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The Power of Others

When George Lucas originally wrote the script to the billion-dollar Star Wars franchise, the most iconic line in movie history—“May the Force be with you”—was not in it. Instead, the earliest versions read, “May the Force of others be with you.” Why start a book on the science of potential with an arcane piece of movie history? ... Because I believe that hidden in this tiny line lies both the problem undergirding our broken pursuit of potential as a society and the secret to exponentially increasing our success, well-being, and happiness. Our society has become overly focused on the “power of one alone” versus “the power of one made stronger by others.” Of course, Hollywood glorifies individual superstars; where else are the streets literally paved with their names? But when we adopt this script in our companies and schools, focusing only on individual achievement and eliminating “others” from the equation, our true power remains hidden. But what is hidden can be revealed. Three years ago, as I was researching the hidden connections that underlie success and human potential, I had a breakthrough. I became a father. When my son, Leo, came into the world, he was quite literally helpless. He couldn’t even roll over by himself. But, as he got older, he became more capable. And with each new skill he picked up, like any good positive psychology researcher would, I found myself praising him, saying, “Leo, you did that all by yourself! I’m proud of you.” And after a while, Leo began parroting it back to me in a soft but proud voice: “All by myself.” That’s when I realized: First as children, then as adults in the workplace, we are conditioned to disproportionately value things we accomplish on our own. As a father, if I stopped my praise and guidance there, my son might come to view independent achievement as the ultimate test of our mettle. But in reality, it is not. There is a whole other level. … The people who rise to the top are not those who try to do everything all by themselves, but, rather, those who can ask others for help and rally others to grow. Parents who support a balanced, connected approach to pursuing success for their children are rewarded for their persistence, while parents who urge individual achievement at the cost of connection find themselves unprepared for their child’s burnout or loneliness. We spend the first 22 years of our lives being judged and praised for our individual attributes and what we can achieve alone, when, for the rest of our lives, our success is almost entirely interconnected with that of others. Over the past decade, I have worked with nearly half of the Fortune 100 companies and traveled to more than 50 countries to learn how people everywhere approach the concepts of success, happiness, and human potential. One thing I’ve found to be true almost everywhere is that the vast majority of companies, schools, and organizations measure and reward “high performance” in terms of individual metrics such as sales numbers, résumé accolades, and test scores. The problem with this approach is that it is predicated on a belief we thought science had fully confirmed: that we live in a world of “survival of the fittest.” It teaches us that success is a zero-sum game; that those with the best grades, or the most impressive résumé, or the highest point score, will be the ONLY ones to prosper. The formula is simple: Be better and smarter and more creative than everyone else, and you will be successful. But this formula is inaccurate. Thanks to groundbreaking new research you will read about in this book, we now know that achieving our highest potential is not about survival of the fittest; it is survival of the best fit. In other words, success is not just about how creative or smart or driven you are, but how well you are able to connect with, contribute to, and benefit from the ecosystem of people around you. It isn’t just how highly rated your college or workplace is, but how well you fit in there. It isn’t just how many points you score, but how well you complement the skills of the team. We often think if we can just work harder, faster, and smarter, then we’ll achieve our highest potential. But scientifically in the modern world, the biggest impediment to our success and realizing our potential is not lack of productivity, hard work, or intelligence; it is the way in which we pursue it. The pursuit of potential must not be a lonely road. The conclusion of a decade of research is clear: It’s not faster alone; it’s better together. … By creating hypercompetitive environments in which only individual achievements are celebrated, companies and schools are leaving enormous amounts of talent, productivity, and creativity on the table. Overemphasizing the individual and removing others from the equation places a “soft cap” on our potential, an artificial limit on what we can achieve. But the good news is that I call this a soft cap for a reason: Because it can be lifted. Because when we work to help others achieve success, we not only raise the performance of the group, we exponentially increase our own potential. This is what I describe later in this book as a Virtuous Cycle—a positive feedback loop whereby making others better leads to more resources, energy, and experiences that make you better, fueling the cycle again. Thus, making others better takes your success to the next level. SMALL POTENTIAL is the limited success you can achieve alone. BIG POTENTIAL is the success you can achieve only in a Virtuous Cycle with others. … We can no longer be content competing for the scraps of Small Potential; we must seek new frontiers of human potential and invite others to follow. A challenging world demands that we put “the force of others” back into our formula.
