But before you consider implementing these practices in your schedule, a fair warning: Some may require eating humble pie and stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone.
I say this because improving your life means improving the life of someone else. Wharton professor and best-selling author Adam Grant said this: "The most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed."
In the end, virtuous habits tied to giving, service, gratitude, learning, and meaningful relationships beget success and happiness. Here's how you can get started.
Monday: Practice active, nonjudgmental listening.
Listening builds trust. When we listen--really listen--to someone, we communicate that they are valuable to us and have something valuable to contribute. But it must be in a receptive, nonjudgmental manner. Have you every spoken to someone who wouldn't even let you finish before they began to speak over you, arguing their point? They weren't listening at all. When people listen without judgment to each other, they set the stage to receive feedback they can't receive in any other way. Even if you have limited time with someone, look them in the eye, be totally present with that person and listen to what they have to say. It is the most cost-effective method of trust building and learning you can have in the workplace.
Tuesday: Shine the spotlight on a fellow co-worker or employee.
Considering this noble habit may bruise your ego, but there's something powerful that happens when we let other people have the glory. On Tuesday, pick out an employee or co-worker who deserves the accolades and shine the spotlight on him or her; let that person be seen, heard, respected, praised, and considered special. In fact, when we praise someone at work on a weekly basis (according to Gallup research), it increases a person's individual productivity and he or she is more likely to stay with the organization.
Wednesday: Focus on what really matters.
Actually, this may be good advice every day, and Steve Jobs would agree. He once said: "People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things."
As a follow-up to the last point, truly happy people live a simple life. They have a simple schedule. They live according to their values and purpose. They set strong boundaries around what comes into their life and have no problem saying no to anything that doesn't serve them. If something coming your way on Tuesday has little value, and it doesn't make you better on Wednesday, simply walk away.
Friday: Learn from a mentor.
The smartest people increase their knowledge by seeking out connections and sages to learn from. Let me ask you: Who are the people of influence in your life? Invite one of them to coffee and go out of your way to learn something new from this person. It will make you better, and he or she will appreciate the chance to pay it forward.
Saturday: Express kindness through a text or email.
Take two minutes on Saturday to write a positive email or text praising or thanking someone you know for something they did during the week. Now that you've kick-started this gratitude habit, consider what science has to say if you keep it going. Shawn Achor, Harvard-trained happiness researcher and the New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage, says people who do this every day will release dopamine in the brain. He says this is one of the best ways to create a long-term positive mindset and develop strong social connections, which is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness.
Sunday: Reflect on what your true priorities are going to be.
The happiest people have a purpose-driven life. Before you head into work on Monday again, take time to remind yourself today that the purpose of your life is not to work 10 or 12 hours per day, five days a week for 30 years, and then retire to a golf course in Florida. It should be to discover your true calling, journey to a great destiny, and leave a lasting legacy behind. So begin the week by thinking about how best to answer three very important life questions:
- What significant impact will I make on people and society?
- What is that one gift I will give to improve the lives of others?
- Whom will I boldly serve to fulfill my purpose?