Friday, April 24, 2015

It pays to get happy

I don’t know.  I’m all for optimism, but this guy looks ‘way too happy for me.

Come on, admit it:  ‘Too happy’ scares you as well, right?  Don’t you squint a little bit and turn away, ever so slightly, from a person who is happier than the occasion warrants?

It’s different if a guy is angry – maybe because his underwear has bunched up and he’s at work behind the counter at the deli and he doesn’t have a break wherein he can make an adjustment for another 20 minutes – I can relate. 

All right, maybe I haven’t been in that exact situation, but I did work 30 years in public schools.  See what I mean?

OK.  Never mind that.  Just stay with me for a moment.  This is a Harvard guy, Shawn Achor, the bestselling author of The HappinessAdvantage, talking on TED about how we’ve had it backwards all along:  Success doesn’t bring happiness – Happiness brings success.

And just as an aside:  Is there any book out these days that is not a “national bestseller”?  Or written by a New York Times bestselling author?  Or a National Book Award nominee? 

I have one on my nightstand right now that is “Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.”  What?  Oprah’s Book Club list of books that all the cool lemmings are reading doesn’t matter anymore?

I’m just sayin’ that it’s starting to seem like there’s a book prize for everyone who persists through all the vagaries of book writing and the industry succumbs and publishes it. 

Actually, I’m hoping that’s true.  So if I ever complete the one I’m slogging through, someone will pin a ribbon on it – maybe the Book Writing for Dummies Award.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like the Harvard guy’s premise:  Happiness leads to success.  The idea is to go ahead and get happy because happiness is a better predictor of success than intelligence and skills.

This works perfectly for me.  I can celebrate my lack of skills.  And brains.

Shawn says, “If we can get somebody to raise their levels of optimism or happiness, turns out every single business and educational outcome we know how to test for improves dramatically.”

It must be working for him because he’s grinning like he has a staple caught in his teeth.  He’s on the way to the magnifying mirror with the tweezers and some floss and he doesn’t want to close his lips until he leans in and removes the offending wire.

And he’s a bestselling author.  Harvard guy.

“You can increase your success rates for the rest of your life and your happiness levels will flat-line,” he says. 

I can’t help wondering though, about the exact altitude of that happiness plateau.  Seems like it must be above sea level – you know, where you were when you were a failure.  It surely did rise as your success was rising.

OK, but wait.  Does he mean if you put happiness first, your success rate flat lines?

NO!  He does not! 

Shawn:  “… if you raise your level of happiness and deepen optimism, it turns out every single one of your success rates rises dramatically compared to what it would have been at negative, neutral, or stressed.”

So all that’s left is the getting happy part.  Luckily, the Grinster, er, Shawn, has a formula:  Here you go, how to get happy and, by extension, be successful.

First, express your gratitude three times a day.  Thank you, thank you, and thank you.  Check.

Next, list the things you’re grateful for every day in a journal.  But, this becomes redundant, right?  Otherwise you wind up going from family, friends and health to sunshine and pets.  All good, of course.  But soon it’s down to fresh ink cartridges and chow mein noodles.  I am grateful but…OK.

Practice random acts of kindness.  Check.

Meditate.  Check-ish.

Exercise.  Oh, I knew it would get to this!  How can something that engenders dread make you happy?  Whatever.

Turn it to your advantage Carolyn:  That exercise cringe?  The one that could pass for a smile, a big, stretched, unnatural smile?  Like your puppy sliced you with his baby razor teeth?  It counts.

Just smile and dance the dance.  See?  You’re more successful already.