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3 Ways to Win at Work

Most of us were taught early on in our childhoods about the Golden Rule. For anyone who’s forgotten, here’s a quick refresher; the Golden Rule is a guiding principle that suggests you treat people the way you wish to be treated. Dating back to the 1600s, the concept can be explained from the perspectives of psychology, philosophy, business, economics and found in nearly every religion and ethical tradition. But, what if that lesson could be taken one step further? What if instead, we treated others as they wish to be treated? Instead of the Golden Rule, we could call it the Golden-Golden Rule, or Golden Rule 2.0. The goal would be to ensure empathy is at the core of organizational policies and embedded into every interaction. We all believe that lending someone a helping hand is a good thing, but, what if we knew why someone needed our help in the first place? When we use the Golden-Golden Rule, we’re more likely to get to the root of the issue. We meet people where they’re at, emotionally, mentally, physically. Take the example of speaking with a child. We physically get down to their height so we can connect with them on their level. Simply put, when we apply the Golden-Golden Rule, we behave with more empathy. Now here’s a challenge: Can we embrace this practice in the workplace? For some CEOs, it just seems too warm and fuzzy. But, for others (like the most influential companies in the world) investing in warm and fuzzy is driven by cold, hard facts. When Google researchers and data scientists were asked to define what makes a team effective, they launched Project Aristotle, spending two years interviewing Googlers (their employees) and examining more than 250 attributes of 180 active Google teams. Do you think they found that doubling up on Rhodes Scholars and combining them with the fastest developers on the planet would be the key to the most effective teams? I’m sure the talent helped. But, the answer is surprisingly, an emphatic, “Nope!” Essentially, the data team discovered psychological safety was the most important trait of a high-performing team, and what Google researchers refer to as the “underpinning” of all the other dynamics that make up a successful group. Two key attributes of psychological safety specific to Googlers include, “conversational turn-taking” and “high emotional sensitivity.” According to Google’s data, individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives. The moral of this case study? The Golden-Golden Rule wins at work. If you want to apply this in your workplace, it will require effort, intention and practice. But, it won’t be as hard as you may think. Google already outlined one strategy—provide psychological safety and the ability to take risks, make mistakes and move on. Here are a few more practical applications to apply the Golden-Golden Rule at work. 1. Ask more questions. In our office, we have a giant gratitude wall (really—our application to Guinness World Records for Biggest Gratitude Wall in the World was just approved)! We’ve seen how one simple question can tell us so much about each other. We’ve learned who loves playing guitar and when someone is feeling homesick. There are plenty of notes about bacon and Starbucks but more importantly these posts give us a sense of what is going on with each other. Knowing more about people, and what motivates them, allows us to better understand what they need to thrive. 2. No job is too small. Tony Hsieh, founder and CEO of Zappos, now an Amazon company, has famously redesigned the customer-service experience with what appears to be principles reflected in the Golden-Golden Rule. Every person who joins Zappos must spend part of their first weeks answering customer-service calls. No one is exempt, including Tony himself. He and the chief execs get on the phones annually, mostly during peak times to put themselves into the shoes of the customer and to help them to understand the plight of their frontline workers. 3. Be mindful of work styles. The workforce is rapidly evolving and change can be stressful. Get to know your employees’ communication styles so you can connect with them in the place they are most comfortable. Some people work better when you meet in person while others prefer email or online collaboration tools. Remote workers continue to grow, making web-conferencing tools even more essential. Whenever possible, be flexible. Often, it’s good old-fashioned common sense that prevails. For proof, just look to Google’s big announcement about the findings from Project Aristotle. The headline reads, “After years of intensive analysis, Google found the key to good teamwork is being nice.”
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Tackle Work Stress With These Practical Tips

The workplace: It’s where we spend one-third of each day and at least 90,000 hours in a lifetime. Research by Harvard Medical School, UCLA and the RAND Corporation found that the workplace in America is a “physically and emotionally taxing” place. What’s more, two-thirds of Americans say they work under tight deadlines, with 25 percent saying they lack the time to do their jobs. Yet, when employees have higher levels of well-being at work, everyone wins. Employees enjoy their lives more in and out of the workplace, and employers see an increase in productivity. Invest in Wellness A 2010 study published in the journal Health Affairs found that for every dollar a company spends on a wellness program, its return on investment is $3.27. Employees feel valued their company cares about their well-being and, in turn, employee performance more than doubles, according to a study by Right Management. Researchers also found employees who take advantage of wellness programs contribute the equivalent of an extra day of work in productivity every month. Toni Farris, a certified yoga instructor in Plano, Texas, teaches the art of mindfulness to businesses large and small. “We have a culture of suffering,” she says. “The more suffering you do, the more important you are.” We wear our overworked status as a badge of honor, which may lead, she explains, to a false sense of value and security. “It’s not helpful.” She should know. Before embarking on her mindful journey, Toni worked for the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, and the stress wreaked havoc on her health. Overworking yourself leads to stress, she notes. The decision-making process narrows and the quality of the work can be affected. “Strategy and balance, both physical and emotional, come from a relaxed place,” she says. Talk with your human resources department to bring someone like Toni into the office. If a mindfulness consultant isn’t an option, she offers a few tips to get you started: Be Nice Compassion is a kind of social superglue that holds everything together. Christopher Kukk, Ph.D., author of The Compassionate Achiever: How Helping Others Fuels Success, finds that compassion can create a friendlier and happier workplace, increase productivity and improve health. “When we think from a compassionate mindset, we release the peptide hormone oxytocin, which then activates the neurotransmitters dopamine (brain reward) and serotonin (anxiety reduction), which facilitate