Last night I relived the enthusiasm I felt after reading a book a few years ago because I stumbled upon the author’s TED Talk. The author is Shawn Achor and his book is The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. I enjoyed hearing Achor talk about each of the principles so much that I couldn’t help but get up this morning and write about it. The Happiness Advantage is based on a universally helpful topic that is relevant to all of us in work and life.
The premise? The success formula is broken. Achor says we falsely believe if we attain success then we’ll be happy. In reality, the inverse is true. If we’re happy when we set out to achieve our goals, we’ll be wildly more successful.
Happiness becomes a formula for fundraising success
His logic couldn’t have been truer than when I held one of my earliest positions as a nonprofit professional. I was directing a telephone alumni outreach program with an ambitious fundraising goal for one of my university clients. All you need to know about this university is it was located in the Pacific Northwest where there are a lot of overcast, rainy days. This weather makes for a moody staff and moldy office windows.
Every night before the shift started, my student callers would walk in sullenly as I mentally questioned their readiness to motivate others to give on the phone. In my naiveté, I thought I could just inspire this group of callers to reach our fundraising goal by breaking it down for them and showing it was possible. Then we could all bask in the glory of our hard work and success.
If only Shawn Achor had written his book much earlier. Something told me all my kick-off speeches at the beginning of each shift about reaching the goal weren’t getting us anywhere. That’s when I changed my approach. I realized I didn’t need to show them the carrot; I needed them to feel like the delighted rabbit that has just eaten many carrots. If I could get my callers in a happy state of mind, then this stretch goal would be in our reach.
Then the fun began. We played games, had contests and read jokes during down times. I even began reading excerpts of The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale at the beginning of each shift. By the time I was done reading a passage, the room was humming.
The transformation was remarkable. Students were happy. Pledges were rolling in. The client was so surprised when she came onto the calling floor after our transformation that, during her next visit she brought the university president with her. Back then, I didn’t know it was “the happiness advantage” at work, but upon reflection, I think Achor would call this a prime example.
Seven principles and five simple daily acts:
Achor has seven principles that help fuel happiness in work and life, which he explores in-depth within his book. In this TED Talk, he shares a simple daily method–five small changes that ripple outward to create lasting positive change:
Three Gratitudes: “Write down three new things for which you’re grateful over 21 days in a row. Your brain starts to retain a pattern that scans for the positive in your life,” explains Achor.
Journaling: If you journal about one positive experience each day, it allows your brain to relive it, thereby extending the positive emotions from the first time.
Exercise: “Physical exercise teaches your brain that behavior matters,” asserts Achor.
Meditation: “Meditation allows your brain to overcome the cultural ADHD we’ve created by doing multiple tasks at once,” says Achor. Meditation allows our brains to focus on the task at hand.
Random or Conscious Acts of Kindness: Achor suggests opening up your inbox and writing one positive email to another, praising him for something positive or thanking someone in your social support network.
Achor closes his talk by explaining if we simply perform these five tasks, we can train our brains–just like we train our bodies physically—to create ripples of positivity and real, positive change in our work and life.
Image credit: TED Talks, thejournal.ie