The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at WorkCarol Fleming | Assistant Dean for Outreach and Engagement, James Madison University
How would you answer? Take a minute.
As Achor suggests, “What we’ve been taught is, success first, happiness second. We’ll only be happy once we’re successful. If I get into college, I’ll be happy. If I get a promotion, I’ll be happy. If I lose weight, I’ll be happy. Success first, happiness second.”
After analyzing hundreds of happiness studies and using his own research, though, Achor has found that “the theory of success first, happiness second, is not only broken, it’s backwards. In fact, we now know that happiness is a precursor to success, not merely a result.”
To help us with this, Achor identifies “seven specific and actionable patterns that predict success and achievement,” which I’ll review further down.
The Happiness Advantage was introduced to me by do a colleague in the continuing education (CE) field. The book sounded intriguing and I wanted to know, do I need to become happier to find more success? If I’m successful, does that automatically make me happier or mean I’m necessarily happier?
The book was a quick read for me. It also made me think, maybe I should be using this with my team. Like many professions, CE requires you and your programs to remain fresh and up-to-date. Change comes quickly and you have to remain flexible. Could this be a critical tool to keep us motivated and energized? The key ingredient for our continued success, it seemed, would be a serious focus on team happiness – maybe more than I realized.
I set out to put the principles of The Happiness Advantage not only on myself, but also to my team at work. As it turns out, it works. Success and the ability to successfully handle the challenges we faced was intimately tied to our happiness advantage… or disadvantage. The things that we were struggling with, we realized, found much quicker resolution as we applied principles of the happiness advantage.
This work eventually turned into a regional conference presentation with my colleague—the one who introduced me to the book and to whom I was very grateful. We wanted to see if others would see this work as a tool to create success—and happiness—with their teams and organizations. And it hit the spot. We were asked to bring our presentation to further conferences. The audiences agreed and many realized the value of the principles of The Happiness Advantage across their varying fields and lives.
So what are these principles that can give me the happiness advantage?
The first principle is actually called “The Happiness Advantage.” It teaches us how to retrain our brain to improve productivity and performance.
For my team, this meant incorporating humor as an important value. Humor became an intentional part of our daily work lives. We turned staff meetings into ice cream socials. Team meetings incorporated fun field trips. We learned to keep our work serious, but to take ourselves a bit less seriously. We quickly found that the times we felt overwhelmed became shorter and what we could accomplish became greater. Asking questions to and finding support from our colleagues became easier. Relationships were strengthened and laugher increased.
“The Fulcrum and the Lever” principle teaches us to adjust our mindset in a way that gives us power and perspective.
We used this principal by aligning, or realigning, job descriptions with people’s passions, as much as possible. Clearly, for us, the passion that people had with what they were doing empowered them and encouraged fresh perspectives. This realignment not only inspired individual happiness, it also led to more team success. Happiness first, success to follow.
The “Falling Up” principle teaches us how to see failure as an opportunity.
When, at the last minute, we learned that the faculty for an important pre-K-12 camp we had offered for years was abandoning the camp. Though it had been a successful operation for us, it seemed that cancelling the three-week camp was a real possibility. We knew that over 100 children who signed up would be so disappointed. However, this became our chance to put “Falling Up” principle into action.
Turning our thinking towards the opportunity, we had to look outside the box to save the camp.
That shift in perspective allowed the teamwork, creativity and quick thinking to flourish. Not only did we save that camp for those children, a brand-new camp emerged with a new partnership. Where failure could have won, that change in thinking brought quick action and newfound success.
“The Zorro Circle” is the principle that teaches us how to gain control of small, manageable goals, and then gradually expand our circle to achieve larger goals.
Our growing team and organization was bringing on new staff, which meant lots to learn for those staff and a quick turnaround towards getting this done. However, picking small segments of their roles and responsibilities to help master them piece by piece allowed for quick learning of each piece. It also allowed them to move more quickly through all the segments of their work. Not falling prey to doing it all at once helped with focus and quality—and more happiness. And, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, more success.
The remaining of the seven principles are “The Tetris Effect,” “The Twenty Second Rule,” and “Social Investment.”
“The Tetris Effect” teaches us how to spot patterns of possibility and experiment with new ways of thinking. “The Twenty Second Rule” shows us that we can reroute the path of least resistance and replace bad habits with good ones. “Social Investment” teaches us how to invest in our social support network. However, to learn more about all seven of The Happiness Advantage principles, you will have to read the book.
For me, intentionally focusing on these principles with my team have: saved the day, relieved stress, added laughter and helped staff gain more positive outlooks when it seemed difficult. They have proven to be valuable leadership tools for creating a happier and more successful team.
The Happiness Advantage is a quick and fun read. Any one of the principles can easily be turned into personal, professional or a team strategy. Pick two or three or seven of the principles to incorporate into your life and work and watch your happiness grow—and watch your performance, productivity and success grow as well.
Author Perspective: Administrator