It’s official: happiness is good for your career, and your career can make you happy.
In today’s business world, driven by competitive advantage, success and wealth, happiness can quickly be relegated to a wishful aspiration. But as we look for ways to succeed, one psychologist believes the ancient goal of joy can bring us personal well-being and career prosperity.
Dr Martyn Newman, the consulting psychologist for Randstad, says three decades of research have established clear links between specific emotional skills and our health, wealth and well-being.
“We have found high levels of emotional capital lead to increased productivity. Many studies show that happy people are more creative, solve problems better and more quickly, live longer, and enjoy high levels of leadership influence. When people feel better, they perform better.”
but how can we feel happier more of the time?
Three extensive findings have emerged from research into happiness, and they may surprise you.
1. it’s not all about your environment
Outward conditions such as wealth, high IQ or being in a committed relationship account for no more than 10 to 15 per cent of the factors contributing to satisfaction.
2. it’s not all in your genes
Although there is some genetic predisposition for happiness, our future life satisfaction is not set in stone. Genes influence such traits as having an upbeat, easygoing personality, dealing well with stress, and feeling low levels of anxiety and depression.
However, a systematic study of 4000 sets of twins concluded that only about half of life satisfaction comes from genetic programming.
“This means that half of our future happiness rests in our own hands,” says Dr Newman, author of Emotional Capitalists – The New Leaders (John Wiley) and the Emotional Capital Inventory – the first scientifically designed tool for measuring emotional intelligence and leadership.
“We are neither at the mercy of our moods nor our environment, but rather our emotional well-being is more in our control than we ever imagined,” he says.
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3. we can control our happiness!
How we live and think, how we perceive life’s events, and how we react to them can influence our happiness considerably. “We can take the edge off negative feelings by directly awakening positive emotions.
We often have more freedom than we realise to improve our perception of a situation – even when we can’t directly change the problem itself.”
Another surprising discovery from brain research is that the adult brain continues to develop and change.
“Thoughts trigger these changes, but more by emotions,” says Newman. Just as we learn a new sports skill, we can train our natural aptitude for positive feelings and increase our capacity for emotional wealth.
Using optimism as a strategy can also be an effective way of dealing with difficulties and sensing opportunities. If we give in to negative emotions like disappointment or sadness, we not only fail to ease them, but we reinforce them.
Repeated emotions like joy or sadness act like drops of water on a rock. Each one evaporates quickly, but many drops carve out a channel over time. Fortunately, it is not only negative emotions that can become entrenched with regular use; optimism can also become a habit. Practising kindness, compassion, and other virtues lifts your stocks of emotional capital. Giving makes you feel good about yourself and creates meaning in your life.
According to Newman, loving what you do is necessary to maintain your emotional well-being.
Passionate people spend twice as much time thinking about what they've accomplished, how achievable the task ahead is, and how capable they are of achieving it.
The most fundamental finding from the science of happiness is that almost everyone feels happier when they're with others, significantly when contributing to others.
4. happiness makes you more effective and enables peace of mind.
When your mind is peaceful, your mood lifts, you take in information effectively, and your mind becomes agile and creative. A consistently positive mood enables you to foster positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need – the perfect recipe for career success.