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Finding Happiness in the Workplace (and in Life)

Explore this simple exercise for maximum daily career ROI

Is the glass half empty or half full? It’s a common question.

We’re always chasing happiness, the feeling of a completely full—not just half full—glass. We believe that once we receive a promotion or achieve a new life milestone we will feel content. We tend to top off our glass when we achieve our goals, but then suddenly we find that our glass is larger now and we still have the same amount of liquid in it.

Fortunately, research shows that happiness precedes important outcomes and measures of thriving. According to Harvard researcher Shawn Achor (author of “The Happiness Advantage”), happy people are more productive, more engaged, and get paid more. It also functions as a competitive advantage for companies that get it right. Happiness doesn’t come from success, it precedes success.

Happiness, however, is a subjective state, so different happiness boosting tools work better for different people. Despite this variance, there are several fundamental concepts we can leverage centered around understanding brain phenomenon.
  • Neuroplasticity: The brain can change.
  • In-attentional blindness: We miss things we aren’t looking for.
  • Cognitive afterimage: Our brain will put tasks on automatic repeat after we’ve done them enough.

This means it doesn’t matter whether the glass is half empty or half full because there is a pitcher sitting next to the glass that we can use to fill it to the brim.

Think about this: Do you remember what you ate for breakfast this morning? How about the shirt color your best friend wore last time you hung out? Do you know the exact number of times you blinked or your heart has beat in the last minute?

The reason you don’t know how many times you blinked in the last minute is because you were not paying attention to it, we receive too much information for our brain to attend to everything. We have essentially trained our brains to pay attention to everything that’s wrong or that we need to fix.

Below is a simple exercise that can help re-train your brain to focus on positive outcomes in the workplace.

For the next 21 days, plan to:

  • Write down 3 new things you are grateful for,
  • Spend 1 minute journaling about a positive experience you had that day

There are many more tools, but this exercise had the highest ROI on my life. It helped me slay my dragons, and I hope it helps you slay yours. 

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