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Youe Can Find More Happiness Through Your Work

Our mantra is 'if you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting.' With that in mind, let's talk about 'happiness.'

If you're into professional development, you've heard of Martin Seligman, Ph.D., who developed the theory of Learned Optimism.

Optimism is the facilitator of emotional intelligence (EQ), which matters more to our success and happiness than IQ. Seligman's research has established that optimists are more productive and accomplish more, i.e., are more successful, but what about happiness?

Recently, Seligman has started studying Authentic Happiness. In "Pleasure, Meaning & Eudaimonia," he looks at the common conception of Americans that pleasure equals happiness, which he calls 'the hedonic view' -- happiness equals the most positive feelings with the least negative feelings.

He thinks there are two things wrong with this idea, and that there are in fact three paths to happiness.


1. That cheery countenance we equate with pleasure, "positive affectivity," is hereditary. Therefore it's normally distributed in the population.

Therefore about half of us just aren't that way, and aren't likely to become that way, no matter what.

So, don't insist on a bright fa - ade in yourself or your employees or your kids; it doesn't indicate much.

2. The hedonic view has not proven to bring happiness. What apparently does is Aristotle's "Eudaimonia," the Good life 'the pleasures of contemplation; that deep absorption we now call 'flow.' You can already see that this fits right into our work lives!


The core thesis in Authentic Happiness is there are three paths to a happy life:

1.The Pleasant Life (having as much pleasure as you can)
2.The Good Life (knowing your signature strengths and crafting your life around them, for maximal flow) 3.The Meaningful Life (using your signature strengths for something that's bigger than you are)


Two recent research studies, done independently, have confirmed that hedonic motives don't correlate with happiness, but eudaimonic motives do 'pursuing personal growth, development of your potential, achieving personal excellence, contributing to the lives of others.


1. Find out what your unique Strengths are. Take the StrengthsFinder' Profile (

Once you discover your top 5 innate strengths (in order) from the 34 possibilities 'Activator, Focus, Maximizer, Intellection, Deliberativeness, Futuristic, etc.- if you recraft your life around them, you will have the Good Life!

The StrengthsFinder' Profile, incidentally, is a wonderful tool for managers. I've found it to be true that some people don't know what their strengths are, while some know those traits very well, but have been conditioned to consider them weaknesses.

There are innate strengths 'things we were born with and will always have --unique ways of viewing the world, making decisions, relating to people, and doing jobs.

Signature strengths are mental/
emotional qualities but physical analogies are easier to grasp. Think of Wayne Gretzky tracking the puck. Playing in a group that's already in the 99th percentile, he stands out. His ability to predict the trajectory of the puck and get there before it while everyone is skating off in another direction is legendary. Wayne 'Go where the puck is going, not where it has been' Gretzky.

This is Babe Ruth replying when asked HOW he hit home runs like he did, 'I like to,' his assumption being that the rest of us could, if only we wanted to or 'liked to'. He couldn't even grasp the question. Often with innate strengths it's 'the last thing the fish knows about is the water.'

.2. Write your Personal Mission Statement.

Define your values, principles, and what matters to you. Then use this as a touchstone for making decisions and setting priorities and goals.

If your organization needs a Mission Statement, write one collaboratively, if possible. Getting everyone behind the 'mission,' the 'bigger picture,' will add to communal work satisfaction.

2. Attach meaning to what you do, what your department does, your organization does, and help others feel the mission in it.

The person who's answering the phone, for instance, isn't 'just answering the phone,' they're representing your company to the public and a key player in the success of your group mission.

If you feel your work isn't meaningful, and can't be, then you have some 'recrafting' to do.

4. Get a good organizational system. I use the 'Don't Die at 50 Weekly Organizational Calendar '' and the Gooding Accountability System ''. These will work if you work them.

5. Develop your emotional intelligence; it matters more to your success and happiness than your IQ, and it can be learned. Take an assessment, an Internet course, work with a coach, read, and practice.

6. Engage the services of a coach. This will greatly shorten your learning curve re: how you apply your Strengths and how well you develop your EQ, and he or she will hold your feet to the fire on accountability until it becomes second nature.

So there's a formula: Knowing your signature strengths and crafting your life around them, defining and managing your values and mission which allow meaning, and actually accomplishing this because you've become organized.

Lastly, stay connected. In an interview, Mother Teresa was asked, 'You've been in India dealing with illnesses like cholera and AIDS. What's the worst illness you've ever seen?' and she replied without blinking an eye, 'The worst illness I have ever seen is the loneliness and isolation in the West.'

So, in conclusion, whether or not 'pleasures' can occur in the workplace, the deeper satisfactions of life can and your job can be one path to happiness.

If you're the leader, the more opportunities for personal growth, development of potential, respect for strengths, opportunities for personal excellence, and 'flow' you facilitate, the happier everyone is likely to be, and therefore more productive.

It could be that employees are more after this sort of experience than pizza parties and hoopla.

About the Author
Susan Dunn, MA Psychology, Emotional Intelligence Coach, I help people become better communicators and develop their emotional intelligence through coaching, Internet courses and ebooks. Susan is the author of "Nonverbal Communication."

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