happiness and optimism—two characteristics that contribute to success,” he says. To change your mindset to be more compassionate at work, Christopher recommends changing your feelings about achieving success. “If you believe, for instance, that your own as well as your organizational successes were achieved by you alone, then you are—simply stated—lying to yourself,” he says. He suggests reflecting on how your success has benefited from others. This will make you more inclined to contribute to the successes of your colleagues. “When compassion flows, a business grows,” he adds. Get More Shut-Eye According to The Sainsbury’s Living Well Index conducted by Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research in the U.K., 50 percent of participants polled would rather have a good night’s sleep than a pay raise. Matthew Walker, Ph.D., Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab and author of the new book Why We Sleep, says that more than $400 billion in our economy is lost due to poor sleeping habits. What’s more, sleep deficits make us more prone to lying at work and other deviant behaviors. The sleepless also lack in areas of creativity, problem solving and charisma. “Every key facet required for business success will fail when sleep becomes short within an organization,” he says. One thing we can do is drop the mindset that more sleep equates to laziness. “The global sleep-loss epidemic is fast becoming one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century,” he says. “I hope the many chapters on the disease, sickness and ill health that comes by way of sleep loss makes this case clear.” Aside from the obvious health benefits of sleep—it builds a strong immune system, lowers risks of stroke, heart attacks, diabetes and depression—it also improves our performance at work. Employees who sleep more, according to Matthew’s book, earn more money, too. Just an extra hour of sleep can improve your financial situation. Quick Biz Tips TAKE A STAND • According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reducing occupational sitting by 66 minutes per day can boost your mood and reduce upper back and neck pain. EAT LUNCH WITH COLLEAGUES • Cornell University researchers studied firehouses in large cities and witnessed that workgroup performance was enhanced when firefighters broke bread together. KEEP IT POSITIVE • In her book Conscious Communications, entrepreneur and author Mary Shores recommends stopping yourself when you start to think or talk in a negative way. She says that the words we use define who we are, and the negativity can spread throughout an office and even to the customer. Toni’s Tips for Tackling Stress BEFORE WORK:  • Use an alarm clock with a soothing tone. Waking up in a panic is never good. • Try getting ready in the morning without the TV or radio. Incorporate more silence. • Add an extra 20 to 30 minutes to your routine so you are not in a rush. AT WORK: • Find a quiet space in your office for about 10 to 15 minutes, and use a mindfulness/meditation app. In a pinch, use your car. • After lunch is the best time to relax. Rest and digest is the opposite of fight or flight. You will feel better for the remainder of the day after a constructive rest. • If possible, let your co-workers know you need time to process any requests before committing. AFTER WORK: • Set boundaries with yourself and work. Don’t answer emails or calls after a certain time. • Turn off electronics one hour before bed. This will help your brain decompress. Chris Libby is the Section Editor at Live Happy magazine.
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Develop Your Signature Strengths in 4 Steps

Do you have the chance to do what you do best each day at work? If that sounds far from reality, you’re not alone. While most of us may have moments of feeling engaged, energized and happy with our jobs, the reality is that 70 percent of employees around the globe report that most days they don’t feel engaged. But surely that’s just the reality of work, right? It turns out a growing body of research over the last decade has found that when you have an opportunity to use your strengths—those things you’re good at and enjoy doing—even for just part of your day, you’re likely to feel more confident, more energized and up to six times more engaged. And the good news is, not only will you feel happier, but this sense of well-being has a ripple effect. This means your work colleagues and customers are also more likely to feel happier. It’s a win-win outcome. So why is it so hard? Unfortunately, we are wired with a negativity bias: the bad stuff around us just screams louder and longer than the positive. This is why Ryan Niemiec from the VIA Institute, one of the leading researchers and teachers on character strengths, suggests we look for new ways to develop our strengths at work. Here are some of Ryan’s suggestions: 1. Take the free VIA Character Strengths survey In just ten minutes you’ll be able to identify your character strengths. By reflecting on the moments when you’ve felt most engaged and energized, you’ll be able to easily see how these strengths show up in your job. 2. Align your strengths to your job No matter what your job might be, you can always find ways to bring your best qualities to an activity, conversation or routine to improve your engagement. List the five things you do most frequently at work (it could be filing, leading team meetings or emailing clients). Then write down one way you can use your top five VIA strengths for each of the five work tasks. For example, it might be using creativity to end each team meeting with a new quote. 3. Subtract a signature strength It can be easy to take for granted the impact your strengths have on what you do. However, what would happen if you couldn’t use your strengths? First consider how one of your top five VIA strengths has helped you so far in life: it could be building relationships, achieving many things, or feeling happy and contented. Now, imagine that you're not allowed to use that strength for the next month. For example, if you choose curiosity, you can’t ask questions, try new experiences, new foods or search the Internet. Consider what that would be like, and how you would feel. 4. Create a strengths habit Research shows that one of the most effective ways to make a change is to create a small daily strengths habit and be consistent in practicing it. Just select the strength you want to focus on and harness your brain’s neurological habit loop by creating a cue to trigger off the habit, a routine to use your strength for at least ten minutes or more, and then make sure you reward yourself immediately for your effort so your brain learns to love this routine. For example: “When I arrive at work, I’ll spend ten minutes developing my strength of curiosity by reading something new and my reward will be getting my morning cup of coffee.” To learn about more than 70 different strengths habits, join Live Happy and the VIA Institute for the free Global Strengths Challenge. How can you start putting your strengths to work? Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, teacher and coach with a masters in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. She has written extensively on well-being in the workplace.
