I Will, I Won’t, I Want: Why Strengthening This Power Will Supercharge Your Success

It affects your career, relationships, health and financial stability. It’s the difference between dreamers and doers, wannabes and winners.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), lack of it is the top reason Americans have trouble achieving their goals. And it is the second secret ingredient Angela Lee Duckworth identifies as critical to success: self-control.

While our last article examined the first component to success—grit—this post focuses on the latter.

The Marshmallow Test

Most of us have seen the 1960s and 1970s footage of Psychologist Walter Mischel’s Stanford Marshmallow series of experiments on delayed gratification. In the above clip, motivational speaker and coach Joachim de Posada reprises this famous experiment in Colombia.

If you’re not familiar with the test, it involves placing a four-year-old in a room by herself with a marshmallow. The child is told if she waits 15 minutes, she will be given a second marshmallow. If she eats it, however, she will receive nothing.

The ensuing struggle each child undergoes is both humorous and revealing. De Posada—author of Don’t Eat the Marshmallow … Yet! The Secret to Sweet Success in Work and Life—jokes about one little girl who was clever enough to eat the inside of the marshmallow so it would appear untouched, “We know she’ll be successful, but we have to watch her. She should not go into banking, for example.”

While two out of three children cave in to temptation and eat the marshmallow, one of out three refrains, exhibiting the self-discipline that will help her achieve success in life.

When Mischel conducted a follow-up study 15 years later, 100 percent of the children who had resisted the marshmallow were demonstrably successful, whereas the majority of those who’d succumbed had lower competencies and were doing poorly in school and life.

Strengthening Your Self-Control Muscle

“Self-control is a muscle,” Kelly McGonigal writes in The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.

That’s exciting because it means we have the ability to strengthen it. We may sometimes feel powerless to resist temptation or keep our nose to the grindstone when facing a daunting task, but we just need to learn how to build our willpower.

Whether you want to quit smoking, eat a healthier diet, accomplish a professional goal or reduce the amount of time you spend on social media, you’ll need self-control to get there.

Take the I Will, I Won’t, I Want Power Challenge

McGonigal outlines three forms of willpower and challenges us to put each one into practice in a concrete way:

  • I will. Think of something you’d like to do more of that you’ve been putting off—and do it.
  • I won’t. Tackle a bad habit that’s negatively affecting your health, relationships, work or life in general.
  • I want. What’s a long-term goal you’ve been dreaming about but keep getting distracted from? Time to get started.

Need Help Building Your Willpower?

Chris Cook can help you discover and fulfill your I will, I won’t and I want power challenges. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.

Stay Tuned

Our next two posts will teach you 10 strategies you can deploy to strengthen your self-control.

True Grit: The Secret to Long-Term Success

What’s the strongest predictor of success in school, on the field or in your career—IQ, EQ, socioeconomic background, leadership skills or talent? Actually, it’s none of those. It’s grit.

From spelling bee finalists to Westpoint cadets, athletes to rookie teachers, scholars to salespeople, MacArthur fellow and University of Pennsylvania Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth found two consistent predictors of achievement: grit and self-control.

Duckworth discusses the pioneering research on grit she and her colleagues have been conducting at the Duckworth Lab in the following TED talk.

What Seventh-Graders Taught Duckworth

Having left a lucrative job in management consulting to teach seventh-grade math, Duckworth started noticing something funny. The students with the sharpest IQs were sometimes the lowest achievers, and those with poorer IQ scores sometimes outshone their more talented peers.

None of the typically assumed factors for success accounted for the patterns she was seeing. What did those who excelled have in common?

After five years of teaching, Duckworth got a PhD in psychology to find out. She shares these discoveries in her forthcoming book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Already the #1 bestseller in Educational Certification & Development at Amazon, the book explores why focused persistence gets us further than raw ability.

It’s Not How You Succeed—It’s How You Fail

Those who glide through life don’t get a chance to develop the stamina and chutzpah that help them overcome obstacles when they do arise. Grit is not about skating by but rather about doggedly bouncing back every time you stumble.

