“If you’re happy in your job, you’re less likely to quit,” says Shawn Achor, one of the designers and teachers of Harvard University’s Happiness course, and author of Before Happiness, to be published this month.
Most of us think that if we’re successful at work, we’ll be happy, but we’ve got it backwards, he explains. Being happy will lead to success.
Anchor, who's the CEO of Good Think Inc., a global positive psychology consulting company, believes that simply being happy not only leads to us feeling better in the workplace, but also makes those around us feel better. Happy people, he says, are more likely to get a promotion, receive better tips and stay longer in their jobs.
He defines happiness as “the joy we feel striving towards our potential.” People seem least happy when they stagnate and don’t feel any growth at work, he adds.
The pursuit of happiness is actually pretty simple, explains Achor, who has spent more than a decade researching positive psychology. Here’s how he recommends you put a smile on your face and enjoy your job every day:
- Put a positive spin on things: You may have had a stressful day, or a difficult week, but if instead of seeing this as bad, you can turn it around and view it as a learning experience, or can see some nuggets of positivity in these times, you’ll feel better. “People who are most successful in every industry are the ones who take those negative events and see them as a positive—as something they can solve,” Achor explains. “So view negative events as places to grow.”
- Start appreciating the good: Write down things that are good in your job and your life, and you’ll start retraining your brain to think in different patterns. “We’ve found people who just make a mindset change without habits usually fail,” Achor says. He recommends coming up with as many descriptors for your work as you can, so there are more things you can turn around and view as positive.
- See the big picture: View your job as part of your career, even if it’s just a stopgap to pay the rent for a few months. So even if you don’t see yourself staying in your current position, realize that you’re learning something. That way going to work every day is part of your career plan.
- Surround yourself with happy people: Start off by being one of them. Say hi to your co-workers and customers and have a smile on your face—it will rub off on others. “We forget how positively we can affect people,” Achor says. “Happiness is contagious.” This, he explains, is because of mirror neurons in the human brain: If we see someone smile, yawn or complain, our brain wants to copy those emotions. Conversely, if you find some of your colleagues are toxic, stay away.
- Don’t forget things are short-term: “Knowing that something bad is temporary is key” Achor says. “When our brain thinks something is permanent, that affects everything.” Keep things in perspective, he adds, and remember: This too shall pass.
- Changing your mindset towards the pursuit of happiness works best if you share it with someone else, Achor says, “because you’re deepening social connection at the same time, and it makes it more real.”