your destiny.” Happy people are the ones who have learned to approach even life’s most dire challenges with questions like, “What may I learn from this?” They focus on where they want to go and what it will take to get them there. They choose to control and focus their lens on what should really matter most to create the outcome they want.

You Can Practice Your Way To Happiness

Once you choose to be happy, you must work on it. Happiness practices range from random acts of kindness to making gratitude lists—things that you are grateful for at home and at work.

It Starts Early

My mom’s favorite saying was, “Aren’t we lucky?” As a kid I found it annoying that she’d make this statement during the most unlikely moments—when we were having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; when we were stuck in traffic; when we were looking at a sunset…. I know now that she was tilting my lens. She wanted me to always be looking for the positives in every situation. Through her leading question, she gave me an extraordinary gift.

The gift of happiness can and will affect every aspect of your life, including work. Great leaders understand that happiness drives more than just pleasant water cooler conversations. Here are three reasons business leaders are waking up to the power of a happy culture:

Happy People Do Better At Work

There is now plenty of research that supports the argument that happy people are more professionally successful. For example, intelligence only accounts for 25 percent of workplace success, while optimism and the ability to see stress as a challenge rounds out the other 75 percent.

Unhappiness Is Costing Your Company Money

Research shows that job stress costs more than $300 billion a year; some 20 percent of payroll goes toward addressing stress-related problems; and happy, engaged organizations grew their profits as much as three times faster than their competitors.

Unhappy People Don’t Change The World

Earlier this year, my company invested in Positivity—a company that teaches resilience, optimism and creativity to improve innovation and workplace efficiency. We did this because we are in the business of helping large organizations drive innovation—and change can be pretty scary and fear is the enemy of creativity.

Over time, we noticed that happy client teams were fearless and much more innovative. We needed a proven way of greasing the innovation skids with happiness.

The conclusions are pretty simple: If you want a successful life, choose to become happy. If you want a successful company, help your team make the same choice.

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