Winning with Joy: The Golden State Warriors

I don’t usually do this, but after a meeting last week with friend and colleague Diana Hartley, I was inspired. She told me about her love for the Golden State Warriors and how it came to be. This story resonated with me so strongly I had to share. Below is Diana’s article.

Note: This post was originally published at Diana Hartley Consulting. Thanks to Diana for allowing us to republish it here.

Sports has never been my thing. I was raised in New York City, which meant my family’s sports were shopping and going out to eat. As a child raised partially in Manhattan and West LA, I did attend a few Dodgers games and one or two evenings of Golden Gloves boxing (of all places for my dad to take us in our white gloves and Mary Janes!).

Sports was never encouraged, so after a few attempts at biking and roller skating and falling into rose bushes, I gave up in favor of indoor activities such as ballet, jazz, and tap. I was in LA, and that’s what young ladies did at the time. It took decades, but sports showed up big time last year, and I am thrilled it did.

Last year when my friend Jim started talking a mile a minute (not his normal speed) about Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, I listened. His nonstop enthusiasm brought me into his living room to watch Steph and the team do remarkable things night after night, game after game—all the way through the playoffs and their championship win. Wow, such happy energy, such honest victories. I was smitten.

I think what really made me fall in love, besides the high I always get from watching excellence, was how the team seemed to be coached. Something was different about the Warriors. I could feel it. Head Coach Steve Kerr stressed having fun while still being able to compete at the highest level.

“It’s a long season, this was meant to be fun,” he was quoted as saying in a CBS Bay Area article in 2015.

His style seemed down to earth, positive, and highly effective, with no BS and very little ego. In the same article, he described four important values from his coaching philosophy. They are joy, compassion, mindfulness, and competition. Who would have thought three of these values would be soft skills?

Even though the NBA basketball season is the longest in sports—with six more weeks of playoffs until the final championship game—the Warriors brought it with heart and savvy to each and every game. They had what it took to finish the season as champs. Steve’s humane coaching style, generally relaxed demeanor, and wry sense of humor kept everyone grounded and focused.

“When we hit those four things, we’re not only very tough to beat, but we’re very fun to watch, we’re very fun to coach, we’re very fun to be around,” he told the reporter.

How could these values be used to coach a sports team? How does Kerr use them to bring success to his team? Can joy, compassion, and mindfulness really be part of a winning strategy in the highly competitive world of professional basketball? We’re talking about an organization worth $3.1 billion. Do soft skills generate sports dominance and billions of dollars, too? It appears so for the Golden State Warriors organization.

I am not in the locker room or practice facility nor at courtside, but I intuit the word “joy” to mean a great, easy enjoyment for playing with teammates who love the game equally. The Warriors really seem to love what they do, and their enthusiasm is contagious. As their fans know, when the Warriors are on, you can feel the joy in your living room.

The team plays for the love of the game, and that’s joy. Kerr’s coaching style supports handpicked players who work hard for each other because they are all crazy about basketball. It gives them the juice to play a tough game night in and night out for months on end. I believe their natural exuberance comes from team pride and a desire to deliver victories to their huge fan base, both young and old.

Mindfulness, well, that’s another story. I don’t know what that means to Coach Kerr, but for me it is staying tuned to the present moment, acknowledging and respecting others. I see this presence and lack of negativity each time a player is interviewed, teaches their youngest fans the fundamentals of the game, or speaks lovingly about the charities they so generously donate time and money to. These individuals care about others a great deal.

Compassion is empathy at its best. I know that when I feel compassion, I extend my heart to others and am open to understanding them even when it’s hard, even when I don’t like them. It is a belief in people, fairness, and acceptance. Compassion means caring for others, sometimes more than yourself. I see this in the unselfish way the Warriors share the ball as they play. Kerr supports team victories, not star player victories.

And, of course, the last value—competition—must be present to be your best in the world. For the Warriors, I do not think competition means “winning at any cost” because the other three values make competition a game, not ego enhancement. They are great role models for fairness in sports and the many young people who look up to them. This means they competite to win, naturally, but they also compete with themselves to be better every day. All great athletes compete with themselves first.