Authentic Happiness author and positive psychology luminary Martin Seligman is part of the team heading up the Growth Initiative, which focuses on the subject of growth through adversity.

Seligman and his colleagues are interested in identifying how and why some people thrive following tragedy while others wither. Their goal is “to better understand the conditions under which people can experience positive behavioral changes after going through highly stressful adverse events.”

Japan: A Case Study in Post-Traumatic Growth

Just as a scar thickens the skin, trauma can build the resilience necessary to weather future calamities.

A case study in post-traumatic growth, the nation of Japan flourished following the physical and psychological devastation wrought by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

Written following the 2011 Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor crisis, this New York Times article argues that it is Japan’s very history with trauma that would enable it to heal from the latest onslaught.

In the article, authors Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland outline the five necessary conditions to cultivate in the face of mass trauma:

  1. a sense of safety;
  2. calm;
  3. a sense of self and community efficacy;
  4. connectedness; and
  5. hope.

We can carry those lessons over into our individual lives as we learn to cope with—and grow through—adversity.

An Undercover FBI Agent Shares Her Secrets

Former FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent LaRae Quy shares these five tips for building the confidence needed to succeed in a recent article:

  1. Don’t fear failure. Taking risks, challenging yourself and making mistakes gives us an opportunity to learn—and grow. In other words, it’s what Homer Simpson calls a “crisitunity.”
  2. Value feedback. Quy cites recent Leadership IQ research indicating that lack of coachability accounted for 26 percent of failed new hires. Those who seek out and embrace constructive feedback are more likely to evolve.
  3. Practice. It gets you to Carnegie Hall for a reason—the more familiar you are with a task, the more effortlessly you will be able to execute it. You will also recover from a misstep with more grace.
  4. “Only connect.” Having the support and mutual respect of colleagues will bolster your confidence and strengthen your sense of community.
  5. Build grit. We’ve already learned the value of grit from Duckworth. There is no pearl without the sand.

How Much Grit Have You Got?

Find out by completing the Grit Survey available at Authentic Happiness. Registration is free, and you’ll gain access to tons of goodies.

How have encounters with adversity led to your growth? Are you ready to up your game?

Chris Cook can help you develop the necessary grit to achieve your goals. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.

Feeling Rootbound? Maybe It’s Time to Repot

Tending the Garden

It’s springtime, and for the gardeners among us, that means digging our hands into earth, pruning overgrowth and planting seedlings for the harvest to come. It also means weeding, tending to ailing plants and finding new homes for the rootbound ones beginning to wilt.

Perhaps you’re feeling a bit wilted yourself. Have you been rooted in the same career for years? Has the zing for accomplishment morphed into a dull boredom and resignation to monotony? Do you find yourself daydreaming about new career trajectories that could offer deeper satisfaction?

Time to Repot

It might be time to repot. Former Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) Dean Ernie Arbuckle taught a generation of Stanford students the secret to lifelong flourishing: “Repotting, that’s how you get new bloom.” He advises, “You should have a plan of accomplishment and when that is achieved you should be willing to start off again.”

Arbuckle’s advice to repot every decade stuck with many Stanford alumni, including Donald E. Petersen, who told The New York Times, “It’s time to repot myself” when stepping down as head of Ford Motor after 10 years. Arjay Miller, who succeeded Arbuckle as Stanford GSB dean, repeated the line at his resignation.

From Mad Man to Philanthropist

Peter Hero, another Arbuckle mentee, left a lucrative Madison Avenue agency when the pointlessness of his career suddenly smacked him in the face during a debate about Sugar Crisp cereal. “I have to get out of here,” Hero said, initiating a series of repottings that included managing Spice Islands, pursuing a graduate degree in art history, heading the Oregon Arts Commission and serving as president of the Maine College of Art.

Eventually, Hero accepted his current position as CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, growing its assets from $9 million to over $1.2 billion. Today, the foundation has an enormous philanthropic impact, distributing a million dollars a week to charitable organizations.

