What The Happiest People Know About Work

Hard work and skills will only get you so far. The most successful people also find joy in working life. It's not as difficult as it may seem. Here are the top habits for people who are happy at work.

Study, work hard, and you will be successful.

This was the mantra repeated by educators throughout my youth. None of them added "be happy" to the success equation.

But a growing body of research in positive psychology and neuroscience is demonstrating that happiness is the secret ingredient to success. It turns out, our brains are more engaged, creative, productive, and resilient when in a positive state.

Jim Donovan, consultant, speaker and proclaimed "happiness expert" offers workplace advice to employers and employees on how to make their work lives more fulfilling. His latest book Happy @ Work comes on the heels of a Gallup poll that reported employee disengagement in the U.S. as high as 70%.

All this unhappiness comes with a high price tag to businesses, costing more than $550 billion a year in lost productivity. In his book, Donovan identifies 60 simple steps individuals can take to improve their happiness and get back on the path to success. Here are six of the top things happy workers do:

Change the word “problem” to “challenge.”

“Problems tend to be things we try to avoid, while challenges are things we step up to fix,” writes Donovan. Making this minor change in vocabulary can have a big impact on how you deal with a situation. A challenge can be interpreted as an opportunity to showcase your talents or learn a new skill.

Mix up your daily routine.

Many of us get stuck in the daily rut; driving the same route to work, eating the same breakfast, starting the day by filtering through emails. Changing up our routine stimulates the brain, enhancing creativity and happiness. “By changing your everyday patterns and habitual processes, you will be creating new neural connections in your brain.

Simply changing your route to and from work will expose you to new visual and auditory stimuli, [for example],” writes Donovan. This explains why extraordinary thinkers such as Steve Jobs and Steven Spielberg were known to on long walks to stimulate breakthrough ideas.

Start the day with the big questions.

Asking yourself a series of empowering questions such as “what am I looking forward to today?”, “what am I grateful for today?” first thing in the morning can have you starting the day with purpose and get your brain into a positive state.

Arrive at work early.

Nothing can damper a mood faster than getting stuck in rush hour traffic. Leaving home even 20 minutes earlier can have you arriving at the office in a less frazzled state, giving you some extra time to ease into the day ahead, and grab that first cup of coffee in peace.

Have an office playlist. Music is a feel-good tool. If you’ve ever heard a song that immediately transports you to a past event, you know the power of music. Music can improve how you feel at work or in any given situation. Donovan recommends developing a feel-good playlist and notes even Olympic medalist Michael Phelps was seen bopping to his iPod moments before breaking the world record for winning the most Olympic medals.

Avoid energy zappers.

You know who they are; those people who go on for hours about their personal problems, the latest international disaster or the traffic jam on the freeway. These individuals appear obsessed with finding something wrong in every situation.

When possible, attempt to surround yourself with winners; those who are positive and uplifting and just seem to radiate happiness.

[Image: Flickr user Chris Hearn]

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3 Comments

  • Happiness, joy, autonomy are life's greatest practice. I say practice because it isn't something that just appears. It requires intention -- carving out time to do things you enjoy, creating the habit of exercise to boost productivity, and finding or CREATING a job you love and believe in. I love the idea of starting each day with a big question...this is novel idea, not something I have heard shared before. Good article and reminder that happiness and work are deeply intertwined and we must practice joy.

  • Challenge is a better way to take on hard to handle situations and gives that moto to overcome it. I agree that routine kills creativity and limits your actions to be predictible. Always try something new..

  • Scott Nushart

    So, when all is said and done, we are, as we always have been, responsible for our own happiness, right? Yet, it appears we need to have handed to us a magic formula from an 'expert' (consultant) on the "60 Ways to Increase Happiness"?

    The use of a quantitative value such as a $550B loss annually in productivity assumes: a)a reproducible, uniform metric for productivity, and, b)no business is suboptimal in productivity-that the current state is the ideal state. As a positive individual, I find both of those to be 'a challenge'!