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Archive for July, 2012

It’s a beautiful rainy winter’s day in Cape Town and I snuggled in behind my computer to visit www.ted.com  to watch a few stories that range from inspiring to jaw-dropping.

And as always I was not disappointed.

In  the current Productivity Mastery Programme ( you can book a seat for the next one here) we recently had a conversation about “life purpose”, values, productivity and the role of happiness (“a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”) in all of this.

I was therefore delighted to view Shawn Achor speak on TED about “The happiness secret to better work”.

He says that we tend to put happiness “on the other side of success” – “AFTER I succeed at doing this thing/becoming partner/losing 10 kg, THEN I will be happy.”

Shawn suggests that we reverse the happiness formula and put happiness before success.  Put happiness before increasing productivity.

He says: “Happiness and life satisfaction has led to improved performance in people who did one of the following things every day for 3 weeks:

  • Jot down three things they were grateful for.
  • Write a positive message to someone in their social support network.
  • Meditate at their desk for two minutes.
  • Exercise for 10 minutes.
  • Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours.

Research shows happy employees have higher levels of productivity, perform better in leadership roles and receive higher pay. Happiness could be your single most important competitive advantage.

In the Harvard Business Review (January-February 2012) it is reported that for companies, happy employees mean better bottom-line results.

Employees who score low in “life satisfaction,” a rigorously tested and widely accepted metric, stay home an average of 1.25 more days a month, a 2008 study by Gallup Healthways shows. That translates into a decrease in productivity of 15 days a year.

In a study of service departments, Jennifer George and Kenneth Bettenhausen found that employees who score high in life satisfaction are significantly more likely to receive high ratings from customers. In addition, researchers at Gallup found that retail stores that scored higher on employee life satisfaction generated $21 more in earnings per square foot of space than the other stores, adding $32 million in additional profits for the whole chain.

More than anyone else, Aristotle enshrines happiness as a central purpose of human life. To quote him: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

According the author of this web site and also this Wikipedia article, Aristotle spoke about achieving “eudaimonia”, which is commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation.

Carol Ryff highlighted the distinction between eudaimonia wellbeing, which she identified as psychological wellbeing, and hedonic wellbeing or pleasure. Building on Aristotelian ideals of belonging and benefiting others, flourishing, thriving and exercising excellence, she conceptualised eudaimonia as a six-factor structure :

  1. Autonomy
  2. Personal growth
  3. Self-acceptance
  4. Purpose in life
  5. Environmental mastery
  6. Positive relations with others.

To quote Aristotle again: “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

We can choose to follow the guidance of people like Shawn and Executive Happiness Coach Jim Smith and think about where we are regarding the six points listed above and then take action if action is required.

Or of course we can choose to stay like we are for the rest of our lives.

It begins with what and how we choose to BE, which will drive what we DO, which will give us what we HAVE.  We are human Beings – not human Havings or human Doings.  Yet we tend to focus so much on the things we do and the things we have.

A quote by Erich Fromm also helps to put this in perspective:  “If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?”

The essence of all the things I saw and read today boils down (for me anyway) to accepting responsibility for our lives and live in such a way that will allow us to enjoy maximum life satisfaction.

We will be happier and more productive people and build happier and more productive organisations.

To your happiness and productivity!

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