Hero has found the purpose lacking in his past careers. “I realized later on that the whole time I was exploring new paths, I was moving toward a job that for me was far more than a way to earn money,” he says.

To learn five lessons Hero offers on repotting, see Loren Mooney’s Insights article Is It Time to “Repot” Your Career?.

My Own Repotting

When I launched Capiche five years ago, I was in the midst of a major repotting myself. Not only was I starting my own consulting business, but I was also completing a master in management degree after decades of serving in marketing leadership positions.

My studies focused on the inspiration that would drive my business model: using science of happiness and positive psychology research to boost employee productivity, strengthen organizations and boost company profits. Ahead of the curve, I was excited to see happiness explode onto the business scene as publications such as Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal published a wave of articles validating my emphasis on employee happiness as a lynchpin of productivity and profit.

I continued to reinvent myself, earning a co-active coaching certification from The Coaches Institute (CTI). Adding coaching to my branding, culture and marketing services enabled me to work one on one with individuals, impacting companies through their leadership while helping people achieve life-changing personal and professional goals.

But I wasn’t done repotting. I wanted to apply my expertise to a subject I have always been passionate about: wine. Given the growing international recognition for Southern Oregon wineries, I decided to add a specialization in wine marketing.

Currently enrolled in the viticulture and enology program at the Southern Oregon Wine Institute (SOWI), I have spent the past year getting to know the regional wine industry. I serve on the Marketing Committee for the Southern Oregon Wineries Association and regularly attend events such as the Oregon Wine Symposium.

With every fresh repotting, I find a deeper sense of purpose and gratification, and Capiche clients benefit from my evolving range of expertise and expanding services.

What’s Next for You?

If you were to repot, where would you spread your new roots? What would you find most nourishing?

I would love to help you or your organization discover and fulfill your deeper purpose. Call 541.601.0114 or email me to begin repotting today.

Speak up! How Playing the Fool Might Just Save Your Company—and Your Job

Memento Mori

“Remember, you’re going to die.” Otherwise known as memento mori, this Latin admonition was whispered by servants into the ears of victorious generals during a Roman triumphal procession.

These days, leaders don’t employ slaves to remind them of their mortality, but perhaps they should. Well, not slaves, of course … maybe something more along the lines of a Shakespearean Fool.

Playing the Fool

The Fool is the one character who has license to tell the truth—without repercussions.

Organizations don’t need yes-men. Rather, their survival depends on people who are courageous enough to voice their concerns, identify weaknesses and play devil’s advocate to delusional, narcissistic leaders who may be steering the company toward self-destruction.

I know, the Fool is a scary role to play. You may even feel donning the jester hat is tantamount to risking your job. Giving voice to unflattering truths takes courage. But where will your job be if the organization collapses?

The Hero’s Journey

You might agree someone needs to speak up about bad decisions. Why does it have to be you?

There comes a moment in every hero’s journey when the protagonist walks away, gives up or simply refuses to heed the call to adventure. That’s where most people’s stories end.

Sure, they’re spared the Belly of the Whale and The Road of Trials, but they also don’t get to experience Meeting the Goddess, Atonement, Apotheosis or The Ultimate Boon.

Which version of the story would you rather live? Do you want to play the silent observer too fearful to point out the iceberg to the pigheaded captain, or do you want to shout a rallying call to action before your company founders?

A Touch of Stoicism

To steel your nerve for the journey, it might help to practice a little Stoicism. We’ve explored the benefits of Stoicism’s negative approach to happiness in past articles (see Part 1 and Part 2).

Ask yourself, What’s the worst that can happen? You lose your job? Then what? Follow that thread to its possible conclusions. You may discover that, like many people, losing your job liberates you to pursue your true calling. Considering how you may handle the worst possible scenario prepares you to cope when it arrives—or rejoice when it doesn’t.

