Principle #1. The Happiness Advantage: How Happiness Gives Your Brain—and Your Organization—The Competitive Edge
a. We used to think that happiness “orbited” around success but found the opposite is true. Get happy and watch success happen. Martin Seligman (U. of Penn.) analyzed happiness in terms of three components: Pleasure, Engagement, and Meaning (watch him explain this on Ted.com). Simple pleasures of life are only part of the story. Positive emotions are at the core of happiness. Scholar Barbara Frederickson (UNC) identified the ten most common positive emotions: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. Many studies demonstrate that happy workers are more productive, get higher performance ratings, take less sick time, and so on. And happy CEOs create a happier climate that fosters happier, more productive employees. In short happiness causes success, not the other way around.
b. The Nun Study: In a now famous longitudinal study of 180 Catholic nuns (all born before 1917) who were asked to write their bios when they originally entered the convent, amazing results emerged. Over five decades later, researchers coded and analyzed their bios to search for positive indicators in the text. They discovered the “happier” bios led to nuns who lived, on average, 10 years longer than their less happy sisters.
c. Elements of happiness: Scientists have proven that we can improve our happiness set point by doing the following—having purpose and meaning in life, looking for opportunities, developing optimism and a gratitude mentality, and having strong social relationships. Some ways to make that happen:
i. Meditate: Even just 5 minutes a day helps—though most, like me, prefer 20 minutes—breathe in and out deeply and notice how the oxygen calms your mind.
ii. Spend Money—not on objects but on experiences. Go to a great movie rather than buy a gadget. Spend it on a memorable vacation rather than buying a new gizmo.
iii. Find Something to Look Forward to: Planning to do to something you love in the future creates about the same joy and happiness as that of actually doing it.
iv. Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness: Commit random and deliberate acts of kindness and watch your happiness mount. Try to do 5 acts of deliberate kindness a week for good results.
v. Exercise Signature Strengths: Figure out what you’re strengths are and try to use them every day and watch happiness mount and depression decline.
vi. Exercise and fill your life with positivity—regular exercise can stave off depression. Also, keeping things around you that give you positive energy has the same effect. I keep a gratitude journal in my medicine cabinet and write down 5 things I’m grateful for each day. Makes a difference in my mindset.