There is a famous Native American story, which goes like this…
One evening, an old Cherokee tells his grandson that inside all people a battle goes on between two wolves. One wolf is negativity: anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame and hate. The other is positivity: joy, gratitude, serenity, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
The grandson thinks about this for a moment and then asks his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”
The question to ponder is which wolf are you feeding?
Choose your frame of reference
Today’s workplaces are challenging. There’s the constant pressure to perform in a constantly changing environment.
You can’t control what happens to you every day. You can, however, choose your response by noticing your feelings, reactions and where you focus your attention. You can focus on the upside or the downside.
This is not about ignoring what is happening around you. Instead it’s about consciously choosing your frame of reference.
Aristotle said: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence“.
We all have a set point for happiness. Think of it like a scale. Just as everybody weighs a certain amount, every person has a happiness level they typically operate at. That set point remains relatively constant.
There are things that will temporarily adjust it. For example, a new job, winning the lottery, or buying a new car, but as they are short-term activators they don’t last.
Find your set point
The old adage, ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness’ is true. About 90% of happiness is based on your internal mental view of the world and how your brain processes what is happening around you.
Research shows that genetics accounts for about 50% of your happiness quota (i.e. your happiness setting at birth, predisposition and personality traits); 10% is due to circumstances; and the remaining 40% to variants that you can determine; that is, intentional activity that you undertake.
In this research, the researchers (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon and Schkade) defined intentional to mean discrete actions or practices in which people choose to engage. These are activities that require some form of effort.
Now you might be sitting back and thinking that’s really interesting but why should I care? You should care because how happy you are impacts your life and likelihood of success.
In further research, Lyubomirsky, King and Diener examined whether happiness leads to success, and the causal factors. They argued that the happiness–success link exists not only because success makes people happy but, more importantly, because having a positive disposition engenders success. Their results showed that happiness is associated with and precedes successful outcomes.
They also reviewed data which showed that happy individuals are more likely than their less happy peers to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health and a long life.
What this means is the happier you are the more likely you are to experience success. They found that happiness has a compounding effect, because happiness, which has its origins in personality and past successes, leads to behaviours that in turn lead to future success.
To change your happiness set point it takes deliberate practice and here are some ideas to get you started:
- Be grateful: expressing gratitude helps you feel happier and builds your resilience. When you look at what you have vis-a-vis others you can see how much you have to be thankful for.
- Spend time connecting with nature: appreciate the grace and beauty of what is around you every day in the natural environment. Take the time to pause and look around you. What do you notice? What do you feel?
- Exercise and meditate regularly: build a routine so these activities are mapped out in advance and scheduled in your calendar.
- Get enough sleep: it’s restorative and your brain can’t function without it. It’s hard to be focused, mindful and reflective when you’re tired.
- Do nice things for other people: it makes you feel good, and helps you realise the positive forces in your life.
- Devote time to important relationships daily: this is more than just maintaining connections on social media. Ring people. Have a coffee with them. Send someone a hand-written note. The connection needs to be personal.
- Seek purpose and meaning in your life: get clear about what really matters to you, and set short, medium and long-term goals to help you align your work and life with your purpose.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact [email protected].