I caught a few minutes of the popular TV show Duck Dynasty the other day to see what all the hoopla was about.
The hit reality series is just the opposite of about every other reality show out there. It’s a functional family whose members love each other, and, for all intents and purposes, seem happy. In fact, if you’ve seen the show, you’re likely familiar with the family’s patriarch, Phil Robertson, and his mantra, “happy, happy, happy.” This made me think of a book I read several years ago called The Happiness Advantage.
The author, Shawn Achor, postulates that while our brains are hard-wired to perform at the highest levels when we’re in a positive state of mind, we too often find reasons for putting off happiness. We’ve all done it. “When I land that new account, I’ll be happy.” “When I lose 10 pounds, I’ll be happy.” “When I get that big promotion, I’ll be happy.” The problem is that on the way to achieving those goals, we’re putting ourselves in a holding pattern that makes it harder to reach them.
Beyond putting off happiness ourselves, outside forces often combat happiness and positivity. We’ve all worked alongside negative people who are not only negative about work, but life outside of work as well . . . family, friends and society in general. It’s a draining experience, and unfortunately, negativity can be catching. After being around negative people, you can end up in a sour mood, feeling as if it’s you against the world.
Another way negativity can creep in is when you dwell on the past or worry incessantly about the future. A wise person once said, “There are two days in every week about which we should not worry . . . yesterday with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. The other day we should not worry about is tomorrow with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow’s sun will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn.” While you can’t affect something that’s already happened, you can affect the perspective you take on it. And while there are many elements of your future you can’t control, you can decide to focus on those you can.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel, according to Achor and many others out there who study the effect of positivity on our lives. They theorize that we can actually train our brains to be more positive. For example, we can try to avoid tackling too many things at once. When we focus on small, manageable goals, we feel more in control. Another example involves turning failures into opportunities. If you think you had a great idea or solution for a customer, but he or she turned it down, that doesn’t mean you should just give up on it and assume it was a bad idea. Maybe the idea would work for another customer.
You can spread positivity by not limiting yourself or others around you. One belief I’ve always adhered to in my company is that you never know where the next great idea will come from. It might be a new business idea from someone in the admin department or a new idea for how to streamline an internal process from someone on the creative team. That’s why I’m open to ideas from anyone in my company. In fact, some of the most inspired ideas I’ve received have come from the most unlikely sources.
Autonomy is another factor that I believe breeds positivity in the workplace. When you’re given autonomy to do your job, you take responsibility for your actions and you feel more in control. I’m not talking about being a control freak, but focusing on those areas that we can control. Whatever your take is on happiness, there certainly seems to be some validity in the theory that positivity can give you a distinct advantage when it comes to attaining your goals in life. With all that can be achieved by thinking positively, the value of being “happy, happy, happy” is apparent. Phil Robertson may just be on to something with his now-famous mantra.