Why did I share this blog on Coach Kerr and the Warriors (besides being a crazy fan)? Okay, so I wanted to write about them for a while, but I also wanted to show you a winning example of cooperation, teamwork, joy, mindfulness, and compassion, within a competitive business. I wanted you to see that a team, with fans throughout the world, can be role models for how we interact with others in everyday life and can create a win-win situation.

I know that if all of us can embody these values in our daily lives, we will find a way to create a world that works for us all. That is my hope for a brighter future.

So, go out there and be a warrior of joy.

Photo: Thanks to Ron Adams, Ray Rider, and Matt de Nesnera of the Golden State Warriors organization for this photo.

It’s Time to Use Big Data! (Here Are 5 Mistakes to Avoid)

Far too few businesses are using big data to support their decision making. In January 2018, a senior analyst with Forbes revealed that business competitors are using data to come after your customers. The Harvard Business Review surveyed Fortune 1000 business executives and found the most common reasons for using big data were to decrease expenses, improve operational efficiency, make more informed decisions, and increase revenue. And 80% say their investments in big data are successful.

Basing business decisions on big data is great—except when it’s not. Basing high stakes decisions on poor-quality research is a recipe for financial disaster.

Here are some of the most common big data errors we see:

  1. Misleading statistics. You may remember the advertisements claiming 80% of all dentists recommend Colgate toothpaste, leading the consumer to believe 20% of the dentists recommended different brands. The truth, though, was that when the dentists were surveyed about the toothpastes they recommended, they were allowed to identify all of the brands of toothpaste they would recommend; other brands could have been equally as or more popular than Colgate.
  2. Failure to test the survey questions. It’s easy to create a set of survey questions and send them out through SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics. But if you haven’t pretested and piloted the questions, you can end up with questions that make sense to you—but not to the person taking your survey. Recently, we were asked to complete a survey about our spending on wine purchases made at wineries. Unfortunately, it was unclear whether our spending was to include—or exclude—wine purchased from the winery as part of a wine club membership. Had the survey been pilot-tested, this flaw would have been quickly identified and corrected before deployment.
  3. Biased interpretation of findings. It matters who does the analysis of survey responses to open-ended questions. This is especially true when a survey is conducted in-house because it is difficult for staff to separate themselves from the data. Unless your team has a staff member specifically trained in eliminating bias, it’s better to outsource your research.
  4. Lack of candor from survey participants. Your customers generally do not want to hurt your feelings. They are not going to tell you directly your annual customer appreciation event is a dud. This is especially the case where staffing is concerned—and even more so if the staff person administering the survey is also the source of dissatisfaction.
  5. Failure to collect data. Fewer than half of all businesses collect data at all. In retail businesses, many do not have any idea how many customers come through the door each day, which means the average sales per customer is also an unknown. You can get a ballpark idea using a people-counting electronic system. Sure, the UPS or FedEx carrier may walk through each day, as may staff, but that number will be fairly consistent and you will have a tangible way to measure growth in the number of customers coming through the door. And you’ll know which staff are doing the best job selling your product and which may need additional training—or a new line of work.

The Capiche team possesses more than 20 years of qualitative and quantitative research experience. We understand the importance of valid survey tools and test them thoroughly before deployment. Our most popular surveys have been used thousands of times. Your customers can respond honestly, and we can analyze the survey data without bias because we are a third party. Our only interest is helping you achieve greater success. And we can generally deploy a survey and have findings back to you in less than 45 days. Call us at 541.601.0114, email chris@capiche.us, or use our Contact form today to learn how we can help you leverage quality big data to grow your business now.

Lots to Complain About at Work? Here’s a Better Tactic

Have you ever had a moment of realization that all you’ve been doing lately is complaining? It can happen to the best of us. With blatant disregard for schedules, increasing incivility as the norm, and an ever-multiplying pile of work on our plates, it’s no surprise. Seems there’s plenty to complain about.

So how are your complaints received? In most cases, I’m guessing your answer is “not so well.”

Here’s another idea. See if you can find a request in your complaint—and get curious. Instead of complaining about Amber’s perpetual tardiness and Jason’s curt tone in meetings, try these two tactics.