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3 Ways to Get Unstuck at Work

No matter how “together” people may seem, we all feel overwhelmed at times. As a “solopreneur,” Senia handles big-picture, strategic initiatives as well as detail work. In the past six months, her detail work became overwhelming, with up to 50 items on her daily to-do list. Senia reached out to three executive coaches who are productivity experts. She spoke with her friends. She enlisted virtual assistants and focused on streamlining her work. Yet her daily to-do list was still unwieldy. She felt stuck. How can we get the advice we need? Executive coaches are like personal trainers, but for work and life. Margaret suggests a useful mantra to coaches when they get stuck: “Go with who you know and what you know.” Here’s the problem: We gravitate to that which is comfortable. A new TEDx Talk, “Strategies to Widen Your Social Universe,” by Tanya Menon, Ph.D., of Ohio State University, adds a twist to Margaret’s advice. Tanya says we need to create more accidental bumps in our lives: We should go eat lunch at a different place, take a different route to work, go to the gym at a different time and meet different people. With that thought, let’s revisit Margaret’s advice: We could suggest that Senia reach out to contacts she doesn’t typically work with, from LinkedIn or professional organizations, or urge her to research innovative productivity techniques. And so that’s what she did. Senia talked to colleagues she hadn’t talked to in months or years. She took steps she was unfamiliar with to delegate some of her work and make her workload more sustainable. Here are a few other strategies to try: 1. Talk to someone who is one chapter ahead of you. Chances are you have at least one friend or colleague who has also been overwhelmed and yet figured out a solution. Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., of Harvard University, advises in his book Stumbling on Happiness that if we don’t know how to make a decision, we should talk to someone who has just made that decision. If you’re thinking about becoming a parent, talk to parents who had kids a year ago and are still living through those sleepless nights. 2. Take baby steps. Look for the smallest step that could have the biggest positive impact or difference. We recommend this action in our book Profit From the Positive. The power is that it focuses us on what we can change—now. 3. Step away. Take a break. Just when you think you can’t get up from your desk, that’s exactly what you need to do. Remove yourself from the work; it’ll still be there when you return. Go for a walk; being out in nature has been found to have a calming effect. Go to the gym. Meditate for five minutes. The point is to do something you enjoy. You will return to your desk feeling refreshed and ready to tackle that to-do list. When you’re stuck, go to your periphery of comfort. Find those people whom you otherwise might not have reached out to. Look for those actions you might not have otherwise tried. Read more: Creative Thinking Helped Me Find a New Path MARGARET H. GREENBERG and SENIA MAYMIN, Ph.D., are sought-after executive coaches, speakers and positive psychology practitioners, and the authors of the book Profit From the Positive. Find more information about their coaching and certificate programs at Register for the Profit From The Positive Certificate Program starting Oct. 10 at Use code LiveHappy2017 for a 40 percent discount.
