I just finished Shawn Achor’s latest book Before Happiness and decided to revisit my first introduction to Mr. Achor’s insights. In the The Happiness Advantage Shawn describes our mis-perceptions about the relationship of happiness and performance this way.
“Most people believe that once they become successful, then they’ll be happy. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology and neuroscience have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.”
Happiness is not some kind of giddy superficial mood making, but a “Rational Optimism” that pays back big dividends at virtually every age and in every profession. Children as young as four perform block stacking tasks 50% faster with just the slightest encouragement. Not only is productivity improved but positive doctors have been shown to have triple the creative flexibility as their more dour counterparts.
How much encouragement is necessary for substantial improvements? A two sentence email of appreciation to a member of your team each day for 21 days has been shown to increase productivity by a whopping 31%. We saw the results in our own community with the YMCA’s “Make a Splash” swim program. Initially designed to reduce Idaho’s tremendously high childhood drowning rate, teachers found an unexpected benefit from this simple half hour twice-week program. Students who participated had “markedly improved” reading skills, recording the best scores in the last eight years. Many believe this result was due to increased confidence. Success in one area often translates to other areas of our lives as well.
Several years ago I had the privilege of working with Berry Fowler the founder of Sylvan Learning who shared his secrets to success. “We don’t teach people to make them successful; we make them successful to teach them.”
But what about the short term “Optimistic Interventions”. Prior to the 2009 tax season, auditors for KPMG received a short 3 hour training based on the research published in The Happiness Advantage. Four months after the training their levels of job satisfaction and stress reduction were “significantly greater” than those for in the control group.
The other critical lesson discovered by the Good Think team is that the single most consistent predictor of this optimistic resiliency lies in the quality and quantity of our social support network. The more connected we are the happier we are. Since you have read this far reach out and connect.