Tips for Speaking Up

Trinnie Houghton offers some tips for learning how to speak up in her article “The Risk of Not Speaking Up.” Finding your voice is empowering, and it can start as simply as chiming in at each meeting. Houghton reminds us the organization’s health may depend on your willingness to offer a diagnosis.

What Slayed Nokia

In an INSEAD Alumni Magazine article, authors Quy Huy and Timo Vuori contend it was not Nokia’s inferiority to Apple, the company’s complacency or its leaders’ obliviousness to the impending iPhone that killed Nokia.

Instead, they blame the corporation’s demise on middle management’s fear of telling the truth. Temperamental, abusive bosses created an oppressive climate in which people were terrified to report declining sales or bring up the elephant in the room—an outdated operating system that could never hope to compete with iOS.

Healing a Toxic Workplace

So what can you do to change the course of a faltering organization when the climate is hostile to truth? If the workplace is toxic and top leaders are too egotistical, obstinate and emotionally unintelligent to listen to insiders, hiring an organizational development consultant like Chris Cook can spell the difference between disaster and success.

An outside consultant arrives without baggage, and leaders can more easily engage in the discovery process without feeling threatened. Employees feel free to speak the truth while their identities are shielded from vindictive bosses, and top management can be guided toward a more realistic perception of their organization and the steps needed to heal it.

The Ultimate Boon

Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris Cook to start your organization’s heroic journey toward The Ultimate Boon today.

Where’s the Beef? Why Customer Experience Is the New Marketing

What motivates you to try a new product or service? Is it a million-dollar ad campaign full of sound and fury? Is it that steady stream of robo emails you keep marking as Junk? Or maybe it’s those sidebar ads that pop up based on your content browsing habits.

I’m guessing it’s none of these because you—like most of today’s consumers—have a finely attuned BS barometer. In other words, you don’t believe the hype.

Instead, you probably seek out recommendations from friends. You listen to word of mouth, and you do your research. You carefully study Amazon and Yelp reviews, looking for verified purchasers and reviews that ring true.

In a consumer world where everyone is connected, shoddy quality and poor customer service have a global ripple effect that can deliver a deathblow in minutes.

That is why, according to Experience: The Blog author Augie Ray, companies shouldn’t be so much concerned with content marketing strategies as with customer experience.

Where’s the Beef?

The days are gone when a company can glide by on glitz, buying its way into consumers’ hearts with earworm jingles and inane catchphrases. We’re inured to their tactics because we see through them.

Transparency is the new watchword. If it isn’t WYSIWYG, people tune out.

As human beings, we crave authenticity. We demand substance—from product quality to customer service, every element of the experience must deliver genuine value.

Make It Real

We want to associate with organizations that possess a deep sense of purpose and values that echo our own—companies that live their brand.

One reason Thrive Market has been so deliciously successful is they began with a clearly defined mission: “to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.” And the many people who care about eating healthy, living sustainably, and helping to feed hungry families have been recommending them like crazy.

Rather than jumping into social marketing campaigns, Augie Ray argues in a recent interview that companies should be “focusing on improving the customer experience and then activating trusted peer-to-peer word of mouth.”

Be All That You Can Be

Cultivating a positive customer experience is not a skin-deep exercise. It goes down to the bones of your organization—your culture.

As we’ve repeatedly explored in past blog posts, your culture is your brand; your brand is your culture. Creating a workplace that is a palpable example of your core values helps nurture those values in your employees.

I’m Lovin’ It

If you want your employees to deliver a WOW experience to customers as Zappos does (see How to Live the Brand), you need to create a culture where you’re wowing your employees.

We already know from research that having happier employees means greater productivity and superior customer service (see The Top 4 Employee Needs to Fulfill for Greater Happiness and Productivity). The question is how to get there.

Be More

Honing your leadership capacities will help you foster a healthy, happy culture, and that in turn, will build the “empathy, loyalty, and trust” Ray describes as crucial to a successful company.

