My best discovery this week is that happiness is more than just a collection of happy moments. The image you see here is one of many happy moments on a family vacation. I can guarantee you that this series of happy moments did not guarantee the overall happiness of these two children, especially in the moments when mom said no to ice cream. Happiness is not the sum of our experiences, nor is it the equivalent of joy or cheerfulness. This is good news to a contemplative, melancholy personality who wants to take a Nerf gun to cheerful people who whistle in the office. We truly believe they are faking it.
Dr. Izzy Justice explained to an eager crowd at the TTI Success Insights annual summit that happiness is a state of mind that’s greater than the 1,000 happy things that happened to me last year. The state of happiness is measurable and neuroscience research correlates happiness to productivity and engagement.
Now I have your attention.
Dr. Justice, Founder and CEO of EQmentor Inc., with many years in the Deloitte-sized consulting world, completed in 2017 the design of a psychometric Happiness instrument that measures your overall happiness by looking at five areas: self image, mindfulness, negativity, empathy and optimism. The state of happiness is not necessarily constant perfection in these areas, but an ability to navigate and self regulate fluctuations in these areas, like my negative impulse to shoot rubber bands at happy whistlers. He wrote in his blog that leaders no doubt make decisions that are influenced by their emotions. Our tendency is to mark them as good or bad leaders based on this reality, but what if we acknowledge the really uncomfortable obvious thing – leaders are human.
When we try to separate our emotions from the workplace, to separate our humanity from our human resources, it’s like trying to separate oil and vinegar. If I put a tablespoon of vinegar in 1/4 cup of olive oil, they might pull apart but there is no way I can take that vinegar back out. If I want to create a nice salad dressing, I have to blend them together, not add them separately. Successful leaders know how to blend all of the functions that make us human.
Happiness is contagious. A leader who is happy has a really hard time exhibiting any poor leadership skills. Dr. Justice points out that he does “not know any truly happy person who exhibits poor leadership attributes and often times without any leadership framework. They are just ‘good folks’ we all love and envy.” Conversely, he follows, miserable leaders make people miserable.
In a Fast Company article on Why Happy People are 12% More Productive, a recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. The explanation? One of the researchers, Professor Andrew Oswald, said, “companies that invest in employee support and satisfaction tend to succeed in generating happier workers.” If, as Gallup is said to report in this article, it’s true that only 13% of employees are truly engaged, that means companies are missing the message on what makes people happy. They’re also missing about $450–$550 billion annually.
So what makes people happy? Back to my Nerf gun tactics on cheerful people, what makes one person happy makes another one downright angry. The magic formula is not about happy moments. Mindfulness and meditation can help but they are only a bandaid for a bleeding wound. If happiness is a state of being and not a series of happy events, the key to happiness is in the mindset. If I attempt to raise your level of happiness based on what makes me happy, you will walk away very unhappy. I hope you are not armed with a Nerf gun. If I raise my awareness of your motivation and understand the root of your behaviors, I will know how to communicate with you in a way that won’t get me shot with a Nerf gun. I might even increase my influence on you and my impact on our collaboration. Happiness is a science. We are the lab.
The people in the actual neuroscience labs can actually put monitors on your brain to show how happiness elevates dopamine levels, increasing the cognitive capacity of the brain. We’ll be following this work because the premise of 360º Life Strategies, after all, is bigger minds, happier people, greater impact.