  1. Find the request in your complaint. Decide what would make the situation better and ask for it. Make the request. This is the most straightforward and emotionally intelligent tactic. And you’ll be surprised how effective it is! (e.g., Instead of complaining to whomever will listen that Amber is always late, you say directly, “Amber, your tardiness upsets the team’s workflow. Would you please be more conscientious about our starting time?” She replies, “Oh, I apologize. Sometimes I get so caught up in my kids’ last-minute needs, I forget that you are counting on me to …”)
  2. Get curious. See what you can uncover about the offender. You may find legitimate circumstances contributing to the offensive behavior. And you may find you have more in common than you ever imagined. While that doesn’t excuse the behavior, it can help you develop a better relationship so you can talk reasonably about the behavior and make the request described in Tactic #1. These relationships create long-term benefits when you have ongoing collaborations.

What’s so bad about complaining? Plenty. It derails progress, creates negativity, and amplifies the annoyance and destructive feelings already present. It improves nothing.

You may be surprised how pervasive complaining is in our culture. When legendary Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith interviewed more than 200 of his clients, he discovered something that matched previous research he had read but still found hard to believe: “a majority of employees spend 10 or more hours per month complaining—or listening to others complain. Even more amazing, almost a third spend 20 hours or more per month doing so.”

Just think what could be possible if that time was shifted to actively asking for what you need and building relationships. A lot more positivity and progress would be possible—and isn’t that what we strive for?

If you’re looking to create a more positive culture in your work environment, call 541.601.0114 or email Chris for an initial conversation. Let’s tap into your organization’s positivity and unleash its potential.

Inspired by The Next Time You Want to Complain at Work, Do This Instead, by Peter Bregman

What’s Your Brand?

Branding is all the buzz and has been for some time, but branding can be confusing. What exactly is a brand? And how do you come up with your brand?

Let me answer by saying what a brand isn’t.

Your brand isn’t your logo, your colors, your fonts, or your website. These are simply reflections of your brand. Furthermore, you don’t “come up with” a brand—you uncover it. It’s what is real, honest, and believable about your organization or product.

It’s your DNA.

A brand also is the sum total of all associations made with an organization or product. It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly—the attributes that are called to mind when one thinks of your organization or product.

Every organization has existing brand associations it wants to emphasize, maintain, and even possibly lose. Brand development moves you from your current brand to your desired brand. And to be successful, your desired brand must be in sync with your organization’s values, vision, passion, and purpose.
Branding Sweet Spot

Differentiation and Integration

There are two key principles of brand development: differentiation and integration.

  • Differentiation suggests that the only sustainable market position is one in which you are offering something significantly different from and better than your competitors. These differentiators must evolve from current brand associations and be infused into the customer’s experience in real ways to be credible.

Only through research can we can identify an organization’s current brand associations and relevant differentiators—along with understanding client/customer needs and perceptions.

  • Integration means all marketing communications and activities reinforce the same core differentiators. In other words, integration requires that the organization is using one clearly defined voice across the board and up and down the line.

An organization’s brand should drive marketing strategies and all business decisions and give the organization something to live up to. For example, Apple invests millions of dollars annually to showcase its brand of innovation and high design. And Zappos’ entire culture is created to live its brand of happy employees, which leads to great customer service (and significant profits).

When your people are living your brand, their personal values are in sync with the company’s. They are happier, more productive, and your best ambassadors. Involve them from the start; get clear on values, vision, passion, and purpose; walk the talk; and enjoy your success!

SMART Brand Strategy
SIMPLE The more details we provide, the more vaguely we communicate
MEANINGFUL Must emphasize something that matters to our target audiences
ACCURATE Must truly describe the organization or product
REINFORCED Strategic business decisions must enforce the brand strategy
TANGIBLE Must be exhibited in clear ways in every customer experience

Uncover Your Brand

If you are ready to uncover your brand and solidify your company culture, give us a call at 541.601.0114 or contact us today. Let Capiche help you take your organization to the next level!

Old Tech for the New Gen: Millennials Love Snail Mail!

Note: This post was originally published at our sister site, Capiche.wine.
One of our biggest marketing surprises over the last few years has been how strongly millennials—the generation of digital natives—respond to direct mail. According to USPS Mail Moments 2016, millennials are more likely to read, organize, and sort their mail than all other generations. They are also less likely to discard their mail without reading it.

