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Happiness is a Skill Worth Developing

December 22, 2011
By Guest Blogger
|10Comments|


Over the last 17 years, I’ve seen dramatic business turnarounds in as little as a week — the only change being an increase in a person’s happiness. The results I’ve witnessed have been dramatic. My clients on Wall Street made better trades, CEOs made more profitable decisions, and sales people made more sales, all with a shift in their mindset, which led to greater well-being.

As a result, in the late 90s I decided to focus my career on the pursuit of happiness and fully investigate its effects on the success process. Over a 10-year period, I found that happiness was a skill that anyone could learn and that happiness was a hidden determinant in success. Bottom line: When entrepreneurs learn the skills to be happy, they have unexplainable increases in their results.

Four happiness skills anyone can learn

1. Give up being right.
Most people are addicted to being right, and they don’t even know it. This leads to endless argument and strife. To be happy, you must let go of this ineffective habit of thought.

Try this: Notice that “the drunk monkey” (my nickname for the chatter in your mind) has an opinion on everything, including things it knows nothing about. Opinions are vanities and are always from your perspective. Your perspective may be right for you but certainly not for everyone and everything. And yet, when you pay attention to the drunk monkey, you see that it actually believes it is right about almost everything.

The desire to be right often puts you into a resistant state, which does not lead to happiness.

To give up being right, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Look at the world from their perspective, and acknowledge that there are multiple ways to view the situation. In short, have compassion for others.

2. Accept the situation as it is, and then take action.
A client of mine found himself in an unpleasant situation. His company was merging with another company, and he was informed that he would be losing his coveted office with the sun shining into the windows that he was accustomed to. This may sound trivial. For him, this was the end of a 10-year era, and he was very attached to what the office represented in his life. He had been angry for a week when we finally spoke. The merger had not yet happened. Yet his anger was creating dysfunction in his ability to produce sales results today.

I helped him realize that he was moving no matter how angry he got. Ultimately, he accepted this and promised to stop complaining because it was not making him feel good. We shifted his focus to defining what he wanted to create out of the merger. He described his best-case scenario. As he did, new options were illuminated, his mood changed, and his energy went up. Getting happy allowed him to get out of his resentment, see new possibilities and get creative.

In the following weeks, his sales results returned, and he discovered a compromise that would work for his new working environment.

3. Quit pretending you are a psychic who can tell the future.
Just the idea of a change to his office environment caused him to hallucinate about a future he didn’t like. The problem is, he’s not psychic, so he doesn’t know what the future will hold. Yet he was suffering, right now, as if the negative future had already occurred. This is a trick the drunk monkey plays on people to strip them of their happiness.

The drunk monkey in your head is not your friend. As a biological survival mechanism, one of its functions is to predict potentially negative situations and then mobilize the body to avoid them. But most of your life is not dangerous.

Today, just remind yourself that you are not psychic and that you cannot predict the future. Work to see the situation with clarity by removing your fear and your opinions. Next, identify what you want to have happen.

4. Stop protecting yourself from people who aren’t attacking you.
A Wall Street executive was managing billions of dollars in assets, and yet he felt like nobody listened to him and that he wasn’t important. This perspective had him feeling repressed and defeated. His positive results didn’t seem to match his unhappy mindset. He felt like other people in the firm didn’t think what he had to say was important, and therefore he was an outsider and not involved in making critical decisions. He realized that taking on more responsibility was important, but he felt powerless to do so.

I asked him how he knew this was true. He told me about incidents that had occurred the year before. I asked him to consider that he had changed, they had changed, times had changed, and the world had changed since the incidents from last year. I asked him if he would be willing to run an experiment to put the drunk monkey into place so he could return to happy, fulfilled and satisfied with work. Here’s what I told him to do.

Instead of trying to keep his ideas safe, instead of wondering how he could move his objectives forward, for the next week, he should find out what other people were committed to. See what the other people in the company were working on, and discover ways to contribute to each of the people in the company. Make it a game. See if you can contribute something to someone every day for the next seven days — an idea, a contact, a resource or even just an encouraging word.

Through this process, he shifted from protecting himself from all the people who weren’t attacking him to being supportive and giving. Within the year, he became one of the most celebrated people in his company. The next year, he was recruited away by a superstar in his industry and made a partner in the firm. The trick was simple: He needed to be the change he wanted to see in the world, just like Gandhi said.

When you are happy, you are creative, approachable, flexible and easy to be with. Add those characteristics to your skill set, and you will see an immediate positive benefit.

Most people believe that happiness is something that occurs when the conditions of life are favorable. But the truth is, happiness is the skill navigating challenging situations without getting reactive. If you wait for happiness to find you, you’ll be waiting a long time. Happiness is an inside job.

Matthew Ferry is a revealer, illuminator and awakener whose point of view creates instant transformation in people’s lives. Since 1993 he has personally coached more then 8,000 people to breakthrough performance barriers and achieve unparalleled happiness and success.

Photo credit: Camdiluv



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10 responses to Happiness is a Skill Worth Developing
  1. This is a great article. I love how you brought it back to the workplace with specific examples. It really helps identify where you are sabotaging yourself. Thank you!

  2. Simply fantastic! Lina is right – the specific illustrations are perfect to help us see where the opportunities lie in our own lives to be the change we want to see in the world. Thank you!

  3. An ironic time to post this article, with all the unrest and “occupy” of Wall street movement. Almost makes me feel like the demonstrators are “unsuccessful” because they aren’t happy ….Or maybe this article is to help the executive type not to worry about all those Americans outside of Wall Street’s door, who have not been able to find work. Personally I think i would have appreciated the advice given here if it was based on the reality of what most Americans are living.

  4. The Drunk Monkey, as the writer calls the chatter in our minds can cause havoc in our lives. In extreme cases it can cause illness and death if not put in its place.
    Eckhart Tolle writes about this in his great book “Being in the Now”. He calls it the Ego, and explains how we can take back our lives from this potentially very destructive force. He has given me some excellent tools to silence or at least quiet this chatter.

  5. Well I for one, think we are lucky to be getting this info for free!! I may not be a big exec but I can see where I can apply this advice to any job. The part about feeling unimportant and repressed really hit home for me. I want to try the advice of approaching coworkers and trying to help them in some small way. Thanks for the article!!

  6. Happiness is a choice. We all deserve to be happy so chose to be! Life can give us unexpected blows but if we keep our hearts and minds open, we will see that it is still worthwhile to be happy. :)

  7. Being a happy person is the best decision anyone can make! Great article.

  8. Fantastic article and points!

  9. Exactly! Happiness = Success, not success first = happiness later. So many of us have it the wrong way around.

    The stop protecting yourself from people who aren’t attacking you think definitely applied to me back in high school. I felt like such an outcast and was convinced no one liked me. It turns out, people either liked me and thought I just didn’t like them, or were generally neutral. It was only my own perspective that was keeping me from having positive interactions with my peers.

    Thanks for the great article! I’ll definitely be sharing this around with my friends, family, and blog readers. Valuable info!