Ray writes, “The importance of purposeful, ethical leadership is underscored in Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report, which finds that the biggest gaps companies have are in attributes such as listens to customers; treats employees well; is ethical, transparent and open; and puts customers before profits.”

Just Do It

Like a Zen koan, the paradoxical truth is that by prioritizing employee happiness and customer experience over the bottom line, companies ultimately profit more. How can organizations not see the value in that?

Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris Cook to start building a healthier, happier organization today.

Note: Special thanks to one of our readers (Lisa Baehr) for sharing Augie’s interview and inspiring this article.

5 Strategies for Managing Attention

Do you live in a 200-emails-a-day world? Do you delete emails based solely on the subject line? Or merely skim the contents of most emails? Or automatically discard email from certain senders? Maybe you hit ‘5’ on your mobile phone to skip through long voicemails. More and more information gets ignored these days—and this sometimes results in critical matters not receiving the attention necessary.

Our workplaces have become increasingly leaner, with fewer people handling ever-growing amounts of work. Managers are working more hours than before. Many employees devote considerable time to work after hours, checking email and voicemail. With 24/7 Internet access, we need a strategy to process the sheer volume of information we receive to ensure we allocate our attention effectively.

Here are five strategies you can use to better manage your attention—and that of your employees.

  1. Control your gray mail—email generated from newsletters, coupons, discounted airfare, social media and more—with a productivity app like Unroll.me or SaneBox. These apps bundle the gray mail into a single summary email so you just need to scan one message instead of dozens of individual ones. Some productivity apps even handle the unsubscribe process for you on request.
  2. Use the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) principle when composing email. State the purpose of the email at the beginning, without all the details. End the email with your request for action. If the email is informational, your readers can opt to read it later. And if it requires action, they will be more likely to give it attention.
  3. Get less email by sending less email. Sometimes a quick walk down the hall or phone call will accomplish something in far less time than sending emails back and forth.
  4. Be judicious. If an email goes out companywide to remind everyone of a deadline and you reply all to say you’ve met the deadline, you’ve just generated dozens of unnecessary emails for others. Become more mindful of who needs to receive an email and who needs to see the reply.
  5. Remove heated conversations from the kitchen. Email can easily be misinterpreted, resulting in unintended consequences. Save the controversial topics for a face-to-face meeting or phone call.

What will you do with the time these strategies free up? Hmm . . . why not build, create, innovate, dream. . . . Focus on the things that truly make a difference for you, your organization and the world!

What strategies help you manage your attention? Please share.

Stop Working So Much!

Let’s start with a short quiz.

True or false: US businesses owe $224 billion in unused vacation time.1

True or false: Working 11-hour days or longer increases your chances of developing heart disease by 67% over those who work 7- or 8-hour days.2

True or false: Individuals who work more than 55 hours a week have lower productivity levels.3

If you answered true for all three questions, you’re right! In today’s economy, most of us find ourselves overworked as organizations reduce benefits and put the kibosh on raises.

Others, however, work for companies that value employee health and wellness. The December 15, 2015, issue of Fortune Magazine highlights a few standout organizations where work-life balance is serious business.

Denver-based software company FullContact specializes in contact management software. In addition to company stock options, employees enjoy 100% paid health, dental and vision care for the employee and family; free bus and light rail passes; parking stipends (for those who don’t live near bus or rail lines); one month a year to work remotely from any location in the world—with lodging and travel paid by the company; and paid holidays and vacation.

About that vacation. FullContact requires employees to take at least three weeks off every year. “There is a catch. You must be off the grid, no emails, no calling work, absolutely no work.”

Lindon, Utah–based BambooHR has a philosophy: “Do great work. Then go home. Work stays at work.” Their “no workaholics” policy requires that every employee leave the office by 5 pm. And no employee may work more than 40 hours a week. Benefits include three weeks off, 11 paid holidays, health insurance and more.