Millennials enjoy receiving mail more than their non-millennial counterparts, debunking the notion that the generation is paper-adverse. Half of millennials say they like to discover what the mail holds for them and consider their time engaging with mail as time well spent. As many as 34% feel excited at the prospect of checking their mail.

Why do these smartphone-addicted, electronically wired consumers still respond so strongly to print? Could it be, in part, how we are physically and psychologically wired? The answer is yes. Neuromarketing research shows our brains react differently to printed material than to digital media.

When the United States Postal Service partnered with the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University’s Fox School of Business to gauge responses to physical and digital advertising pieces, they found:

  • Participants processed digital ad content more quickly and spent more time with physical ads.
  • Physical ads triggered activity in a part of the brain that corresponds with the emotions that determine value and desirability.
  • With this stronger emotional response to physical ads, participants remembered them better.

Using brain images, biometrics (e.g., heart rate and blood pressure), eye tracking, and questionnaires to measure reactions, Canada Post found similarly intriguing results in its neuromarketing research. When they measured the response to campaigns that used the same creative approach and messaging for both physical and digital media, they found:

  • Direct mail campaigns required 21% less cognitive effort to process.
  • Participants’ recall was 70% higher if they were exposed to direct mail rather than a digital ad.
  • Activation in parts of the brain that correspond to motivation response was 20% higher for direct mail.

As human beings, we are wired to respond more strongly to physical, printed messages. For marketers who want advertising with long-lasting impact and easy recollection, printed materials clearly make a difference.

When planning your next marketing campaign, remember that physical mail—whether a letter, special offer, brochure, or flyer—presents a clear benefit that your consumers can engage with and respond to, providing ample opportunity to reach the generation with the most spending power: millennials.

Words of advice. Don’t send junk. Each piece of mail without perceived value chips away at your brand. Make it engaging. Make it worthwhile. Make it something shareable—person to person. Via snail mail. And maybe (wink) even on social media.

Is your organization ready for a fresh marketing campaign? Let us know. We would love to get you started.

Excerpted and edited from the USPSDelivers.com presentation Still Relevant: A Look at How Millennials Respond to Direct Mail (2017). Originally posted at Capiche.wine.
Don’t send junk. Each piece of mail without perceived value chips away at your brand. Click To Tweet

The Success Secret Every Company Knows but Few Achieve

Adobe understands it. And Google, Apple, Microsoft. Airbnb does, too. LinkedIn, KPMG, Accenture, the San Diego Zoo—they all get it. Zappos, certainly. And these companies are paragons of it, according to Entrepreneur.

Companies who know this success secret tend to have quadruple the average profit and double the average revenue—even while being a quarter smaller than other organizations Jacob Morgan analyzed in this article for the Harvard Business Review.

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you’ve probably already guessed what this elusive alchemy is since we’ve written about it a lot before. That’s right—employee engagement.

But why is it so hard for companies to get right—even while pouring millions into trying to obtain it?

For starters, most companies are slapping a band-aid on a broken leg and calling it good. That’s not going to do it.

Many of the problems at organizations with poor engagement are systemic, and it takes a deep cultural shift to address the underlying causes of disengagement and build a more authentic, inspiring workplace.

For Morgan, this means creating an experiential organization with desirable cultural, technological, and physical environments.

Out of the 250+ organizations he studied, only 6% were intensely focused on all three—and they had the performance upswings to show it. He also found a correlation between investment in these areas and inclusion on “best of” lists. Further, these companies saw substantial gains in stock value.

On the flip side, a fifth of the companies analyzed scored very low on all three fronts, and employees ranked over 50% of the organizations poorly in one or more of these areas. This shows how far most companies have to go.

But where to begin? Andrew Sumitani of TINYpulse wrote The Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement to help managers take those crucial steps toward organizational transformation.

Sumitani starts by sharing this TED talk on employee motivation by Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely:

He documents the significant financial advantages enjoyed by companies with higher employee engagement—including as much as 18% higher revenue per employee. Combine greater profits with the enormous savings yielded from employee retention and less absenteeism, and you start to understand why experiential companies are raking in the bucks.