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The Live Happy Get Back to Work Playlist

With Labor Day behind us, we’re officially closing the lid on summer and getting down to business. It’s time for back to school and back to work; summer vacay is over even though you felt like you were just getting started. Take heart, because there’s a way to make getting through that workday a little easier. Creating a playlist to boost your mood before, during and after work can energize you and make you more optimistic. At the very least, it can make the moment more tolerable and who knows, maybe you can even get your co-workers humming along. Here are 15 great songs to get you through your day; feel free to add your own (and sing along)! “Beautiful Day” by U2. Need help making yourself believe that it’s going to be a great day? Check in with Bono. He makes a rather convincing argument that it is, indeed, a beautiful day. And once you start singing along, you’ll start believing it, too. “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” by Sia. You’ve got the right bag, the right shoes…but did you remember to put on your smile? You will once you listen to this song! “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors. What better line to live by than, “All the possibilities…No limits, just epiphanies….” That’s right, you’re unstoppable! “Firework” by Katy Perry. Continuing on with the theme of being unbeatable comes this rousing hit. Somebody, grab a match because you are a firework. Come on and show ‘em what you’re worth. “Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield. What can brighten up a day more than a pocketful of sunshine? Nothing, not even a double mochafrappawhatever! “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat. Light and bouncy and encouraging, this feel-good song has a California beach vibe that will light up even the grayest of days. “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” by Timbuk3. Keeping with the sunshine theme, you’re going to need some shades. This vintage ‘80s song still feels great. Everybody sing now: “Things are going good, and they’re only getting better…” “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. Sooner or later, it’s bound to happen; you have a less than stellar day at work, or maybe a co-worker makes a hurtful comment that gets back to you. Ouch. Haters gotta hate, T-Swift reminds, so shake it off! “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. No, you may not be getting into the ring like Rocky Balboa, but some days are still a beating. That’s OK when you have the heart of a lion and the eye of the tiger. Grrrr! “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton. Working for The Man bringing you down? Let Dolly lift you up! This anthem never goes out of style and practically comes with a money back guarantee to make you smile. “The Distance” by Cake. Some days seem like a marathon, so that’s when you need a little Cake. Sure, this song is technically about a race car driver trying to win a race, but it makes a great metaphor for work. “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. Life is a journey and so is your workday. Just keep that in mind and let Miley cheer you on through your own personal climb. “Workin’ for the Weekend” by Loverboy. The great thing about the week is that every day gets us closer to the weekend. No one reminds us of that better than Loverboy in this classic jam. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. “At first I was afraid, I was petrified.” Does that remind you of your job interview? Or this morning’s presentation? No worries–trust Gloria (and sing along) when she says, “I will survive.” “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons. Nothing can keep you down when you start believing you’re ontop of the world. Crank this one up and give your heart a little afternoon joyride.
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4 Ways to Stop Work Stress From Following You Home

While work stress might start at work, let’s admit that it never stays there. Companies demand more from employees not only in terms of tasks but also time—and technology makes work not only omnipresent but omnipossible. This increased demand has negative consequences even for those not on the company payroll, as work stress seeps into home life. Since we are married happiness researchers, this topic is not only professionally interesting but personally important to us. We have both fallen into the trap of getting stressed at work outside of the house and then bringing that stress home to inflict on the other—even when we know better! Based on our work with nearly half the Fortune 100 companies, we believe that the solution to helping ourselves and our loved ones deal with the stress of work comes, ironically, from the very companies that give it to us. The problem is not merely that work is too powerful of a demand, it is that we fail to create a strong enough protective culture at home. Only by understanding how the best companies create positive cultures can we replicate those successes at home to create a family culture that rejuvenates and restores us. It’s imperative we stop letting a toxic company culture dictate our family culture. Positive cultures are based on often unspoken rules that encourage habits that support high levels of well-being and success. Just as a car gets regular maintenance, forward-thinking organizations set up a culture that encourages routines that help recharge and renew employees, such as taking vacation days, meditating as a midmorning break and regularly receiving meaningful praise. These positive behaviors are good for the individual and the company. Our research has found that if you take 11 or more of your vacation days, you’re 30 percent more likely to receive a raise. (And that positive outcome is not simply because people missed you!) The break from work relaxes your mind and body and puts you back in the performance zone, which leads to better-quality work. Aetna made time for meditation during the workday and subsequently decreased employee health care costs and increased work satisfaction. We have been experimenting with strengthening our family culture at home so that work doesn’t take over. Try these research-based practices to help set up and maintain a positive family culture: 1. Hold a stakeholders meeting Too often we live life as it unfolds, without intention. Invite all members of the family old enough to meaningfully contribute to a meeting to discuss family values. What kind of environment do you want to create inside your home? How do you want to spend your time? What are the rules around use of electronics? By identifying your values and setting your collective plan of how you’ll support that vision, you can start to craft a life that follows it. Set up an environment that is nurturing and relaxing, so you get a mental break. 2. Start culture at the door When we walked through the door to address senior leaders at Kimball International, it was clear what the organization stands for because its mission statement and values are posted at the door. A similar physical reminder of culture at home can refocus family members as they walk through the door after a long day at the office. Post loving messages, a list of values or even pictures of you as a family living those values. Think of this as a visual reset button so you start your time at home with a renewed mindset. 3. Bag up tech Social connection is one of the greatest predictors of long-term happiness, but we can’t create that with phones in our faces. A study published in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that of the women surveyed who were in a romantic relationship, 25 percent said their loved ones sent text messages or emails to other people while they were having a face-to-face conversation. Move your phone out of your physical space so it is not easy to absent-mindedly use it. We’ve experimented with putting our phones in a zip-top bag with a rubber band around it as a reminder. Consider leaving at least one person’s phone at home for the day to get a chance to detox. 4. Sleep your way to the top Research shows we make more positive memories if we get more sleep. In a study from the University of California, Berkeley, in which people were asked to memorize two lists of words, one positive and one negative, those with five hours of sleep remembered the same number of negative words (about 80 percent) but significantly fewer positive words than those who got eight hours of sleep. Write positive memories with your spouse by hitting the hay together early. You can help your spouse support this positive habit by brushing your teeth in plain sight or turning off the lights in the bedroom to remind him or her that the day is over. How do you strengthen a positive family culture? We’d love to hear! Read more by Shawn and Michelle: Are You a Phone Snubber? and 60 Seconds to Happiness Listen to our podcast: Becoming Stress-Proof With Mithu Storoni SHAWN ACHOR is the best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. Shawn’s TED Talk is one of the most popular ever, with more than 5 million views, and his PBS program has been seen by millions. Learn more about Shawn at MICHELLE GIELAN is an expert on the science of positive communication and the author of the book Broadcasting Happiness. Formerly a national anchor for CBS News, Michelle holds a masters of applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Learn more at
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What Really Makes Us Happier at Work?