Many of us will never work for a company that provides free lunch and dinner (Google); on-site gyms and free Taylor Swift concerts (Yahoo); on-site massage services and pet insurance (Scripps Health); concierge services to pick up your groceries or change the oil in your car (SC Johnson and Son); three to six months of partially paid time to do volunteer work (Deloitte); or professional dress clothing advances (Umpqua Bank).

You might, though, work for an organization that offers benefits promoting employee work-life balance. If so, the benefits are probably quite evident to you!

If you are a leader, consider how you might implement new goals for 2016:

  1. Help your employees take advantage of accrued vacation time.
  2. Reduce employee risks of developing heart disease by keeping their workdays to eight hours.
  3. Ensure maximum productivity of employees by reducing demands beyond a 40-hour week.

Your employees will thank you. Their families will thank you. And your company will retain employees who are engaged, productive, creative and healthy. Gee—wouldn’t that help you meet your strategic goals!

References

  1. Oxford Economics analysis based on SEC filings for 114 companies (2015).
  2. University College London study (2011).
  3. Study conducted by Stanford University’s John Pencavel (2014).

What’s Your Theme for 2016?

Here’s how to set yourself up for success in the new year.

Guess what? You get to choose the way you show up in 2016. Barring certain life circumstances, you can set the tone for personal and professional experiences. Whether you are conscious of this or not, you DO set the tone for your experiences.

Think about this as you look back on last year.

  • Was it a good year?
  • What tone did I set for the year, and how did it play out?
  • What am I grateful for, and what do I appreciate about last year?
  • What is there for me to acknowledge about myself in 2015?
  • How would I rate 2015 on a scale of 1 to 10—personally and professionally?
  • What would have made 2015 an 11 out of 10?

As you think about 2016, what tone do you want to set? How do you want to experience 2016? How do you want people to experience YOU in 2016? (Think of it as creating your personal brand.)

  • As you look ahead to 2016, what excites you?
  • What are your key goals and objectives for 2016?
  • What state of being will best serve you in 2016?
  • Where and how do you want to stretch yourself in 2016?
  • What will make 2016 an 11 out of 10 year for you, both personally and professionally?
Climb ev’ry mountain,
Ford ev’ry stream,
Follow ev’ry rainbow,
’Til you find your dream.

Finally, what is a possible theme for the year that could serve as a structure to lock in a SUCCESSFUL 2016? Think about a song, movie, book, or TV show.

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve picked a song with rich meaning and memories—Climb Ev’ry Mountain by Rodgers and Hammerstein. How well I remember going to the theater with my mom to see The Sound of Music and leaving the movie singing at the top of my lungs.

Want some help focusing in on your theme for 2016? Call 541.601.0114 or email me for a complimentary coaching session. Now’s the time to get clarity for a great new year. Cheers!

Is Your Work a Test of Endurance or a Labor of Love? Find out with a Simple Survey.

What makes you happy at work? Benefits? Bonuses? Vacations?

Well none of these, actually. The top factors determining a person’s happiness at work are whether they a) enjoy the actual tasks required, b) are able to focus on the things they do best and c) are proud of their employer. Other factors that can impact happiness include relationships at work; the job’s social impact; feeling in control of your work and of workplace decisions; and sensing that you’re progressing and learning.

Statistics show your happiness at work is also a result of skill levels, providing service, supervising others and working at a small company, according to the Happiness at Work Survey jointly developed by Delivering Happiness at Work (DH@W) and Nic Marks.

DH@W is the consultancy firm Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh founded on the heels of his 2010 bestseller, Delivering Happiness.

Nic is one of the founding directors of Happiness Works as well as a fellow of the new economics foundation (nef) and a board member of Action for Happiness. He is best known for creating the award-winning Happy Planet Index—the first global measure of sustainable well-being. Nic spoke at the prestigious TEDGlobal conference in 2010 and authored one the first TEDbooks: A Happiness Manifesto.

More than 11,000 people in 90+ countries have taken the 47-question Happiness at Work Survey, which asks simple questions regarding work-life balance, use of time on the job and overall feelings while at work.