Sumitani outlines two strategies for boosting engagement:

  1. Create recognition programs that honor contributions. Don’t hand out token achievement awards for simply reaching milestones like working a certain number of years. Most will move on before reaching that five-year anniversary if you don’t have an appealing workplace. Instead, acknowledge employees for substantive accomplishments, innovative ideas, and other extraordinary behavior. This recognition should be highly personalized and spontaneous rather than generic and perfunctory. Lastly, establish peer recognition programs that give employees opportunities to honor co-workers, whose accomplishments may otherwise go under the radar of high-flying managers.
  2. Survey, survey, survey. If you want to know what matters to your employees, ask them. Don’t burden them with bloated surveys every year or so. Rather, short and frequent is the way to go here. Bolster trust and open communication by transparently sharing the data. Then do something with those results. Formulate an action plan to show you are not only listening but genuinely committed to responding to concerns.

Capiche Can Help

Are you ready to propel your company to the next level of engagement, productivity, and profit? We can help you conduct the organizational analysis, collect the data and implement the strategies that can turn your organization into the next paragon of employee engagement. Email chris@capiche.us or call 541.601.0114 today.

Empathy in the Digital Era

Think the internet is deepening our perceived social isolation, increasing envy and amplifying feelings of disconnection?

Well, yeah, maybe—especially if you spend most of your time on social media—according to this 2017 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. And given the growing body of research on the higher rates of morbidity and disease associated with social isolation, we ignore these reports to our own peril.

But the internet also has the capacity to connect kindred spirits across the oceans, create community and cultivate empathy. You just need to know where to look.

What Is Empathy?

Surprisingly, many of us aren’t clear on what empathy really is. I love Brené Brown’s simple explanation:

As Brown states, “empathy fuels connection; sympathy drives disconnection.” She outlines the four qualities of empathy nursing scholar Theresa Wiseman discovered in her research:

  1. perspective-taking
  2. avoiding judgment
  3. recognizing emotion in others
  4. communicating that emotion

Teaching Digital Empathy

One textbook, Developing Digital Empathy, provides tools for teaching digital empathy, which author Yonty Friesem says involves:

  1. empathy accuracy: the ability to assess another’s internal state;
  2. self-empathy: possessing a sense of identity and agency;
  3. cognitive empathy: recognizing, understanding and predicting others’ thoughts and emotions;
  4. affective empathy: feeling what others feel;
  5. imaginative empathy: role-playing; and
  6. empathic concern: being compassionate toward others.

The article Developing Empathy in the Digital Age further explores how educators can strengthen students’ empathy. Arguing that technology cannot create the conditions (e.g., eye contact, conversation, vulnerability) required to develop such skills, Matthew S. Howell thinks reducing time spent on screens is a step toward reclaiming our humanity. With the average person staring at a screen for 10.5 hours a day—and research indicating digital stimulation can cause damage to the part of the brain (insula) related to developing empathy—instituting practices like Screen-Free Fridays at schools can help students rediscover face-to-face connections. How could you carry this over to your workplace?

Counteracting Negativity with Positivity

This GoodThink article on spreading positivity online suggests we can counteract the destructive patterns of cyberbullying and negativity through such simple acts as watching videos by and positively rating valuable content. When we reward the creators of constructive content instead of getting sucked into gossipy, cruel feedback loops, we are magnifying the impact of those positive messages and diminishing that of the negative ones.

In “Empathy and Vulnerability in the Digital Age,” Richard Raber writes eloquently about the power of the internet to simultaneously propagate voyeurism and identification, judgmentalism and understanding, pity and empathy—suggesting we can harness technology to support “meaningful action and empathic construction … if we can find ways of binding together our fractured sense of self and community instead of allowing social media and the internet to splinter us.”

Digital Tools for Strengthening Empathy

So how can we foster community, deepen our sense of connection and stimulate empathy in this digital age? By storytelling, witnessing, listening.

