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How Optimism Can Help You Be Happier

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

 Optimism is a form of Positive Thinking that is focused on the future and how the future will unfold.  It helps improve our lives and make us happier.  Optimism changes the way we look at and remember our interactions in life because we put a more positive spin on our events and activities. Numerous research studies have confirmed the benefits of optimism which include better health, longer lives, faster recovery from illness, and even healthier babies.

Tali Sherot a leading researcher and teacher of happiness lists three reasons that optimism is a key component of our happiness:

How we interpret events matters. As we go through life, remembering a majority of our interactions with an optimistic and hopeful attitude gives us the feeling we are on the right path and things will work out for us.

  1. Anticipation enhances our happiness. By thinking optimistically about the future, we get excited about what we think could and will happen. We are as happy during those times of anticipation as we are when the event actually occurs. So our happiness lasts for much longer periods of time if we are optimistic and anticipate good outcomes.
  2. Optimism makes you try harder. If you believe an event is going to turn out positively, you may be surprised or disappointed when events start taking a negative turn. Consciously or unconsciously, we redouble our efforts to get life back on the right track. As a result, we create better outcomes through efforts we put forth because we are optimistic about the better outcomes.

Optimistic thinkers experience more positive emotions because they explain events in ways that help them feel good about themselves. Pessimistic thinkers take a negative approach and explain events in ways that make them feel worse about themselves.   The good news is that pessimism can be replaced with optimism.  Pessimistic thinking can be exchanged for optimistic thinking with a little effort and practice.

Some tips for creating optimism in your life:

 

  1. Visualize Your Best Possible Self – Visualize a future for yourself in which everything has turned out the way you want it. This can be a short timeframe, like the project is successful and everyone likes it, or a long timeframe, like how your life turns out more fantastic than you could ever imagine.
  2. Find a pessimistic thought and smash it – Keep a small rock or some other touchstone in your pocket or nearby. Whenever you recognize a pessimistic thought, visualize yourself smashing it with the rock and replacing it with a more optimistic thought.
  3. Put a quarter in a cup – put a coffee cup on your dresser or desk. Every time you consciously replace a pessimistic thought with an optimistic thought, put a quarter in the cup. When the cup is full, you can use the change to buy yourself a treat. An empty cup reminds you to keep finding ways to choose optimistic thoughts.

“Perpetual Optimism is a Force Multiplier” – Gen. Colin Powell

About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Happiness in the Workplace

Happy employees enhance the overall performance of an organization.  However, studies show that only 1 in 5 employees (20%) actually report being happy at work.  So that means that approximately 80% of employees are unhappy at work and therefore, negatively impacting the performance of your business.  Companies are now beginning to recognize the changes in employee attitudes and are focusing on improving the culture of their company.

First of all, let’s start with WHY you should care about the happiness of your employees.  As mentioned above, happier employees are more productive and will provide higher benefits to your business.  Lately, probably for a variety of reasons including economic environment and world tragedies, employees are feeling more stressed, less secure, and ultimately less satisfied at work.  This environment adds up to higher absenteeism, less productivity, and higher turnover in your organization.  All of these issues have a negative drag on the business.

While HAPPINESS can be defined in a variety of different ways and is comprised of many elements, Martin Seligman outlined the key elements impacting HAPPINESS… Pleasure, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.  If you can find a formula the leverages these elements, you will generally see that your employees:

  • love their work and find it meaningful
  • consistently give all that they can
  • work collaboratively with others

Resulting in a happier employee and stronger business.

One interesting note is that HAPPINESS becomes an ongoing circle for your employees and your business.  Happier employees are more satisfied with their lives, enjoy better health, live longer and have better relationships.  Additionally, HAPPINESS is contagious.  Happy employees on your team will drive others within the organization to be happier – thus continuously driving improvements.

While it has such an impact on business performance, like most things, establishing a culture that drives employee happiness isn’t rocket science; however, it does take a bit of effort and focus on doing a few things all of the time.

Here are a few broad areas to align your focus on – Purpose, Autonomy, Mastery, and Connection.

  • Purpose – give everyone a purpose and show how they link to the bigger purpose of the organization and beyond.  When people have a purpose, they are excited and driven.
  • Autonomy – give people the freedom in achieving their goals.  This doesn’t mean that we aren’t held accountable.  There is a balance.
  • Mastery – give everyone the tools and opportunities to be successful.  Tools can be coaching, equipment, training, applications, etc.
  • Connection – people need a level of connection and collaboration with others.  It is important that a team is well connected internally and externally.

The formula is to leverage a combination of these elements because focusing on just one will not achieve the greatest results.  For instance, if you simply provide someone with a strong purpose, but don’t give them access to the tools for success or don’t allow them to achieve their objectives, overall success will suffer.

 

 

Get into the Flow

Flow is a state where you lose track of time and your surroundings. You are so caught up in what you are doing, your brain doesn’t process unrelated outside information.

 

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…the best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the leading expert on flow, found that people who became really absorbed in what they were doing had higher levels of happiness. The more they got into flow, the happier they were.

Athletes call it being in “the zone”. That place where time stands still and you understand exactly what you need to do and how you need to do it. In your work, there are probably several tasks you seem uniquely suited to. Activities where you have been doing them long enough that you can focus and knock them out, but that always require you be at your top performance. You set aside time and start working. At some point, you are interrupted by a colleague about going to lunch. You look up and realize you have been focused for more than an hour and it seems like only minutes. You don’t remember anything else being in your life in the past hour but you and the task. You feel energized and happy at getting so much done. That is when you have achieved flow.