We spend a great deal of our lives working—and these days, even when we’re not at work, we’re likely thinking about it, texting about it or bringing it home with us. According to sociologist, author and blogger Karl Thompson, we spend about 25 to 30 years of our lives working. It makes sense, then, that there’s an increased emphasis on finding a job that’s rewarding and personally fulfilling versus one that “just pays the bills.” Our awareness of the benefits and need to find personal happiness has influenced how we feel about the jobs we want and the work we do. Today, workers would rather have a job that contributes to their personal well-being instead of just improving the bottom line. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace 2017 report, 53 percent of employees say that having a position that allows greater work-life balance and better personal well-being is “very important” to them. Wanting that balance and achieving it are two very different things, and this year the annual World Happiness Report, published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, added new research on well-being at work to the conversation on global happiness. Chapter authors Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and strategy at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, and George Ward, a Ph.D. student at the Institute for Work and Employment Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, took a deep dive into the topic of work to find out how it affects our well-being—and what we should do differently. “People…spend the majority of their lives working, so it is important to understand the role that employment [plays] in shaping happiness,” Jan says. “Our research reveals that happiness differs considerably across employment status, job type and industry sectors.” While the report makes it clear that having a job is extremely important for happiness, it also finds that many of us aren’t happy with the jobs we have. Although a common complaint is about money, the researchers found that money isn’t necessarily the driving factor of what makes us happy or unhappy at work. Where joy goes to work It’s no secret (or surprise) that workers in some professions are happier than others. The researchers found that around the globe, people in blue-collar jobs were less happy than those in white-collar jobs. This wasn’t true in just a big-picture sense—it was reflected in the daily evaluations of how workers felt about their lives. “White-collar workers generally report experiencing more positive emotional states such as smiling, laughing, enjoyment, and fewer negative ones like feelings of worry, stress, sadness and anger,” Jan says. This was true even when they adjusted for factors such as differences in income and education or age and marital status. The study authors found this was true regardless of what type of blue-collar work was being done. At the top of the well-being scale, they found, were managers and executives, followed closely by professional workers. While clerical workers, service job employees and manufacturing and repair workers hover in the middle of the scale, those levels fall for construction and mining workers, and the lowest levels of happiness are found among farming, fishing and forestry workers. This, Jan says, illustrates “the raw differences in the happiness of job types.” Read more: 5 Ways to Spark Joy at Work When happiness clocks out It’s not just professions that affect your overall job satisfaction, though; certain regions report larger populations of happy workers. Austria claims the top spot, with 95 percent of respondents saying they are satisfied with their jobs, and Norway and Iceland rank only slightly below that. Scandinavian countries have consistently ranked high as the world’s happiest countries, and they fare well for the happiest workplaces, too. There’s even a word, arbejdsglæde, that means “work happiness.” Other countries don’t have such a word, but Alexander Kjerulf, CEO of Denmark’s Woohoo inc., says that learning from what’s worked for Scandinavian employees could help the rest of the world. “We have focused on creating happy workplaces for the last 30 or 40 years,” he explains. “Scandinavian countries have some of the lowest average weekly working hours, which allows for a work-life balance. And Scandinavian bosses include employees in their decisions, actively seek input and rarely give orders.” All of those components are also identified in the World Happiness Report as being crucial to happiness. As Gallup reported, feeling like you have a balance between your personal and professional life is a strong predictor of happiness at work; other things such as autonomy, the ability to learn on the job and variety of duties are also significant influencers of how we feel at the end of the day. The need for work-life balance In the report, Jan says it becomes clear that work-life balance is a primary driver of worker happiness. “This turns out to be true across the board, in terms of people’s life and job satisfaction, general happiness and moment-to-moment emotional experiences.” People who work too much, or whose jobs leave them too exhausted to enjoy life in their off hours, report having a much lower level of happiness, both at home and on the job. The same is true of people who feel they bring their work home with them, either physically or emotionally. And, Alexander adds, the price they pay goes beyond unhappiness. “Work-life imbalance makes people quite unhappy because you end up feeling like both work and life are demanding more of your time, and you have to