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Self Development

5 Science-Backed Ways To Be Happier At Work

Miserable at the office? Try these quick tips from a leading neuroscientist who specialises in studying happiness and what causes all the good feels.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

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Happiness-man-at-work

Google “How to be happier” and, before you’re even finished typing, “How to be happier at work” is the first suggestion to pop up. Happiness at work is evidently on a lot of people’s minds, considering that search term’s popularity on Google, a company that just so happens to employ a chief happiness officer. (Check out his business card. He’s literally a “Jolly Good Fellow.”)

Why wouldn’t feeling happier at work be at the top of our collective consciousness? After all, most of us spend a third of our days working. Our time on the clock might as well be pleasant and fulfilling.

Related: The Pursuit Of Happiness

If it’s not, if you’re a sad, sullen downer of a worker – and your boss could very well be onto this – studies suggest that you’re significantly more likely to slack off and be less productive. On top of the emotional toll on your own well-being, your blues could also be a costly drain on your company’s bottom line and seriously bum-out those who work around you.

On the upside, a growing body of data-based evidence suggests that being happier at work can make you more engaged, less likely to quit and better at collaborating, among many other benefits. Generally speaking, the happier you are, the better your brain works and the better you feel and perform at work, says Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, a veteran neuroscientist and the science director of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center.

“When workers are happier, they’re healthier and accomplish more,” she says. “They tend to enjoy their relationships at work and elsewhere. They work better on teams. They’re more well-liked by their co-workers and they’re more immune to burnout. So, if I’m an employer, helping them feel happier on my watch isn’t even a hard sell. Putting happiness where the vision and mission are, it’s a given.”

While earning her doctorate in brain cognition and behaviour at the university, she focused on how negative states such as fear and aversion influence thinking and decision-making. Now, she mainly studies happiness and the behaviours that bring the feel-good emotion about.

Simon-Thomas is also the co-creator and co-teacher of an eight-week EdX online course titled “The Science of Happiness.” I should mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that I’m currently enrolled in the free class.

Related: Happiness at Work

I spoke with her recently about her top five tips for being happier at work, for both employers and employees. Here they are:

personal-baggage

1. Bring your personal baggage to work

“The professional culture norm has long been to leave your personal baggage at home. You come in. You do work. We don’t always know if our co-workers are parents. We don’t know if they are caring for others who demand a lot of their time and energy outside of work. We often don’t know much about our co-workers and what they’re personally going through.

“What researchers are realising is that the separation of professional and personal is a poor model. It minimises workers in a way that makes it more difficult for them to be happy, to feel valuable, connected, trusted and cared-for at work. It’s time to promote empathy in the workplace, to ask questions and feature opportunities for employees to share their real-life moments. A good starting place is to have off-site play days for your staff, when they can talk about who they really are, what they’re really about and where they really come from. Knowing that information about your co-workers, like if they’re in the midst of a challenging personal situation, which we all go through, can be helpful to understanding where the person is coming from. It promotes compassion and happiness, and it puts money in your company’s bank in terms of trust and social connections.”

Bottom line: Getting personal at the office increases co-worker trust and compassion.

2. Stop competing with co-workers. Work is a team sport

“Work is often framed as being something you earn. Maybe others think you were the lucky one who got a new position, or a raise, or maybe you’re the most qualified one. It’s very competitive and people get jealous and harbor resentment. Workplace competition is counter to cooperation, as it creates a sense of holding on to what’s yours and making sure nobody else intrudes upon your territory.

“In actuality, and empirically-speaking, that mentality is not as productive. It doesn’t lend itself to happiness, nor to the type of achievement that stems from the cooperation of your teammates.

Instead, break down departmental silos. Don’t act like rivals. Help each other. Create a culture of happiness, cooperation and an open idea – and resource-sharing environment. Make it the norm. People naturally work together much better when they’re not pitted against each other.”

Bottom line: Teamwork makes the dream work.

Related: Work Smarter Says Matsi Modise

hot

3. Take a breather and pause when things get hot

“Taking a deep breath as often as you can at work, or having some kind of extra awareness of what’s going on in your own psychological milieu, is so important. Engaging in mindful habits, like breathing deeply before meetings or on break or whenever you can fit it in, can reduce the toxic rumination and racing thoughts that often lead to stress and anxiety – the things that ultimately take our minds off of work and render us less productive.

“Focus on your breath when you’re in a moment of reactivity, when you’re tempted to perhaps yell at someone about something they did that irritates you. Notice the urge, get curious about it, feel the joy of letting go and repeat.

