Normally leaders put off being happy until they’ve got the results they want. We tend to suspend happiness and instead replace it with anxiety or worry about NOT having achieved our goals which then passes onto others. Stress restricts the flow of blood to the brain and that means the quality of thinking and levels of optimism decrease. When worried we go from Homosapien to Homer Simpson in the blink of an eye. We can’t concentrate, we get distracted easily and focus on problems. Which in turn kills creativity and initiates a negative spiral which sends results plummeting.
Flip that the other way and we find that when we’re happier, blood flows freely to the brain carrying valuable nutrients. Happiness makes us focussed and more optimistic. We’re more likely to experience flow and achieve better results. In turn we go home happier. When we’re happier at home, we spread those good feelings to our family and friends, which in turn makes them enjoy the benefits of feeling happier and more positive. The positivity spreads out into the community then comes back into the workplace because our outer world is a reflection of our inner world.
Namaste is a salutation in the eastern tradition which I developed into a pneumonic for remembering some powerful tools for increasing positivity and wellbeing in the workplace. A lot of these tools have shown in positive psychology research to have long lasting effects on happiness.
Nurture self then others: We’re often so busy being busy that we forget to take care of ourselves and others. Like the safety announcements on flights urging you to put your life jacket on first, it’s important to nurture yourself first then nurture others. How often do you think about nurturing clients? Or nurturing the community? All these are great opportunities to improve emotional wellbeing so run a bath, light the candles and give yourself a hug.
Acceptance: A lot of stress is caused by unmet expectations. Acceptance of what is, including the ups and downs of life and the transient nature of reality, frees us from fear. This enables us to create a space for fundamental solutions to challenges to arise instead of using avoidant behaviour to escape our negative feelings. Think about something that is troubling you now. Take a deep breath and let it go slowly and tell yourself: “that’s okay, you can handle it” or “life is challenging, I never lose, I learn to become more resilient”
The Buddhist traditions holds the presupposition that life is painful but suffering is optional. Acceptance is the path to liberation and increased wellbeing.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the ability of focusing intently on whatever task, object or lesson is at hand. Mindfulness expert John Kabat-Zin once described mindfulness as ‘the paying attention to the present moment, while letting go of judgement, as if our lives depended on it’.
Mindfulness helps us to deal with challenges and the associated negative emotions that arise in a healthy way, Mindful meditation is the practice of creating a healthy mind just as running is exercise for the body and involves focussing on one thing for a period of time and allowing other thoughts and feelings to simply pass-by like floating clouds.
Acts of Random Kindness: This particular behaviour has a few benefits. Firstly and very importantly, it gets you out of your own head forcing you to be present. In order for you to decide who or what and how to help; you have to look around.
Then you have to use empathy, another valuable tool, and decide how best to help a client or colleague by seeing the world from their perspective. By doing this you increase the sense of connection between people whilst developing more collaborative relationships. Look around you now, how can you make a difference today?
Savouring Moments: Buddhist peace activist and Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn takes an hour to drink a cup of tea. That’s some savouring so I’m not suggesting implementing hour long tea breaks. But savouring allows us to appreciate the richness life offers us within each moment. Our consumer society has tried to integrate built-in obsolescence into our lives by making us rush everything we do. It’s tiring and not very satisfying. Savouring moments is a revolutionary act of disobedience. It means stopping occasionally and savouring moments instead of continuously moving like locusts, devouring more and more experiences but not really appreciating life.
Three Good Things:
At the end of the day, especially if you’ve judged the day as being a ‘bad day’, get some positive perspective into the mix. On the very worst of days, there is always something to be grateful for. Even your challenges will have taught you a lesson, even if it’s that you need to develop equanimity in the face of obstacles. List three positive things that have happened today. It immediately switches your perspective to one of appreciation.
Engage meaningfully: Engaging meaningfully is to find the purpose in what you’re doing. Everything that happens in the universe has a deeper purpose which serves others. Even the negative stuff holds a lesson for us. Focus on the deeper meaning of what you’re doing. I once told a recruitment consultant, that his work meant that the client’s whole family would probably enjoy their festive holidays because of his contribution. He’d never thought about it that way and it gave his work a deeper meaning which improves wellbeing. Contributing is much better than consuming things on many levels.
In positive psychology one of the key components to happiness is to be engaged in an activity that has intrinsic reward. In the workplace, the word ‘flow’ is often used to describe that state which engenders a feeling of timelessness and satisfaction.
Once you know what the purpose of the work you do is, follow it with all the passion you can muster.
'The Performance Consultant’