If I asked you what it means to be successful, what would you say? Many of us are endlessly prodded by society to figure out our ‘why’ and understand the exact reason(s) we were put on this planet. People surrounding us continually stress that we need to be successful, and only then will we find happiness. Growing up, I was no exception to this and was also a victim of trying to represent society’s perception of being “successful.” That means I would have to go to the best schools, get the best grades, and get the highest paying jobs to make it in life. In doing these things, I would then be considered “successful” by society’s standards, which would then, allegedly, make me happy. This could not be further from the truth.
With all the negative things being reported and written about in the media – a media we are closely connected to – our subconscious mind constantly records all of this and paints a horribly inaccurate picture for the ratio of negative to positive in the world. In the workplace, there can be dire consequences such as decreased performance, lower levels of motivation, and lower energy levels within employees. With these consequences, leaders invest copious amounts of time and money to re-hire, re-train, and re-energize employees. Fortunately, there is a solution I found that yielded incredible results.
What I did was to rewire my brain for positive thinking. I found out that you can significantly improve your set-zone of happiness and improve most aspects of your life; there is a science behind all of this. Positive psychology is the field that contains these answers. Positive psychology is a relatively new scientific study of understanding fulfillment and happiness in life, and is subject of much discussion in the field of psychology.
I took my research into my own hands and applied the various principles of positive psychology to improve my set-zone of happiness to see the world through a positive lens. In doing so, I was able to fully transform the way I performed in the workplace. I learned that 90% of our long-term happiness can be predicted by the way in which we view the world. In finding higher levels of happiness and shifting the lens in which I viewed the world, I was able to open new doors that helped me discover a deeper sense of purpose. This could be particularly effective if done by leaders in the workplace, because it will create happier and healthier environments.
So how did I step back from the world and rid myself of the fears I had about finding purpose and becoming happy? It was not that complicated. Let me break it down into four daily actionable steps that I used to change my life. These steps come from decades of positive psychology research from Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist who aims to help people get excited about waking up every morning.
Step one – I started a grateful journal after purchasing an inexpensive composition notebook. Organizations may also provide journals or means for employees to document their thoughts. Managers can follow-up on these with informal conversations. Every single day, the first thing I did when I woke up (or started work) would be to open my journal. I wrote down one or two things that I was truly thankful for. It could be as specific as a single person or thing. It could be as deep as a memory or situation I went through. Journaling and documenting things that make me happy and feel gratitude, first thing in the morning (or at the beginning of a work day), primed my brain to think in a positive way for the day. It shifted my internal cognitive habits that set me up to think in a more positive way all day.
Step two – I practiced mindfulness. I reflected on my daily life and asked myself: is my mind full or am I mindful? Am I present when I am with friends? Am I always distracted with social media, technology, and thinking about work? I found great way to practice mindfulness is to work on breathing techniques. I like to do this while reflecting on the positive things I write in my journal for the day. After I write in my positive journal, I close the book and close my eyes and breathe very deeply and slowly for 3 minutes. While I breathe slowly, I focus only on the air coming in and out of my nose and mouth. I then end with reflecting on my positive thoughts for the day. I would try to go to peaceful places, like the beach, where I could do this in relaxing environments. This was to help my brain focus on the task at hand and become grateful for living in the moment. It helped me purge myself of the cultural ADHD that has been bestowed upon me by society. A great way to apply this to a workplace would be to host creative breaks for 30 minutes a day where leaders allow all employees to work on whatever they want. There could be yoga classes or workshops on relevant topics that help calm and relax employees.
Step three – I performed random acts of kindness. Every single day, I found something that I could do to help make someone else’s day better. Sending a thoughtful text message thanking someone for being a good friend. Telling a server at a restaurant that they did a really nice job. Thanking my coworker for helping me out on a proposal. Writing a thank you letter for a gift. These little acts of kindness continued to rewire my brain and created habitual primed feelings of positivity and trust with the world around me. They also helped develop stronger relationships, which is great for business! Even among all the stressors that present themselves every day, I continued to express gratitude and optimism to everyone around me.
Step four – For me was to exercise. The idea here was to get up, get out, get motivated, get healthy, eat better, and build my resilience. Exercise teaches the brain that behavior matters. The feel-good chemicals that flood our brains when we workout are the very same chemicals that release in our brains when we have feelings of love. They simply feel good. They pumped me up. They got me excited. Dopamine floods the brain when you are happy. It also engages the learning centers of your brain, enabling better performance, creativity, and logical thinking. Some workplaces will give out gym passes or host exercise sessions that employees can attend to get their heart rate up.
Research would appear to support these principles in the workplace. According to Shawn Achor, who is a world-famous Positive Psychology researcher, 75% of job successes are predicted by optimism levels, social support, and the ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat. Additionally, it takes just 21 days to see results from applying these principles in your daily routine. Gallup, a global performance management company, conducted a study involving 152 organizations and listed several benefits of positive psychology in the workplace: businesses with high engagement and happiness in employees had 25% lower turnover, 18% average increase in productivity, 49% lower safety incidents, 37% lower absenteeism, 16% increase in profitability, and a 60% increase in overall company quality.
What were the benefits that I saw from my persistent work? My energy levels shot through the roof, I felt significantly less stressed out, I felt that all my relationships had become much deeper with others, I slept better at night, and I was noticeably happier. I could focus on specific tasks. I felt more creative in the ideas that I had. The work I did seemed to improve in quality and quantity. I consulted for a viral YouTuber and helped them live out these steps as well. The result of our focused work efforts: we tripled fan engagement in two months (i.e., donations, subscribers, likes, fan interactions, etc.).
I wanted to find a deeper purpose and be truly successful in my life, and I found all it takes is just a little happiness!