Shawn Achor is teaching executives at a major investment bank in New York and workers at Adobe software in California to start their day with a little gratitude and praise. And he’s using the same techniques in his work and life.
“The very first thing they do is write down three things they’re grateful for,” said Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage (subtitled: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work). Their list stays on their desks, and they see it growing day by day, and their brains are scanning the world for the good in their work world. Once they raise their optimism, they increase their productivity too, he said.
Then when they first open their email inbox, before they start plowing through messages, they are expected to send one short – two sentence – email praising someone on their team, or among their family and friends.
They’re doing this partly because Achor has a book chock full of scientific studies and research that shows people who feel good about themselves and their situations are more productive and successful. The key point: Happiness leads to success, even though we’re taught the reverse.
“We have scientific evidence that links happiness to the bottom line. The greatest competitive advantage in the modern workplace is a positive and engaged workforce,” said Achor, a former Harvard University teaching fellow.
He uses a daily checklist of activities to assure his happiness and success and to charge his batteries. His list includes:
- GRATITUDE. He also writes down “three gratitudes” from daily life.
- EXERCISE. He’s vigilant about scheduling in time to exercise, usually. Shawn uses tennis and weight lifting as his main forms of exercise. And he also plays guitar and writes in his journal as other regular forms of happiness exercises.
- MEDITATE. Five minutes of meditation serve as a short break from daily tasks. He would like to meditate longer, but says five minutes is the “lowest level at which we can get an impact.” Often, his “aha moments” arrive afterward.
“I see so many people who research happiness who are not happy themselves,” he said. They work too hard, as he does sometimes as a consultant and entrepreneur. So Achor uses a whiteboard at home to track the happiness habits he’s building and to check them off day by day.
“When I do it, I find that my day is more positive…. Your brain realizes that you’re successful. You’re tackling these things. You’ve been successful in one domain and I bet you can be successful everywhere,” he said.
“Happiness is actually a precursor to a greater level of success,” Achor said. So on those days when you’re trying to work harder and faster, take time for a little joy and a little breath. If winter’s cold gray days seem to turn your happiness cold and grumpy, he suggests reminding yourself you have a comfortable home and a thick coat, which is much more than some others. “Focus on the warm boots, not the cold weather.”