“Instead of being like, ‘Oh, no, I’m not going to scream at that person!’ and then avoiding that feeling and replacing it with something else, perhaps panic, work on your awareness and breathe through it. You don’t have to in a way that is so heavy-handed that you meditate right then and there. Just take that inhale and breathe it out slowly and notice where your urges are. If you have the urge to lash out, consider the possibilities. You probably won’t feel better after and lashing out won’t work at work. Breathing will.”

Bottom line: Stop, think and breathe in the heat of the moment.

4. Express gratitude for the people you work with

“Gratitude has been proven to present a huge opportunity for increasing happiness. There are lots of opportunities at work to be grateful for the people you work with. It’s up to you to show it, to vocally, explicitly express gratitude to the co-workers and teammates that make your livelihood, progress and daily efforts possible.

“Expressing thanks and showing you’re grateful for them brings about a deep, mutual sense of belonging and cohesion. It also creates empathy and trust in the workplace, which is essential to accomplishing collective work goals together. The giver and the receiver will feel a sense of purpose, a sense of camaraderie and like they matter in the bigger scheme of the enterprise.

“This one especially applies to bosses, who often feel, ‘I don’t have to thank my employees because I’m paying them.’ Thank each other, no matter where you are on the organisational chart. It goes a long way, starting at the top, where leaders can model gratitude, and not with employee-of-the-month programs that can cause animosity. It could be as simple as taking a few seconds to pop your head into someone’s office and saying thank you to them for expending their life-energy to make your business successful.”

Related: Cultivate These 11 Habits to Achieve Meaningful Success

5. Play nice with your co-workers and show mutual respect

“Just be nice, as simple it sounds. It’s one of the most measurably effective things you can do to easily and immediately increase happiness at work. Researchers saw this in a recent nursing industry organisational trust study and intervention. The nurses who took part were burning out and unhappy.

“To the surprise of the researchers, the nurses weren’t burning out because of the long hours and pay and compensation issues. What was really heard loud and clear: There was a culture of incivility that everyone was grappling with – a habit and culture of being unkind, competitive, snarky and hostile to each other. In working through those systemic causes of unhappiness, and learning to be simply nice to each other, the nurses were eventually able to come to a place of well-being.”

Bottom line: Be kind, don’t be cutthroat and lay off the snark.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Kim Lachance Shandrow is a Los Angeles-based tech journalist who specializes in writing about iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android phones, as well as social media marketing, startups, streaming TV, apps and green technology. Her work has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, MSNBC.com, NBC.com, and in The Los Angeles Times and The International Business Times. She also consults for Ameba, a Canadian multiplatform children’s streaming TV startup.

Self Development

Fear As Foe And Friend: How To Master This Important Relationship

Our beliefs direct our behaviour and decision making. To conquer you fears, face them.

Erik Kruger

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heart-rate-fear

There is a story that I love. It goes something like this: A long time ago a man was sitting in a bar in Damascus having a beer. As he finished his last sip he looked over to the corner and staring back at him was Death. The man froze. It was widely known that the day you see death is the day you die.

A few seconds later the man regained composure and ran out of the bar. Without looking back he jumped on a horse and rode as quickly and as far away as he could. Later that day he arrived in a town called Samarra.

The man checked into a motel, rushed up to his room, locked the door, and as he turned around, sitting in the corner was Death. Noting the man’s surprise, Death said to him, “You think that you’re surprised? Just imagine how surprised I was this morning when I saw you in the bar in Damascus knowing that I had an appointment with you here, tonight, in Samarra.”

This is a story about the inevitability of death. No matter how hard we try, it’s the fate that we cannot escape. However, that’s not the focus of this article.

Facing your fears

Instead, consider the way the man reacted to death. More specifically, how he reacted to fear. That’s something I’m sure you can relate to.

The life of an entrepreneur is filled with fear. The fear of failure, the fear of losing it all, the fear of judgement, the fear of rejection, the list goes on. We can never eliminate these fears. Trust me, I’ve worked with the best and they still struggle with many of these fears. The thing about entrepreneurs at the top of their game is that they are better at dealing with fear.

Related: 8 TED Talks To Help You Overcome Your Fear Of Failure

Imagine if instead of running away, the man in our story decided to embrace his fear. Imagine he calmly (while shaking inside) walked over to death and asked him why he was staring at him. Death might have told him about their inevitable appointment. The man could have left the bar to get his affairs in order. He could have had a final meal with family and friends. He could have gone for a last swim in the ocean. And then, when the time was right, met death as an old friend.