let one of them down. Ultimately, you’ll end up failing both of them,” he says. “Research shows that those working a 55-hour week face a 33 percent increased risk of stroke than those working a 35- to 40-hour week. And to make matters worse, all those extra hours don’t even mean you get more work done. So overwork is killing employees while not improving business results.” Read more: 9 Tips to Be Happier Working From Home Who’s the Boss? Whom you work for also has a dramatic effect on how happy you’re going to be at work. Having autonomy and job variety are both important, but the World Happiness Report found that bosses play a substantial role in determining an employee’s well-being. A study led by Benjamin Artz, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, found that a boss’s competence was the “single strongest predictor of a worker’s job satisfaction.” Benjamin's findings showed that, particularly among American workers, having a technically competent boss was considered more important for job satisfaction than earnings, even when their salaries were high. The older the worker, the more important the competence of their higher-ups was to employees. Your job satisfaction is profoundly molded by your boss’s competence, and your own team’s job satisfaction levels depend on your competence,” the study concluded. “The boss casts a very long shadow.” Alexander says that those who are stuck in toxic environments or have a bad boss can do something about it, but that may involve finding a new place to work. “The most important thing is to realize that being unhappy at work is not normal,” he says. “Many people just accept it. But the truth is that there are amazing workplaces out there and many people who love their jobs.” And finding such a job may be more important than many people realize. “We know that people who are happy at work have better health, are happier in life and enjoy greater career success and lifetime incomes,” Alexander says. “So having a job you like is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.” Satisfaction on the job ➡ The self-employed report higher levels of life satisfaction but more negative emotions (like stress and worry) than those who are employed full time for someone else. ➡ Unemployed people report having lower subjective well-being overall, yet also experience fewer negative emotions and more daily positive emotions than those who are employed. ➡ People who are happier with their lives appear to find employment more easily than those who are unhappy, while unhappy people appear to be more likely to lose their jobs. Top 5 predictors of on-the-job happiness ✔ Work-life balance ✔ Job variety/opportunity to learn new things ✔ Personal autonomy ✔ Job security ✔ Social capital/work environment Read more: 5 Habits to Make You Happier on the Job Paula Felps is the science editor for Live Happy.
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Woman working at home.

9 Tips to Be Happier Working From Home

As companies go global and workforces become virtual, more of us find ourselves working from home. On the one hand this is cause for celebration—no more commutes, cubicles or tepid coffee! But when you work from home, the responsibility is all on you. No one is clocking you in or out or constantly checking your work. You need to be organized and self-motivated. Working from home can seem very relaxed, but studies show that those who do it may be more productive than their office park counterparts. If you've landed a work-at-home job but don't feel entirely thrilled about the prospect of being alone with yourself every single day (you may be an extrovert who craves the energy of the workplace, or someone who doesn't like to mix home life and work life), don't worry, you have options. Take your laptop to a friendly cafe with Wifi and pay your rent by buying coffee and scones. In many cities, you can now find groovy coworking spaces, such as WeWork, General Assembly and NeueHouse, that provide camaraderie as well as office amenities. (Do a quick Google search of your city + coworking to find one near you.) For those who are committed to the home office, here are a few tips to maintain productivity and sanity throughout the workweek. 1. Get a room. If you have a choice, put your desk somewhere other than your bedroom. You don’t want your brain’s work and sleep wires to get crossed. A dedicated room that can act as your home office is ideal, but even a nook or large closet can often do the trick. 2. Set a schedule. When you work from home, it’s tempting to sleep late and then work until whenever, but this is not the path to productivity. Our brains like regularity, so set your alarm clock to get up at the same time every day (preferably early). Do some good exercise or meditation, and start the day with gusto. You might even want to take a walk around the block before you start working, not only for the exercise but also to create a mental demarcation between your home and work life. 3. Make your bed. This simple act may correlate with happiness, and it starts your day off on the right foot. But it is especially important to keep your home tidy and at least somewhat organized if you will be working there. Plus an admiral wrote an entire book about how important it is, so maybe you should do it. 4. Shower, brush your teeth and get dressed. This probably goes without saying, but if you stay in your pajamas all day—with mossy teeth and bed head—you’ll feel it. Somewhere deep down your brain is thinking, “Let’s get back in bed” instead of, “Let’s get on that conference call and talk about spreadsheets.” 