Create More Happiness in 2018!

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January is always about renewal, fresh starts and new beginnings. It's a wonderful time to shed anything that didn't work well in 2017 and look to better ideas/different approaches for the new year. We make resolutions, often as many for our personal well being as for our business successes, and often the decision to be happier and have more fun is high on the list. 

Happiness Formula

Jonathan Haight in his book The Happiness Hypothesis, gives us insight into positive psychology's happiness formula: H (happiness) = S (biological set point) + C (conditions in your life) + V (volunteer activities). To simplify, Haight said that we all have a set point of how happy we tend to be, but that can be changed, and it's and it's changed by our external conditions (do you live next to a highway and hear horns blaring all night or do you work a night shift and commute 45 miles) and our volunteer or intentional activities/the choices we make. And these volunteer activities can be broken into what gives us instant gratification (a chocolate fountain, a long massage) which is great but over and forgotten soon, and our gratifications. These put us in the wonderful state of flow where we wonder where the time went we were so engaged. Gratifications help us feel good about ourselves, proud and satisfies with our efforts; these activities engage us fully and utilize our strengths. And happiness is being smart enough to arrange our day to include both gratification and pleasure.   

So what exactly does this have to do with January and renewal? One of the smartest ways we can increase happiness and success in 2018 is to start by assessing what we want and like to do and what needs changing to give us more of these things. If we continue doing what we feel we should do but it's not giving us the satisfaction we need, then there's no better time to change than now.  

Imposter Syndrome or Personal Cheerleader

Self-assessment is also being aware of the two voices that occupy space in our mind - the one that always defaults to negative beliefs and the one that builds us up. Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the fathers of Positive Psychology, reminds us to argue against the negative voice we all tend to hear. The more we get in the habit of arguing against our negative inner dialogue, the quicker we'll change the habit of trash talking ourselves. And equally important is being aware of something else that most of us do that robs us of happiness and confidence--what is commonly called the Imposter Syndrome. Secretly, on some level, we feel we are lucky to have the job we've got and eventually someone will find out we're a fraud. This feeling/belief is so prevalent that when the incoming class at Stanford Business School is asked each year how many think they are the one mistake the admissions committee has made, two thirds of the room raise their hands!

We can't outperform faulty thinking, but we can change it. Happiness is weeding out negative beliefs that have grown roots, and once we are taking better care of our own inner agendas, then we are free to focus on how we can work more effectively with others in 2018. Without an ability to genuinely connect with others we spend an inordinate amount of time putting out fires and trying to figure out why people aren't cooperating, and this definitely adds stress and cuts into our happiness. 

Here’s a short list of ideas to help us be more tuned in to others and ourselves as we commit to new outcomes in 2018:

 Stand like a gorilla—among other things

  • Use your non-verbal language to draw people to you.  According to Olivia Fox Cabane who wrote The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, we need to stare like a lover, stand like a gorilla and speak (slowly, confidently and warmly) like a preacher. A preacher, she surmised, cares about his people—warmth, has the confidence that God is with him—power, and is fervently focused on his mission—presence. A gorilla means standing with legs apart—representing power and confidence, and the lover’s stare indicates caring. Remember to keep arms open—never crossed over chest—and smile as you lean in. People are always reading our non-verbal communication before our verbal communication, and if they don’t align then we’re not deemed trustworthy, among other things.

Your voice should be at its lowest, which means pay attention to your breathing. If you're nervous and take shallow breaths your vocal chords can constrict and you'll speak slightly higher than your natural voice. Speak slowly and think of speaking to someone you genuinely care about; you want warmth in your voice as well as confidence and power. For women and some men, always speak slightly louder than you think you should. If you're hard to hear you are perceived as timid or not as confident about what you are saying.  

Simulate the reality you want

  • Create the state of mind you want any time. Think of where you are and what you’re doing when you really feel great. It might be biking through open country, reading on a Saturday afternoon or doing something with your children. Think about the feeling associated with what you love to do and imagine pulling a lever that allows you to feel it to an even greater extent. It’s powerful to be able to go from frustrated to relaxed by switching mental gears. And remember all the “business tools” in the world won’t work unless you first have the mindset you need to create what you want.

Psychologist William James applied this formula when he found himself feeling like a failure, so much so that he was contemplating suicide. He decided to give himself a year to get his act together, and during that year he would imagine how he wanted to feel, and then pretend/act like that was exactly what was really happening in his life. Through this simulation of reality he managed to change his life completely within a few months. Thoughts are things and when we realize what we are thinking is creating everything that is going on in our lives, it helps us focus on exactly what we want and create the necessary emotional state to make it happen. 

Keep a list of your successes

  • Keep a list of all your successes and a list of five successful people who have overcome big obstacles. Know your strategies for mentally handling challenges and overcoming them. For example, many grad students have tremendous knowledge and incredible IQ’s, but when something doesn’t work, i.e. a job interview, a date, a test that was flunked, they literally fall to pieces. You’ve got to have the strategies and resources to bounce back since the ones who are the most resilient are always ahead of the game. And you are modeling behavior for everyone around you. 

Appreciation brings it all together

  • Use your intelligence and confidence to appreciate others every single day. Charismatic people help others feel their best and this starts with appreciation. The founder of Send Out Cards, Kody Bateman, started his company after failing to stop and say good bye to his brother when he was moving from one location to another; he was in his moving truck and in a big hurry. He felt he should have stopped but time was of the essence. His brother was killed soon after in an auto accident and Bateman decided he would never let a day go by that he didn’t tell someone how much he or she was appreciated. By thanking others and finding ways to help them succeed we attract opportunity, create our own luck and become those amazing people who bring out the best in everyone.

Will we be happier if we connect more effectively with others? Researchers say absolutely, and at the very least we will be laying an infrastructure that enables us to work smarter with less stree, and from there we can focus more on the V's in our lives and how to choose and create an environment that gives our lives more meaning. 

Thoreau said it best:  “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

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