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I facilitate a workshop (soon to become an e-book) called “Ten Things Leaders Can’t Do.” First on the list is that leaders can’t make everyone happy. I often ask my classes why this is true. People typically shout out several answers, but the primary reason is because happiness has a lot to do with individual choice. As a leader, you can’t control anyone’s emotions, particularly his or her happiness. Only the individual person has power over themselves and their emotions. Some people are going to be happy no matter what; others have made the opposite decision. Leaders, meanwhile, jump through more hoops than a Barnum & Bailey circus performer trying to make folks happy.
The science of psychology has a history of studying unhappy people. The hope is that if we can understand why people are unhappy, we can figure out what the prescription should be to help them become happy. About 10 years ago, there was a shift to studying happy people — the science of positive psychology. One habit that’s almost automatic for happy people is that they look for a gift or a blessing in the face of adversity. This persistence keeps them from being off their game for any extended period of time. We all have setbacks, things that bring our mood down, but if we learn to bounce back quicker, we’re happier and our performance improves over time.
Let me introduce you to the 10-50-40 rule on happiness developed by Sonja Kyubomirsky. 50 percent of your happiness comes from your genetic predisposition. Your happy set point comes from your parents and, generally, what level of happiness they displayed as you were growing up under their care. 10 percent of your happiness is because of your current circumstances. We have learned this is called hedonic adaptation — the human tendency to become satisfied in our circumstances. New salary levels, new cars, and new homes make us happy for a while, and then we recede backward. This is why even people in Hawaii go on vacation. The last 40 percent of your happiness is a result of the things you’re doing to be happy. This means that a huge amount of your happiness comes from the chase of things you think are going to make you happy. In reality, once you achieve them, you recede back to your base happiness level and need a new challenge. Very seldom does the destination change you as much as the journey to get there.
With that journey in mind, here are seven best practices my executive clients use to stay happy and productive.
Tony Richards is an organizational and executive development expert and CEO of Clear Vision Development Group, a leadership and strategy firm in Columbia, Missouri. He is one of Inc. magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers and thinkers. His firm’s website is www.clearvisiondevelopment.com. Follow Tony on Twitter @tonyrichards4.