Here are eight tools to help with that journey:

  1. The Moth: Listen to ordinary individuals share funny, educational and poignant stories like this one that will influence the way you see others and stay with you for years.
  2. Storycorps: Watch animations of audio recordings by people sharing pivotal moments in their lives like how this man reacted to being robbed at knifepoint.
  3. School of Life: Explore fascinating topics such as philosophy, love, psychotherapy, political theory and emotional intelligence through aesthetically compelling, thoughtful videos like The Meaning of Life – in 60 Seconds.
  4. SoulPancake: This more lighthearted channel approaches topics ranging from dating to biases to forgiveness to kitten therapy with humor and compassion.
  5. Cut: Along the same lines as SoulPancake, this channel deals with the humorous to the profound, like this video of parents explaining suicide to their children.
  6. Humans of New York: View photos and learn the moving stories of individuals living on the streets of New York City.
  7. Seize Your Moments: If you’re tired of being bombarded by cynical news about the worst of humanity, take a moment to refresh with these inspirational stories from around the world.
  8. The Good Cards: Instead of going on a meaningless goose chase for Pokémon Go, try a game that encourages you to practice a good deed, one card at a time.

Other Ideas?

What are your favorite ways to cultivate empathy in the digital age? We’d love to hear your ideas.

Slammed!

Three years ago, I published a blog titled Too Busy? I was reminded of this as I got the notice from SOREDI that Slammed: Succeeding in a World of Too Busy author and friend Randy Harrington was the featured speaker at the upcoming 2018 Southern Oregon Business Conference. The blog still rings true, and I am delighted to revisit it along with Randy’s fantastic book.

Here’s what I wrote in 2014:

How did you answer the last time someone asked, “How are you?” I’ll bet it was something like:

  • Oh, I’m slammed!
  • I’m so busy!
  • Crazed!
  • Buried!

Recently a colleague told me she was “doing a trapeze act until the monster project is finished.” The week before, she was “wrapping up a gargantuan project.” Sounds impressive, but what does that even mean?

It seems that people have confused their own busyness with importance, value or worth. If I’m this busy, I must be in demand. I must have a thriving business. I must be very successful.

Think about the perception that your busyness creates for others. Have you created a personal brand as a very, very busy person? What does this mean? When I think “busy,” I think harried, rushing, frantic—and probably not necessarily effective or of great quality. More Tasmanian Devil and less effective leader or loving family member.

The sad thing is this perception of busyness is harming how we connect and how we interact with one another—both with colleagues and with family and friends. We forget to make time for important things like mentoring a new professional (they wouldn’t dream of asking for help from such a busy person). Or we may miss an invitation to a niece’s piano recital or basketball game because everyone knows “Aunt Chrissy is too busy.”

We have a choice in how we perceive and how we show up in the world.

I have chosen NOT to be busy busy busy. I prefer to think of myself as happily making my way toward my personal and professional goals. I take time for things that need time. I savor. I enjoy every moment that I can. I am grateful.

While I may have as many time challenges as the next person, I choose to represent myself (and think of myself) as a happy person who is in control of my life and not being run ragged by myriad demands and pressures. Ask me how I am, and chances are I’ll answer, “I’m great.”

Slammed

In Slammed: Succeeding in a World of Too Busy, Randy and coauthor Carmen E. Voillequé provide solid advice on reframing your “slammed-ness.” Below is an excerpt from the book.

We have to start thinking about where we are today and at the same time where we want to be tomorrow. If we can fence off the triage work in our minds for a moment, what does that give us permission to dream of for a new future? This act should be fun. It should feel like a breath of fresh air. It should be motivational.

Here’s a short list to get you started:

  1. Schedule exercise, meal prep time, yoga using your Outlook or smart phone calendar right alongside your meetings and conference calls, and try color-coding them to stand out. This will elevate health to the same level of importance of “worky-work.”
  2. Stop competing with other people for who has the most stress; just stop having those conversations. It really is that simple (ok, yes, but not easy!). And when people do complain about too much stress from being Slammed, make it an all stop moment where a solution will have to be found.
  3. Encourage and learn from others who seem to have figured out how to align time to their values and not the other way around. Rather than feeling a sense of judgment or jealousy, ask them to be your mentor in learning to avoid the trap of task saturation.
  4. Explore your artistic side. Any kind. Anywhere. It doesn’t have to be the next Picasso—even a quick doodle on your meeting agenda can be a source of inspiration! Art helps everything. Go see it. Make it. Read it. Doesn’t matter. Feed that part of your soul regularly.
  5. Include all development work as an accomplishment/goal in your professional growth. Don’t shy away from the fact that you are committing to be more healthy, happy, engaged and productive.

