The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Be Happy or Be Gone

Hey, did you get the email I sent you this morning?

It’s the email that praises you for being the totally wonderful person you are and thanks you for making the world a better place simply because you are in my life.

Didn’t get it? Maybe it’s a glitch in your email server, or maybe I’m thinking of the email I sent to another totally wonderful person who has made my world so much better. (Yes, Lorraine, morning bar tender extraordinaire at the Kit Kat Klub, I’m talking about you.)

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If you didn’t get this morning’s email, keep a sharp eye on your inbox. In an effort to make myself happier I am following the advice of Shawn Achor, author of “The Happiness Advantage,” and sending a 2-minute thank-you email or text every morning for the next 21 days. Now that I’ve crossed Lorraine off the list, you’re sure to come up soon.

Achor is one of those special people who have become successful by telling people how to become successful. The key insight of his work is that success does not bring happiness; happiness brings success. So instead of working hard at your job so you will eventually be happy, work hard at being happy now, so you will eventually be successful.

Really?

Does all it take to bring success is to be a happy camper? Shawn Achor insists that it does.

“If we can get someone to raise their levels of optimism or deepen their social connection or raise happiness, turns out every single business and educational outcome we know how to test for improves dramatically.”

How can this be? Because “intelligence and technical skills only predict 25 percent of success.”

This is very good news since these are the two success attributes you lack almost completely. But if this revelation is not sufficient to push your happiness needle into the red, there are other ways you can get happy.

Some of the techniques Achor suggests are fairly familiar to those of us who diligently study and totally ignore the advice of workplace experts. Sorry, Shawn.

You have already tried writing a list of the things you’re grateful for. You started your list two years ago, and you’ve yet to get past item No.1, “I’m grateful I don’t have to spend all day writing lists of the things I’m grateful for.” Achor also plays the meditation card, and the exercise card. Like you don’t already spend all morning meditating on how long you have to sit at your desk before you can make the 50-yard dash for the fire door and be home in time for “General Hospital.”

But Achor does have a few new happiness tricks up his happiness sleeve.

One highly recommended way to be happy is, according to a recent Eric Baker’s blog post on Achor’s theories on bakadesuyo.com, is “to build little, consistent habits akin to brushing your teeth.” (This will enrage you, I know. Now we have to make a habit of brushing our teeth? What imperial order will next come down from our corporate overlords? Will we be expected to take a shower every day, use silverware when we eat, wear clothes to the office? Outrageous!)

The 21-day, 2-minute email of praise or thanks is a consistent habit that Achor’s team tested at Facebook, at US Foods and at Microsoft. And it worked! The senders experienced more joy at work because the program “dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations.”

What happened to the receivers was not discussed, but I think we can imagine the effect of receiving a bunch of unsolicited, unexpected emails full of praise and appreciation. They freaked out, quit their jobs, and are now living in South America under assumed names.

Tough on them, admittedly, but a small price to pay for your happiness.

Achor also has a technique to “get your butt off the couch and to the gym.” His strategy is to reduce the amount of “activation energy” involved in deciding to go to the gym by “sleeping in his gym clothes and putting his sneakers next to the bed.” I like this approach, but it can be improved. Sleep in your gym clothes, sure, but go to work in your pajamas. That will not only make it easier for you to sleep at the office, but it will reduce the activation energy required by your manager to fire you.

And what could make you happier than that?

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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