Especially in today’s challenging work environment

Written by Leonie Pentz, VP Sustainability AIMS International

You might think more money, a better job, or Instagram-worthy vacations would make you happy. You’re dead wrong.

I borrow this introduction verbatim from *Dr. Laurie Santos’ webpage.  I got hooked on her podcasts recently, called: “The Happiness Lab”.

How is it possible that we can be so wrong about what will make us happy?  We see it everywhere – a cousin buying that lotto ticket religiously, dreaming of how she will spend her big win… a colleague, believing that, if she could only get that next promotion… The lady in the gym seeking the perfect ‘photogenic’ beach holiday, going for the umpteenth implant, lip enhancer, spray tan…

And quite frankly, being one of little faith, I wanted scientific proof of what really, really would make us happy as humans?  Well, buckle up, the answers might surprise you;

In one of her podcasts, Dr. Laurie speaks about how the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps visualised not just ‘winning’ his races, but actually winning under extreme and difficult circumstances.  For example, swimming ‘blind’. This led him to win the butterfly stroke 200m gold while his goggles completely filled up. When asked how it made him feel swimming blind, he answered; ‘just as I imagined it’. So do not imagine a life where you are the perfect person in the perfect life.  This will not make you happy. 

Life is not perfect.  Life is, very often, difficult. Deal with it.  The quicker you realise this and learn to deal with it, the happier you will be.  Seriously. Forget about teaching your kids; ‘you can be anything you want to be’. Rather tell your children; ‘You can achieve great things when you work hard, put in the hours and are prepared to go the hard yards. In fact it might take longer and be more difficult than you thought, there will probably be huge obstacles along the way, but if you embrace your obstacles and challenges and push through the hard times, the good times will be that much sweeter.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but, accepting and internalising that life is and will be difficult and even tough at times, contributes to human happiness.  We can create our own happiness when we work extra hard at overcoming these difficulties. Learn to work for what you want. There is no better feeling on this planet than achieving our ‘dream’ through a good attitude and pure old blood, sweat and tears. In short, expect the best while preparing for the worst. 

Yes, you have to be optimistic and yes, you have to be mindful.  And yes, the harder you work, the luckier you will get! You might as well catch some happiness around the office and spread it around while working hard. 

In The Empath’s survival guide Dr. Judit Orlof discusses emotional contagion at work and how to protect yourself from negative emotions.  This is very important. On the other hand, we should take responsibility to spread a positive attitude and happy vibes amongst our colleagues. 

With remote working stations going up all over the globe at present due to a completely different contagion – that of Covid-19 – we sometimes need to work even harder to take control of our working environment and to ensure that it is a happy place.  Reach out to your colleagues on a daily basis. Make a connection with a stranger while calling to find information on a new prospect. A few kind words can go a long way in making someone’s day or even week a lot better.

AIMS Partners all over the world have, in recent years, become used to sharing a coffee or even the odd lunch over a strategy discussion or Practice group meeting in virtual meeting rooms.  These, sometimes, impromptu virtual meetings over lunch (while our colleagues in Mexico are having breakfast), sharing lighter moments and spreading happiness have become crucial to our working days.

Soon, on the 20th of March, it will be International Happiness day. As business leaders, let’s be mindful and make it our responsibility to spread goodwill and good vibes. Let’s make it our business to take charge of our own happiness and contribute to the happiness of our colleagues and clients wherever we go, virtual or otherwise.

*Dr. Laurie Santos is a Yale professor who started this subject with the latest scientific research and shares some surprising and inspiring stories that will forever alter the way you think about happiness.

Written by Leonie Pentz, VP Sustainability AIMS International