29 August 2012

Happiness Matters

Happiness Matters

A few months ago, I decided to check out LessMoneyConf and see what other companies similar to mine were doing, and if they experience the same types of challenges we do. It was certainly interesting to hear how others were solving similar problems, but it wasn’t until the last hour of the last day that I heard someone say something, however obscure, that stuck in my mind ever since.

There was a particular discussion about how to solve a difficult business issue that would be hard to solve and still keep everyone happy. Without spending a lot of time describing the problem, the comment was made that in the end, you should do what makes you happy. “Do what makes you happy?” At first I thought, “Really? Is this guy saying I should only be concerned with my own personal happiness without regard to anyone else?” That certainly didn’t make sense to me, however, on further reflection, I realize now that’s not what he meant at all.

Why should I care about happiness?

I doubt anyone would disagree that our lives are very busy. Most families have two income earners, kids are in school 8 hours a day, sports, homework, etc. My life isn’t much different, although with the added responsibility of running a business. Decisions are hard. Trying to balance work and family is hard. Trying not to feel too stressed is hard. All of these things have been bouncing around in the back of my mind, then I heard this seemingly content individual say, “Do what makes you happy.” Why should I care about happiness when it comes to business, I mean, does happiness really matter?

Happiness is about our lives as a whole. It’s a description of our overall satisfaction with life. It’s certainly influenced by our genetics, upbringing, and experiences, but that’s only half of the story. Research shows that about 50% of our own happiness is influenced by our genetics and upbringing. That being true, what about the other 50%? Many people mistakenly believe, including myself, that income and environment to be the greatest contributor to overall happiness. Makes sense right? If I have enough money to feel secure, I’ll be happier. If my environment is less stressful, I’ll be happier. The same research shows this isn’t the case; in fact, income and environment only contribute about 10% to our overall happiness. So, what about the other 40%? I’m learning the other 40% gets to the core of what this guy was saying, “Do what makes you happy.”

All things considered, how happy are you?

There have been significant advances in the science of well being in recent years.This research has led many to try and measure happiness and the factors that affect it. It’s interesting to note that the most basic way of measuring personal happiness is to ask a very basic question, “How do you feel about your life?” or “All things considered, how happy are you?” Certainly the answers to these questions are subjective in nature, but the answers in reality are correlated to objective brain activity. There are many more studies that show happiness is responsible for better body function, especially immune response. People that are more generally positive are less likely to get the flu. In fact, positive meditation training has been shown to actually increase the density of grey-matter around the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory function, also in brain structures associated with compassion and introspection.

“Do what makes you happy” is at the core of the 40%. It doesn’t mean do whatever to fulfill your own selfish desires; on the contrary, the other 40% contributes to our overall happiness by the activities, relationships, and overall outlook we have in our lives. The conscious choices we make each day really matter. How we treat one another matters. How we treat our customers and our employees matter. The relationships we build matter. This is the point that was being made by this smart guy. Make decisions each day that influence your own personal happiness, which can’t be done at the expense of others, but rather with others. People who care more about others are always happier than those who care less about others. He is saying, care more about your customers, care more about your employees, your employees families, your own family. It all matters!

Happiness breeds success.

Most people mistakenly think that success breed’s happiness. I’ve thought the very same thing for many years, but this formula is backwards. Happiness breeds success. It’s scientific. People who experience positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions reach a tipping point in their lives and become more naturally resilient to adversity and are better equipped to achieve the things important in their lives. The good news is, we all can choose to live our lives happier, no matter our circumstances. When we make this choice, we influence each one around us. So, in business, work, or any aspect of our lives, the decisions we make should absolutely be weighted by how happy it makes us. “Do what makes you happy.” I get it now… Happiness matters.

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Heads up! This article may make reference to the Gaslight team—that's still us! We go by Launch Scout now, this article was just written before we re-introduced ourselves. Find out more here.

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