The results confirm that highly skilled workers are 50% more likely to be happy at work than their unskilled counterparts. People whose work involves caregiving or direct service are 75% happier than, for example, those in sales. Supervisors are 27% more likely to be happy than those who are supervised. And you are 25% more likely to be happy working for a company of fewer than 100 employees than for a business with 1,000 or more employees. Age matters, too. Workers age 40 and above tend to be happier than younger employees.

The 47-question survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. It asks questions such as, “How satisfied are you with the balance between the time you spend on your work and the time you spend on other aspects of your life?” and “How much of the time you spend at work do you feel bored?” The assessment also includes questions about colleagues and managers, workspace environment and your individual demeanor. After completion, survey respondents receive personalized reports intended to help navigate the way forward—particularly if, like many workers, they feel work is a test of endurance instead of a labor of love.

Some consider happiness in the workplace a fluffy subject. There’s an extensive body of research, however, demonstrating that a happy workforce can make a big difference. One large meta-analysis found happy employees have on average 31% higher productivity, their sales are 37% higher and their creativity is some three times higher than less-happy workers.

Recent research from the University of Warwick, UK, and IZA, Bonn, Germany, showed that randomly selected individuals who were made happier exhibited approximately 12% greater productivity, as measured by a standardized task of correctly adding combinations of numbers for 10 minutes. In one experiment, a comedy movie clip was played to a group of subjects. Their subsequent productivity was found to be substantially greater (approximately 13%) than the control group that had not viewed the clip (December 15, 2015, HBR The Daily Stat).

Take the happiness survey to find out how happy you are at work. We’ll be curious to hear the results!

Want to make a happy workplace? Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris Cook at Capiche. She will help you assess what’s happening now and make positive moves to increase happiness (and productivity) at work. Your work really can be a labor of love!

Rewire Your Brain for Happiness: Why What You Think About Is What You Think About

This time of year, I’m reminded of the connection between gratitude and happiness and the need to get more of both. I’ve noticed people tend to spend more time focusing on what is wrong and not enough about what is right in their lives.

For some people, it’s their job. People in professions like tax accounting, auditing, and law may be even more focused on the wrong—the mistakes—because that’s what they are trained and paid to do: to find the wrong and fix it.

What happens when we focus on what’s wrong more than what’s right? Harvard researcher Shawn Achor calls it the Tetris Effect. I call it “What You Think About Is What You Think About.” Granted, Shawn’s title is catchier, but mine is more descriptive.

Four years ago, a Google search for gratitude + happiness yielded 14.6 million results. This month, the same search yielded 25.8 million results. That’s 11.2 million more instances of gratitude + happiness online. Now that in itself is something I’m grateful for, and it makes me happy. That means more people discussing, researching, writing about and considering the combination of gratitude and happiness at reputable institutions such as The New York Times, Harvard, Psychology Today and Forbes.

In a research study, 27 Harvard students were paid to play the videogame Tetris for multiple hours a day, three days in a row. In the following days, the students reported they couldn’t stop seeing the Tetris shapes everywhere they looked. Their brains kept trying to rearrange everything—from buildings and trees on the landscape to cereal boxes on the shelf in the grocery store—to form a solid line so as to advance to the next level of the videogame. They couldn’t stop seeing the world as sequences of Tetris blocks!

This is caused by a natural physical process that actually changes the wiring of the brain. These new neural pathways warped the way these students viewed real-life situations. When people are focused on something—anything—their brains adapt and hone in on those circumstances and events.

A tax accountant may be terrific at her job, but when she brings her way of looking at the world home, she will miss seeing all the good in her life and may be on the road to depression. The same goes for the great attorney, who may be terrific in court but not so much at home, where family members feel like they are participants in a deposition.

Think about what you think about. When you notice something good happening, really notice it. Relish it. The more you can take notice, the more you will begin to see. Revisit my blog post What Went Well to learn a great technique for boosting your awareness and gratitude for the happy moments in life.

References

Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principals of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group.