Flow is something we can control. We can work to find ways to achieve flow and as a result, we can find ways to be happier.

To find flow find adapt your tasks to include the following characteristics:

  1. Potential for Completion – you have a realistic chance of completing the task or that phase of the task.
  2. Concentration – you have or can create the silence or isolation in your environment so you can fully concentrate.
  3. Clear goals – you know exactly what you are going to accomplish and can clearly measure or see that accomplishment.
  4. Immediate Feedback – you know in the moment how you are doing and that you are accomplishing your task.
  5. Control – you feel you have a sense of control over your actions.

 

Finding Flow will help you be happier while the results of your work while you are in a state of Flow will help you be successful.

About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Do I need a Mentor? How do I get a Mentor?

If you are interested in having a successful career, then a mentor is a key strategy that should be included in your career plans.  A mentor can help you prepare for the experiences you have not yet had.  Things like how to give a big presentation, pitch and idea, or ask for a raise.  Mentors also help bring reality to your thinking.  A mentor can provide an additional perspective, so you can make balanced decisions.

 

The best mentors are people who have been successful.  They usually want to give back in some way.  The best place to find a mentor is your own workplace.  Someone who is in a position you aspire to be in and whom you respect.  You can also find mentors on Linked-in by looking for people who are in your industry. Another place you can find mentors is by volunteering for organizations you have an interest in.  You will often find people with interests similar to yours, who are very willing to give back and would welcome the opportunity to work with you.

 

As a mentee, you should always start by giving.  Offer to buy breakfast, lunch, or coffee.  Offer to help out on any projects the mentor has or offer to help with their favorite charity.  It is easier to give than to ask and it establishes a good foundation of mutual benefit. It also provides you with an opportunity to get to know a possible mentor.  Once you have established a friendship, you will feel more comfortable asking for advice on how to approach a project, work with a peer, or polish your resume.  You can also work with the mentor to help you organize work and life; review your presentations and papers, and many other various challenges you encounter.

 

It is ok to have more than one mentor.  It helps to get different perspectives and different mentors will have strengths in different areas.  It will also help you get more help without monopolizing the time of any one person. Even though they are willing to help, they will appreciate you be respectful of their time.

 

The best way to make the most out of a mentor/mentee relationship is to meet on a regular basis. This is key.  Weekly 30 minute meetings are best, and they need to be scheduled for both parties. The mentee should always ask if there is anything they can do for the mentor.  The answer is usually no, but offering strengthens the relationship and keeps it a mutual benefit for both parties.  During the weekly discussions talk about goals, current projects, and challenges.

 

A mentor/mentee relationship can be helpful and fulfilling for both parties.  Start by giving and making friends, and then you can ask for their time and advice.

 

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” John C. Crosby

About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Happiness in the News

The good news; happiness is starting to consistently make headlines.  The bad news; not everyone is happy.  More good news; there are a lot actions you can take to become happier.

 

Happiness at Work

From a recent New York Daily News article:

Workplace morale heads down: 70% of Americans negative about their jobs, Gallup study shows ‘Bosses from hell’ are giving U.S. workers the Monday blues. Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report had grim findings, including that 70% of those surveyed either hate work or are completely disengaged, and perks don’t help.

A Harvard Business Review blog offered some hope by explaining how to create a happier team.

“Happy, engaged employees are good for an organization. Research shows they are more creative, produce better results, and are willing to go the extra mile. What’s more, happiness is contagious; it creates a virtuous cycle that leads to further engagement. To bring more of that into your team, focus on what psychologists have identified as the three pathways to happiness: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Consider whether you are actively encouraging these things in your people. Do they enjoy their relationships and their environment at work? Do they laugh? Do they fill roles that fit their skill sets and offer appropriate challenges? Do they feel they’re a part of something that matters? If the answer is no to any of these questions, brainstorm how you can adjust the team environment to bring more happiness in.”

Jonathan from Advance Life Skills gives us some insight into productivity and happiness.  It seems we all want to be more and more productive.  The problem is we don’t know when we are productive enough.  We interfere with our happy and relaxing times by trying to be more productive so we can have more happy and relaxing times.  This sends us into a downward spiral of unhappy productivity.   Being productive helps us feel accomplished and good about ourselves.  The challenge is we have to create balance.  We are being productive so we can have time to be happy.  To be happy we need to identify times to stop being overly focused on productivity and just be happy and in the moment.  Set your priorities and know when to step off the productivity merry-go-round and enjoy the moment, time with your family and friends, and all that you have accomplished.

 

 

Happiness from Giving

Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, authors of the recently released Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, offer some ideas based on their research of giving money away.  They offered participants either $5 or $20 and gave them one of two possible scenarios.  Spend the money on themselves before the end of the day or spend it on someone else.  They measured the participants’ happiness before and after they spent the money and found that the people who spent the money on someone else were much happier than those who spent it on themselves.  It didn’t matter whether they got $5 or $20 spending the money on someone else made them measurably happier.  Dunn and Norton and offer several tips for how to spend money and become happier including; Buy Experiences, Make it a Treat, Buy Time, Pay Now – Consumer Later, and Invest in others. You can read more here and here.

 

You can read more about the 7 Habits of Happiness or about Happiness in the Workplace.