Does that not sound like a much better approach than to run away and hide? But how you can embrace fear? The answer to that is simple but by no means easy. Dealing with fear is all about the context and meaning we assign to it.

Unpacking context

When you’re working in your office, how scared are you of being bitten by a shark? Fear is very much dependent on the context. In many instances we have (some) control over context.

So, how can you control your context or environment? What can you do to actively decrease the fear becoming manifested? Fear of public speaking? Control the context by preparing well, getting coaching, dressing well, being ready. Fear of rejection? Control the context by understanding your prospect well, being prepared, showing up early so that you aren’t rushed, being friendly and welcoming.

Finding meaning

This is always one of my favourite areas to play in as coach. It has to do with the meaning we assign to situations in our lives. More simply put, the beliefs that we have and how they direct our behaviour and decision-making.

Back to our shark example, and this time you find yourself in the ocean. How worried are you now about a shark attack? Much more. However, next to you is a shark expert frolicking around. Happy as can be. How worried is he about the shark attack? Not at all. Why? Because he understands shark behaviour, he knows the statistics and miniscule chances of a shark attack occurring. Same context, different beliefs, resulting in different levels of fear.

This means that another way of dealing with fear is to examine the belief you have that creates the fear. Perhaps it’s an outdated or untested belief. The only way you will know is by looking at it.

Through the fear

Fear is a dark passenger. Ready to tell you stories of doom and gloom. Ready to make you forget about the big dreams that you have. But it does not have to be. You journey. Your rules.

Learn to master your feelings and the approach that you take towards the challenges and risks in your life, and you will not only feel lighter, but able to embrace fear as an old friend without becoming consumed by it.

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Self Development

Peak Performance: Multiply Personal And Team Business Performance

Anyone can be a ‘Peak Performer’ and that includes you!

Dirk Coetsee

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‘Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection‘ – Mark Twain

As a Peak Performance coach my purpose is to make others successful, fulfilled and happy

The universal Principles of Peak Performance applies to Entrepreneurs, career orientated individuals, business teams, sports teams and individual performers such as public speakers and musicians.

Do you want to learn how to multiply your performance as an entrepreneur, career orientated individual, musician, public speaker, or sportsperson and reach the peak of your industry or sport? If you answered yes to the aforementioned question, then this article is meant for you.

The outputs of ‘Peak Performance’ coaching varies due to its universal application but includes multiplying profits and productivity, drastically increase team performance in business or in sport , and dramatically improve your performance as an artist, musician, or individual sports person.

A Peak Performance is described by psychologydictionary.org as:

“A performance at the best level of a person’s physical and cognitive abilities’

  • Which leads me to the ancient Chinese philosophical concept of ‘wu-wei’ meaning ‘effortless-effort’. It is truly awe inspiring to bare witness to an entrepreneur or athlete delivering a supreme performance with joy emanating from their being as proof of them being in a ‘peak mental state’.

‘Peak performance is not only about achieving a wonderful result it is also about experiencing the joy bubbling from your heart as you let go of all your fears , doubts and procrastination and just enjoy the moment as a soulful experience’.

Related: Peak Performance: How Do I Build A Culture Of Sustainable Growth?

Those entrepreneurs or performers that have not released the peer pressure, doubts and fears that circumvent their thinking and feelings place limitations on the fulfilment , happiness and joy that they could have experienced should they have let go of all ‘mental baggage’ that they carry. One of the keys to unlock your potential is to leave your past baggage behind as you go through the door of positive change and development.

This article will highlight three prominent barriers to your ultimate ‘Peak Performance’ yet will reveal three key principles that when consistently applied will empower you towards unleashing your potential and become a ‘Peak Performer’ in any area of your life.

1. Barrier to Peak Performance: Limiting beliefs

When you entertain such limiting beliefs as ‘I am not worthy’, ‘I do not possess the resources to succeed’, ‘I am not intelligent enough’, it will limit your performance within any area of your life within which you entertain those beliefs.

Some top sport performers believe that only the seriously talented can be at the top and that talent means you do not have to work hard. For sure it is possible to reach the top based on superior talent alone but you will not be a sustainable success. Those with the potent combination of talent, mental strength and the willing ness to work hard will eventually catch up and dramatically outperform those with the limiting belief that my talent alone is enough.

2. Barrier to Peak Performance: Procrastination

If you are a serial procrastinator as an entrepreneur by the time you have actually executed a decision the ‘Peak Performer’ has already executed, failed and corrected his/her mistakes several times and is outperforming you.

