For today’s blog post, I wanted to offer you a different perspective on the subject of happiness. Executive coach and happiness expert Helen Mumford Sole, who has been leading our MEC “Inspiring Happiness” course, has explored the many facets of happiness from positive psychology, medical research, quantum physics, and Eastern mysticism to the extensive world of the self-help movement. Helen shares with us why it is so important to “inspire happiness” in our employees, as well as the correlation between optimism and happiness.
KK: Why do you think teaching happiness at work is so appealing to so many people?
HMS: Happy people are successful people. Robust research shows that happy people are more productive, three times more innovative, and almost 20% more accurate in all their tasks. In sales, it has been said that 100 happy people can deliver almost the same as 150 unhappy people. By any measure, these are remarkable results. Not only that, but people want to be happy. It’s not as if they need convincing that being happy is a good thing! When I read the latest statistics that about 45% of Americans are actually unhappy at work, I realized how important it was to introduce these tools, techniques and behaviors into our workplaces.
KK: One area we explored heavily during our course was optimism. In what way does optimism impact our lives, and what suggestions can you offer to help people alter their pessimistic views?
HMS: There is clearly a correlation between optimism and happiness. The most important part of achieving optimism is the realization and acceptance that we’re not born optimistic or pessimistic — it is a learned or self-developed behavior. The good news here is that we can unlearn pessimism. When we find ourselves being anything less than optimistic, the first step is to become aware of the talk track in our heads, analyzing the components of each thought. We can ask ourselves what beliefs we hold about the circumstance, and challenge the validity of those beliefs. We can then explore the consequences (often catastrophic) that we imagine will happen and calmly weigh up the probabilities. Disputing and shifting our mind’s chatter until we persuade ourselves to change our minds and point of view. Over time this self-disputation will become second nature and overpower any knee-jerk pessimism. You’d be surprised how fast this change can happen.
KK: We all live very busy lives. How do you ensure each person can apply these skills to their everyday life?
HMS: Happiness means different things to different people. One of the most widely adopted definitions for happiness is “subjective well-being”—i.e., how do we as individuals assess our own feelings of well-being? The Happiness course at MEC focuses on the adoption of behaviors that will raise the happiness levels of just about everyone (such as gratitude journaling — a real quick win), as well as tools and techniques that will help participants to step into their own brand of happiness. There isn’t a single prescription that will fit everyone. Just as learning music doesn’t mean we all sing the same song, learning happiness doesn’t mean we’ll all be happy in the same way. But working with the team at MEC has been highly successful. I have already noticed significant changes in moods and stress management with the current group. As we approach the last course, I am confident that each person will leave with the tools and techniques to manage their own happiness levels, both personally and professionally, in ways that work for them.
KK: What are you hoping that we will all take away from the “Inspiring Happiness” course?
HMS: My goal is always that people leave my course appreciating that there are so many ways in which we can manage our own happiness levels. It’s a prevailing belief in our culture that happiness happens as a consequence of some thing or somebody else. For example: I’ll be happier when I get that promotion, I’ll be happier when I buy that apartment, I’ll be happier when we get married, or I’ll be happier when my son starts kindergarten. In fact, happiness is achievable in every moment. It’s a state rather than a consequence. We can be happy on the way to our promotion, we can be happy when we didn’t get that promotion, we can be happy before, during, and after we get married, and so on. This course is all about spreading the word and the research on what we have to do to make happiness an inside job. If all my students leave feeling empowered to manage their own happiness, I will be delighted.
For Part 1, go here. For Part 2, go here. For Part 3, go here. For Part 4, go here.
Karen Kwarta heads the Digital practice at MEC. She has been with the agency for over three years, and was previously a Group Director. Prior to her roles at MEC she was an Account Director at Razorfish. She has her BBA in Marketing from University of Michigan.
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