Happiness AND Success

In a recent blog, I wrote about the seven keys to happiness.  Now science has some data on the keys to happiness AND success, thanks to a new book by Emma Seppala, Science Director for Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Many of us believe that we must pay a price for success and happiness – working long hours and sacrificing our personal lives at the altar of advancement. But in The Happiness Track, Emma draws upon the latest neuroscience and cognitive psychology research to explain why success and happiness are not necessarily the result of working harder.  The key, it seems, is that being happy first drives the success we seek.

Emma defines happiness as a state of heightened positive emotion that “increases our emotional and social intelligence, boosts our productivity, and heightens our influence over peers and colleagues.”

In his Inc. magazine column, Peter Economy put together a great summary of Emma’s seven scientifically proven ways to build your happiness, and consequently increase your success. I have excerpted these below, along with a few of my own observations:

1.  Live (or work) in the moment.

Instead of always thinking about what’s next on your to-do list, focus on the task or conversation at hand. You will become not only more productive but also more charismatic because you will be more present with your peers.

2.  Tap into your resilience.

Do not live in stress.  Work on your ability to handle adversity without it draining you.  To do so, you need to train your nervous system to bounce back from setbacks. You will naturally reduce stress and thrive in the face of difficulties and challenges. 

3.  Manage your energy.

Instead of engaging in states of mind that exhaust you, learn to manage your stamina by remaining calm and centered. You’ll be able to save precious mental energy for the tasks that need it most.  If you think about it, a situation is the same whether you are emotional or objective.  Being objective allows you to deal with more situations without getting exhausted.

4.  Do nothing.

Make time for fun and irrelevant interests.  You will become more creative and innovative and will be more likely to come up with breakthrough ideas.  I have learned this over the years.  Whitespace (do nothing time) is critical for breakthrough moments.  I schedule moments of clarity for thinking.  I have also found my energy increases and my stress reduces if I spend a little time each day doing something mindless.  A fun tv show, listening to music, reading a non-business book, or time with friends can clear my mind and recharge my battery in a short period of time.

5.  Be good to yourself.

Instead of being self-critical, be compassionate with yourself. You will improve your ability to excel in the face of challenge and be more likely to learn from mistakes.

6.  Step outside your comfort zone.

I am a huge believer that people should always be “be a little uncomfortable” in their jobs.  Otherwise, they are not pushing themselves or expanding their abilities.  We tend to think we’re good at only certain things, and we play it safe when we should be taking risks. Understand that your brain is built to learn new things — that’s how we attain new skills and expertise.

7.  Show compassion to others.

Instead of focusing on yourself, express compassion to and show interest in those around you, and maintain supportive relationships with your co-workers, boss, and employees. You will dramatically increase the loyalty and commitment of your colleagues and employees, thereby improving productivity, performance, and influence.