3. Barrier to Peak Performance: Perfectionism

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection” – Mark Twain

Perfectionists often suffer from a fixed mind-set which is revealed thoroughly when the face glaring imperfections. This fixed mind-set dictates that perfectionists will rather walk away from the situation than aim to continuously improve which is a key driver to Peak performance. It is perfectly ok to fail as long as you apply the learnings of the failure and grow.

Be open to the fact that more often than not you are going to face imperfect conditions and timing in business, bad weather and facility conditions in sport, and ups and downs in any career.  The discipline and willingness to continuously work hard even for small improvements removes the focus on perfectionism to learning and growing continuously.

The above three barriers to ‘Peak Performance’ are very prominent ones but not the only ones that you will have to break through on your journey towards being a ‘Peak Performer’.

When you google who was the mentor of Nelson Mandela Oliver Tambo’s’ name will pop up. Tony Robbins had a mentor. Ray Dalio has been coached by Tony Robbins in return. And that brings the good news – you can be coached or mentored to break through the barriers that limits your performance.

Related: The Anatomy Of Peak Performance

The key questions here are:

“Are you coachable?” and “Do you want success and happiness badly enough?”

1. Empowering belief towards Peak Performance: Purpose

Clarity of purpose is a key driver towards ‘Peak Performance’. Purpose is ‘your why’, that very good reason why you do what you do. Two entrepreneurs of equal intelligence, resources, talent and skill start a venture within the same industry, whom will outperform the other?

The one does not really love the industry and is not truly inspired by what he is doing, the other has a real sense of Purpose and truly loves the industry. Logic dictates that the one with the real sense of purpose will more easily overcome obstacles and will truly be inspired towards Peak Performance.

The fine print to Purpose is that Purpose is a powerful belief but yet is just a belief. Underpinning purpose you must consistently do what is required to actualise your purpose and do so with patience and discipline.

2. Empowering belief towards Peak Performance: Peak mental state

We all know from personal experience that when you are de-motivated and negative thoughts dominate your mind that a very good performance is unlikely to result from that state.

You can train yourself or be trained to almost always be in a peak mental state where you are anchored in positive beliefs and in strong positive emotions about those beliefs. From this state a Peak performance is much more likely.

3. Empowering belief: Take immediate, consistent and disciplined action

When we feel overwhelmed we either do nothing or very little in general. We also tend to procrastinate when we are unsure of the course of action we should be taking or when we doubt our abilities. When we know exactly what our purpose is we do know what our priorities are and once we are sure of our priorities when know how to allocate the right amount of time to our activities that serves our purpose.

We all feel overwhelmed and or fearful at some point. The key here is to still take action in the face of being overwhelmed and fearful. When overwhelmed and fearful a critical question to ask yourself is: What is the smallest and easiest thing I can do right now to start improving the situation? Once you have taken action it creates momentum and it gives you confidence to take the next action required.

Use your fears and doubts as triggers to take action. Small actions at first to train yourself and to give you more confidence to gradually take bolder steps. The Navy seals in general are not fearless human beings they were just trained to use their fears as ‘triggers’ to take action and this is possible for everyone.

Here is an empowering belief for you:

Anyone can be a ‘Peak Performer’ and that includes you!

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Self Development

Research: The Power Of Meditation That Will Blow Your Mind

How transcendental meditation can improve your life and help you achieve the highest levels of success. Don’t believe us? Keep reading and find out

Nicole Crampton

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the-power-of-meditation-that-will-blow-your-mind

If I told you a group of meditators could stop a war, eradicate violence, reduce infant mortality and increase primary school attendance rates – would you believe me?

This exact scenario happened in our neighbouring country Mozambique. In 1992, the civil war that lasted 15 years came to an end. Joachim Chissano the leader of the winning forces took control of the country, instead of enacting revenge on the rebel forces, he promised there would be no prosecution or punishment.

He even went so far as to offer them half of the positions in the Mozambican army, and he gave them a chance to gain power through political means. Two years later, Mozambique’s had her first ever multiparty election, Chissano and the former rebel leader were up against each other in the polls.

After winning, he focused on reducing poverty to establish lasting peace. Between 1997 and 2003, 3 million people, out of a population of 20 million, were rescued from extreme poverty. This led to a 35% decrease in infant mortality and a 65% increase in the number of children attending primary school.

The following sections will help you on your journey to find your personal “woosah”:

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