According to Shawn Achor, one of the world's experts on happiness, one of the quickest hacks to becoming happier is "engaging positively with people in your social support network."

In other words, being kind to others actually makes you happier.

It can also dramatically increase your chances of getting a promotion.

A few years ago, Achor, in conjunction with fellow researchers Phil Stone and Tal Ben-Shahar, conducted a study of 1,648 Harvard students. They were looking for predictors of happiness during periods of high stress.

What they discovered was that the greatest predictor had nothing to do with diet, exercise, meditation, or gratitude journals.

Instead, the number one predictor of happiness when students were really stressed out was ... connection to each other.  

"[W]e found that social support was the greatest predictor of happiness during periods of high stress," Achor reported.

In other words, when a student was under a lot of stress, the best way to tell whether they were still happy during that anxious time was whether they felt connected to their fellow students. In fact, the correlation between happiness and social support was a massive .71 (on the scale the researchers used, that's almost twice as correlated as smoking is to cancer).

What was even more surprising, however, was Achor's subsequent research.

While the original study examined social support the students received, his follow-on research looked at how much the students themselves gave to others--the social support they provided.

How often did a student assist someone else when they were overwhelmed? How often did they check in with other students, ask how they were doing, see if there was something they could do to help?

The researchers called the people who consistently did these kinds of things, "social support providers."

We all know who they are in the office. They're the ones who you feel safe asking to cover for you in a meeting, because they almost always say yes. They're the ones who pick up the slack for others; who always make sure someone's birthday is acknowledged; who actively celebrate the accomplishments of others on Slack; who are enthusiastic about the company softball game and go out of their way to make sure everyone feels included.

According to Achor, social support providers are not only 10x more likely to be engaged at work, they're also a full 40 percent more likely to get a promotion.

That's not a small number--it's a huge jump in the likelihood of getting a promotion.

But it makes sense when you think about it. Managers as well as colleagues notice when you're helpful. And if you're a manager looking to promote from within, you're going to take into account how well-liked and -respected a member of the team is. You're also more likely to get recommended for a promotion in the first place when you've been helpful to the people around you.

But the point here isn't just that you're more likely to get promoted because you're helpful--it's that being helpful makes you happier, which puts you in a better frame of mind in terms of receiving said promotion.

When you're happier, you're not in your head as much. You're thinking less about what you don't deserve or what you can't accomplish than about creativity and possibilities.

I was once feeling really depressed at a brunch party. I was basically feeling sorry for myself for a variety of reasons and couldn't seem to hit my stride. After half an hour plus of moping, I decided to test out a new strategy: put positive attention on someone else.

So I asked Amber, a friend of a friend, how she was doing and what she was working on. Long story short, we got into an hour-long discussion about her entrepreneurial dream of baking really fancy cakes. I kid you not, I spent the following hour doing actual back-of-the-napkin calculations about cake costs, how much it'd be to rent a commercial kitchen a few nights a week, and discussions about the name of her new business.

By the time I left, I felt about a hundred times better than when I'd walked in. And Amber looked me straight in the eye and said, "Thank you. For the first time, this feels doable. I think I'm going to do it."

She did do it. At first on the side, then as a full-on, full-time business. And in 2015, she was featured in Brides magazine as one of the best wedding cake bakers in northern California.

The point is that when it comes to being really, really ridiculously helpful to those around you at work, it's win/win/win.

It's a win for your colleagues, because they get assistance with what they need (which also boosts the morale of the team, and sets you all up for success).

It's a win for you because you're 40 percent more likely to get a promotion.

And it's also a win for you because you end up happier--and when you're happier, you're healthier, more productive, and have a better outlook on the future.

Be kind to others at work. You never know where it will lead, but wherever it is will be beautiful.

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"A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees." - Amelia Earhart

Published on: Jun 9, 2019
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