Real happiness comes from within
A little while ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Mel Telecican of the Customer-Centric show.
We discussed how the principles I teach about happiness and productivity relate to her audience of small to medium enterprises in the fields of customer service and hospitality.
During the interview Mel asked: “What can businesses do to help their employees be happy at work?”
Research has shown happiness leads to success. It’s one of the key principles we teach in our program. A sound byte on how to be happy is something I struggle with, however.
Happiness at work is both simple and complex subject. It’s arguably as simple as deliberately setting your attitude to be happy, and behaving accordingly. It’s complex because different things make different people happy at different stages of their life.
I know there are people out there struggling and I have no right to tell them, “just be happy” without knowing what’s going on in their lives.
It’s difficult to be happy at work without an alignment of values between employee and employer. We are also more likely to thrive when we have access to flexibility to produce results without being impeded by inefficient systems, outdated technology and thinking.
Happiness leads to success.
This is why I tell people to prioritise things that make them happy rather than try to fit them in after they’ve done “productive work”. Your work is much better when you’re happy while doing it.
If you’re a CEO, encourage a culture of flexibility and measure employee success based on results rather than hours worked.
At an individual level, schedule in time for activities that make you happy before your week, month or year fills up with other priorities.
1. Happy Habits
We’re happiest when we’re clear on our purpose
Being clear on your purpose means understanding why you do what you do, why you work where you work. If you believe in what you do, you’re more likely to be happy at work.
As a leader this means hiring people whose individual purposes, beliefs and values align with your company’s purpose and values. That’s why it’s essential to take every opportunity to communicate the company purpose (why we do what we do).
Here’s where I get a bit brutal.
If you’re not working for a company that you feel gives you purpose, it’s time to look for other options. If you have people working for you who are working against your purpose, it’s time to help them find other opportunities.
Happiness comes from creating the time and space for ‘flow’
We’re happiest when working on tasks we love, and tasks we’re good at and feeling just the right amount of challenge to help us grow and develop personally and professionally.
Those two types of tasks aren’t always the same. You can love something you’re not good at, and be good at something you don’t love.
Every job includes tasks we don’t enjoy. If we want to be happy at work we should do everything we can to make sure the majority of our work requires us to execute tasks we are great at and/or enjoy.
Of course, sometimes we’ll make choices to take on work that we don’t enjoy or are good at to develop specific skills for our careers. If this is a conscious choice make sure you have other things in your life to balance out the difficulty and stress that will be inevitable.
We need to choose the right work and learn how to minimise distractions create opportunities to get into a state of ‘flow’. We lose track of time because we love what we’re doing.
It’s hard to get into this state in a busy environment with ringing phones, too many email and meetings, but it is possible. That’s why we need to create boundaries around reactive tasks and block out time to focus on high-value work.
You should be aiming to focus on proactive tasks for at least 60 per cent of the time in your week. If you’re a business leader, this means encouraging good team habits, having appropriate systems and processes in place so everyone can work as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Focus on what you can control
When we focus on the present, we are focusing on reality as it is. This mindset shift allows us to identify what we can control. Taking your awareness back to your breath is the fastest way to ground yourself in the present.
Ask yourself what you can, and should, influence in any given situation helps you empowered, engaged and happy.
Focusing on what you can’t control is something I consider the ultimate definition of misery.
Happiness at work can be as simple as “being happy”.
Set yourself up for success each morning by front-loading your day with things that make you happy and return to that feeling all day long.
Gratitude is a game changer. I’ve seen clients completely turn their lives around by developing a gratitude practice. Writing down what you’re thankful for makes the practice all the more powerful.
- What are you grateful for?
- Who are you grateful to?
- Who are you going to thank?
- What’s your new gratitude practice? (Think about what will trigger you to remember to reflect on your “gratitude’s”? What will be your habit? How will you reward yourself?)
Limit the number of hours you work
When you work long hours without intermittent breaks you tend to be less happy, and less productive. You risk making mistakes and burning relationships.
We all have times when we have to put in extra effort, but if you’re consistently working long hours, you’re likely to be harming rather than enhancing your career.
Always be kind
When we apply mindfulness to our life we start to respond to others in a more considered and compassionate way. We realise we’re often in situations where we don’t see the whole story.
Remember. Sometimes you’re a monk, and sometimes you’re the elephant. When you’re triggered by an event that would usually see you “hitting the roof”, use that trigger to remind yourself to take a breath and use a technique I call “a minute of mindfulness.”
Observe your breath for 60 seconds.
That’s all you need to catch yourself when you’re about to do something you’ll regret later.
Have you ever met someone whose body language and micro expressions tell you they just don’t like you? Perhaps you trigger a memory of someone who bullied them when they were younger or perhaps they are struggling with self-esteem issues.
We may need to accept that some people will just never like us. Or perhaps it will take a while.
It’s hard to remember to be kind when we’re going through a relationship storm, especially when you’re managing a high workload, that’s why it’s important to take time away from work to pause and reflect.
I use the Meta Pana meditation technique when I’m struggling. I close my eyes and visualise as I tell myself to:
Breathe in light, breathe out compassion and loving-kindness.
Calls to action:
- What is your company’s purpose and how does the work you do help your company achieve it
- How does your company’s purpose and values align with who you’re and what you value? (Why you do what you do?)
- When are you most likely to achieve a sense of flow at work?
- What should you be focused on at work?
- What are the top priorities you should refocus on when you find yourself distracted?
- How might you start your day to front-load your day with habits that make you happy?
- What is the best trigger for your new gratitude habit?
- How will you reward yourself?
- How many hours do you want to work each week?
- What do you consider as sacred time for yourself, your partner, your family?
Habits to work on:
- Develop a weekly planning habit to focus on your priorities, and plan high-value activities to make sure you’re achieving results.
- Use flow tasks to raise your energy levels over the course of each day and week when needed
- Develop a “re-focusing” habit to look at your priorities and review what you can control when managing conflict or feeling overcome by stress.
Let me know how you go!
Keep moving forward,