5. Keep your desk neat. If you don’t keep your desk area organized, your work stuff will flow over into your home stuff and vice versa. You don’t want your house to look like the office on The Office, but invest in a small filing cabinet if you need one. Every month, go through old papers and recycle or file what you don’t need. You don’t want to be featured on the next season of Hoarders: Home Office Edition. 6. Resist the temptation to do house chores. The occasional load of laundry won’t kill you, but you can procrastinate away an entire workday by dusting the den and recaulking the shower. You won’t need a handyman, but you’ll probably need a new job. 7. Take brain breaks. Research shows that we are most productive in 90-minute spurts of creativity, interrupted by short breaks of either relaxation or exercise. Your own body clock may work differently, but the best thing about being at home is being able to get up, stretch, walk around a little—even catch a few z’s if you need to. If you do decide to take a nap, make sure not to go past 20 minutes or so (set an alarm on your phone or clock). 8. Make social plans for after work. Working from home has huge benefits, but let’s face it—you get a little lonely. If you are going to go on social media, schedule it into your day, such as “10 am: 5 min. Facebook break.” Otherwise you will get lost in the ultimate time- and productivity-sucking vortex. If you make plans with friends for dinner or the weekend, you can focus on your work, knowing you’ll have the opportunity to socialize later. 9. Take advantage of not being in an office. You get to be in your happy place all day, so make the most of it. With no coworkers to quibble over your musical taste, you can play tunes in the background while you work. Since you have a full working kitchen at hand (presumably), save money and eat more healthily by making quick salads and sandwiches instead of going out for lunch. And though we encourage you to get dressed—you can still wear anything you want—and that beats “office casual” any day. Read more: Clear Your Desk and Your Mind Will Follow and 6 Secrets to Creating Your Dream Job Emily Wise Miller is the web editor for Live Happy.
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Kids playing a board game.

Teach Your Kids to Be Better Co-Workers

As executive coaches, one of the most common things we hear is, “Wow, I have one colleague who is really difficult to work with.” We’re also both moms, so we thought, “What can parents do to instill in their children the attitudes and skills needed to become thoughtful and productive colleagues and leaders of the future?” LESSON 1: Teach kids to ask, “How can I solve this problem?” The first time one of us had a chance to coach her child was when Senia’s daughter didn’t like the sound of the windshield wipers one morning. Senia’s daughter said, “Mama, I don’t like that sound.” Senia replied, “OK, how can we solve that problem?” The 2-year-old replied, “We can’t solve that problem.” Senia countered, “OK, what sound can we make that is louder than the windshield wipers?” “I know!” her daughter said, “I can smoosh this bag in my hand and it makes this sound, and that’s louder.” That was the first time she solved a problem on her own. Senia found that the question, “How can we solve that problem?” has led to a more patient and thoughtful approach to complaints. The question itself, as David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University argues, holds the answer within it. If I’m asking myself how I can solve this problem, that implies the solution is findable and that I’m the one who can find it. Read more: How to Raise Empathetic Kids LESSON 2: Advise children to get back up after they fail. Margaret learned that her daughter did her best work at the last minute. In fifth grade, her daughter started an assignment after dinner that was due the next day and realized she had no poster board. Margaret, wanting her daughter to succeed, drove to the store (more than 30 minutes away) and was up late helping her daughter. At her next parent-teacher conference, Margaret told this story with frustration to her daughter’s teacher who simply replied, “What if you hadn’t purchased the poster board?” Margaret let her daughter handle the consequences the next time, and her daughter learned to plan ahead. LESSON 3: Empower kids to resolve their disputes. When kids get into disputes over the same toy, say: “Hey, I’d love to help you both out, but we won’t be able to do the next thing we have planned until you two resolve this.” That sentence puts the onus on them. They don’t need to rely on parents to tell them how to share the toy. Think of such a co-worker—one who looks forward to solving a problem, who jumps back in after failing and can resolve disputes. Is that a person you’d want to work with? Finally, how we talk to our children about work is important. Some teens don’t have part-time jobs because their parents told them, “You’ll be working the rest of your life. Enjoy being in school.” That message conveys that work is a dirty word, rather than something rewarding. Work teaches self-efficacy, responsibility, financial literacy and confidence. Start early for a lifetime of positive results. Read more: Let Happiness Impact Your Bottom Line MARGARET H. GREENBERG and SENIA MAYMIN, Ph.D., are sought-after executive coaches, speakers and positive psychology practitioners, and the authors of the book Profit From the Positive. Find more information about their coaching and certificate programs at
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