#2 of a series – The Happiness Advantage
The previous post discussed the benefits of focusing on the good things in your life, the 85-95% of your life that is working for you, rather than the negative experiences you may have had. It underscored the concept that attitude is a choice, and that a positive attitude benefits family businesses and individual career success.
We can choose to have a good day if we wish. If something unpleasant happens to change your positive mindset, you can say to yourself, “That was ugly, even upsetting,” and then you can elect to return to your positive mindset for the day.
The benefits of the happiness and positivity are measurable and significant!
“…Results of over 200 scientific studies on nearly 275,000 people found that happiness leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity and, in particular, our jobs, careers, and businesses.” 1
The overwhelming conclusion from studies shows that happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, receive higher performance ratings and earn higher pay. They are less likely to take sick days, quit or become burned out. Happy CEOs make for teams of employees who are happy, healthy and more productive. 2
It is clear that happiness leads to success and achievement, not the other way around. In my 45 years of working as a consultant to family business, I’ve seen this scenario play out time and again. What family business owner or executive wouldn’t want these kinds of outcomes?
The first thing to consider is how to establish and elevate your “happiness baseline.” To do this you begin with establishing a positive outlook, since long-term happiness is grounded in how we see things. This was addressed in my previous post, where I included instructions for keeping a Gratitude List for 21 days to develop a habit of positivity.
The following activities are proven to give a quick boost to one’s positive emotions, and if practiced regularly, will help to raise your happiness baseline.
The merits of meditation are well known. Regular meditation helps to “quiet the mind,” enhance one’s focus and increase a sense of peace. It takes only 5 minutes to try it! Find a quiet place. Sit in a comfortable chair with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, arms hanging from the shoulders, hands on thighs with palms up. Set timer for 5 minutes, and then close your eyes. Breathe in at a relaxed rate, and when doing so, try to be aware of your lungs filling up with air. Then, gently exhale with the same awareness. Don’t rush – simply proceed, always focused on air moving in, and air moving out of your body. When you are just beginning to meditate, you’ll likely have a host of other thoughts, such as your “To Do” list, your shopping list or the work on your desk. When these thoughts show up, try to detach from them by saying to yourself, “Oh, there is my shopping list going by,” as if you are observing it move before your eyes. Go back to being aware of your breath moving in and out of your lungs. After you have done this on a daily basis for a week or two, up the time to ten minutes. Don’t be discouraged if the lists keep coming up as that is quite common. At first the 5 minutes may seem like a lifetime, but when you get up to 20 minutes or more, it will seem like only a few moments have passed.
Find something to look forward to
Often the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.” 3 Think about being on a sailboat off the coast of Bodrum, the sky is brilliant blue with not a cloud to be seen, the sun is warm and the breezes are moving the boat along with great ease. (Already you are feeling better, correct?)
Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness
A leading researcher and author of The How of Happiness 4, found that individuals who completed five acts of kindness over the course of a day report feeling much happier than control groups and that the feeling lasts for many subsequent days, far after the exercise is over. Acts of kindness can be very simple The reality of my life includes spending a great deal of time in airports and on flights. I have taken to telling airline agents and flight attendants, “I really appreciate what you do. It makes my life go more smoothly.” Every time I do this, their faces light up and invariably they tell me a story about their lives. It leads to a connection and I go away feeling better and less resentful of the time I spend in the airport and in the air.
When we exercise, we generate endorphins, which elevate our spirits. The benefits of exercise are extensive and well known. Persons who exercise a minimum of three times a week experience a more positive outlook on their work, their relationships and life in general. Often they eat a healthier diet and drink less alcohol, both of which contribute to general well being.
So many studies of human behavior focus on the average of the population that is being studied. Making the active decision to raise the baseline of your attitude is the same as insisting that you will begin ABOVE the average and rise from there. Remember… it’s your choice!
1. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Siener, E. (2005) The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does
happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131,803-855
2. “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor, ISBN 978-0-307-59154-8
3. Ibid, p. 52
4. Lyubomirsky, et al. The How of Happiness
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