While we know that leaders are partly responsible for setting the right conditions for employee happiness, employees have to be held responsible for making wise choices to ensure their own happiness, no matter what curve balls life throws their way.
While combing through my own research and notes on what successful and happy people do, it struck me how intentional they are in working the happiness advantage, putting emphasis on choosing the right mindset and literally training their brains to become happier and more optimistic. It's a lifelong commitment.
Here are seven habits of the happiest people, which will make the rest of us perpetually jealous if we don't hop on the wagon and join them.
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
Each morning for 21 days, write down three new things for which you are grateful from the previous day. Perhaps something about your co-workers, a recent project that impacted your organization, your advancing career path, or something that is working really well for you. Popular psychologist Shawn Achor, who tuned me into this two-minute exercise, says the reason it is so powerful is that you're training your mind to scan for positives instead of negatives. He says--and get this--this specific activity is the fastest way to teach optimism. No joke! It will significantly improve your optimism even six months later, and raises your success rates significantly.
2. Spend money on shared experiences.
Several studies found that happiness comes from experiential purchases that involve other people, like taking in a play, shooting a nine-hole round of golf, or going out to dinner or coffee. Happy people that do this as lifestyle improve their well-being more than if they were buying material possessions. The researchers found that it's "less the doing that creates happiness than it is sharing the doing."
3. Stay in the present.
When you ruminate about past failures, tragedies, and disappointments, or obsess too much on the future, you prevent yourself from fully enjoying life in the here and now. Happy people aren't perfect -- they experience pain like anyone else. But once they heal and recover, they let go of grudges, anger, pain, and fear because those things no longer serve them.
4. Stay connected to others.
In all my years coaching clients, I found that those who are more isolated are typically depressed and unhappy. On the flip side, the happiest people are in close connection with friends, co-workers, and family; they invest in new friendships and build new networks to give them the security and support system to get through hard times.
5. Be a compassionista.
In empathy, feeling what another person feels brings two people closer and trust develops. Compassion takes it up a considerable notch. It's objectively defined as "walking a mile in another person's shoes." It's being an active participant in helping another person move through struggles. On a leadership level, a notable practitioner of "compassionate management" is none other than Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn. He believes every leader should try to do everything in their power to remove the pain and alleviate the suffering of employees.
6. Have good emotional boundaries.
Negativity is rampant. We can't scroll Facebook updates before being hammered by someone's political rant or hatred. Happy people remain in the positive because they control what they let in -- whether on social media or in people interactions. So take the stand of a happy person: Protect yourself by limiting exposure to negative things and negative people; seek out friendships with people who will lift you up; and read stories about the good things happening around the world.
7. Ask for help.
A happy person has a healthy ego. She or he has that perfect balance of self-confidence coupled with personal humility enough that, when things go above their heads or get beyond their capabilities, they ask for help. Assuming you're not in a toxic work environment, asking for what you need is the surest way to get it.