Most importantly, the way we talk about being busy has to change. “I am Slammed” is no longer in your vocabulary!

It’s time to change your vocabulary and how you approach your situation. Start with a positive mindset. As happiness guru Shawn Achor likes to point out, people get happiness backwards. Getting that monster project done will not make you happy—but your being happy will get that project done faster and better. It’s called the happiness advantage, and you can get it!

If you are looking to change how you approach your situation and be more positive, you are in luck. Research shows that we can rewire our brains at any point in our life. It comes with intention and practice, and it is absolutely doable. Let me know if you would like a free coaching session to get started.

Improve Your Relationships in Just 1 Second

Hello.

  1. Do you see me?
  2. Do you care that I’m here?
  3. Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
  4. Can I tell I’m special to you by the way you look at me?

At this time of year as many of us come together to celebrate our beliefs, the need for human connection seems even more acute. Last month, a friend posted on Facebook a link to an article I found especially poignant. I shared the article with my Emotional Intelligence class as we explored how to be in meaningful relationships.

In How to Change Your Life in One Second Flat, Katherine Schafler argues that we are always asking these four questions of everyone in our midst—everyone we have relationships with—from strangers at the grocery store to our romantic partners.

She says these questions are rarely verbalized, and neither are the answers. They are asked unconsciously and answered with actions, not words. Schafler notes that Maya Angelou is the one who first spoke about these four questions (although Schafler doesn’t cite her source). It makes sense though, as Angelou is also credited with saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Think about it. How do you feel when a stranger compliments you while in line at the grocery store? How do you feel when your partner doesn’t look up from their phone when you walk into the room?

The takeaway for me is to remember to be fully present with people and to appreciate them for who they are. All it takes is a split second to “see” someone, and that makes all the difference.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Increase Your Gratitude for Better Health

I’m teaching Working with Emotional Intelligence again at Southern Oregon University. This term, it’s for the Innovation and Leadership Program, a degree completion program for adults who previously started but did not finish their bachelor’s degree.

Recently, we talked about positive psychology and the role gratitude plays in our emotional and physical health. Research by Robert Emmons reveals that expressing gratitude improves physical, mental and social well-being.

Physical Benefits

  • stronger immune systems
  • less bothered by aches and pains
  • lower blood pressure
  • exercise more and take better care of their health
  • sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Mental Benefits

  • higher levels of positive emotions
  • more alert, alive and awake
  • greater joy and pleasure
  • more optimism and happiness

Social Benefits

  • more helpful, generous and compassionate
  • more forgiving
  • more outgoing
  • feel less lonely and isolated

Around Thanksgiving, I always begin to think more about what I am grateful for. I know that sometimes I forget to be grateful when I’m rushing through busy, jam-packed days and nights.

How do we get in touch with gratitude when it seems like there is so much negativity in the world?

We can start with these questions:

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What good did I do today?
  • How was I helpful today?
  • What went well today?

Asking yourself these questions makes you remember the good. And while at first it may take some thought to come up with the answers, it becomes easier with practice. Because you are focusing on the good, you’ll develop new neural pathways and start noticing the good as it’s happening.

Here’s a little exercise you can incorporate into your life to help you notice the good more readily and increase your feelings of happiness and gratitude. It’s called “What Went Well.” There are many variations, but I especially like Marty Seligman’s version (he’s the founding father of positive psychology). He suggests that at the end of each day you take a few minutes to write down three things that went well. These don’t need to be earth-shattering in importance (e.g., “The hiking boots I ordered online fit perfectly”), or they can be super-important (“My daughter just gave birth to a healthy baby boy.”)

It may seem awkward at first to write about positive events in your life, but stick with it. It will get easier. You’ll begin noticing the positive events as they are happening and have the opportunity to relish them. With daily practice, six months from now, you will be happier, more grateful and maybe even addicted to this exercise!

Are you already doing a variation on “What Went Well?” Please tell us about it in a comment below.