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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.

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Self Development

How To Control What You Can And Influence What You Can’t In Your Life

Every day you need to get up and face numerous challenges. Here’s how you can keep your head in the game — even when all you want to do is quit.

Erik Kruger

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resilience

On Monday you wake up ready to take on the world. You’re focused, determined and business is doing well. Tuesday feels like you’re invincible and things could not be going any better. Wednesday, your world collapses. You doubt your ability to deliver to your clients. You wonder whether you should still pursue the same business. You think that quitting at this stage is easier than dealing with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. And you are dramatically reminded that entrepreneurship is hard.

Mix in human nature and it becomes borderline insanity to try and build a business. And yet, the reward is worth it. I therefore want to share three strategies that might help you cope with this tough but deeply rewarding pursuit.

Influence and control

Most of the things in business and life are out of our control. You cannot control how other people react to your service or product. You cannot control how your employees will show up. You cannot control how the market will react and how that will affect your business.

Related: How You Can Do Big Things

This makes it very important to control what you can and then influence the rest to the best of your ability.

So, what can you control? You can control your actions, reactions and perceptions of the challenges you face. Meaning essentially, that you can control yourself and your efforts.

Do this with excellence and you will automatically influence the people around you and the situations you find yourself in.

Override your moods

If we only did the hard work when we felt like it, we would hardly get anything done. Our moods fluctuate like the tides of the ocean. Not because we are temperamental but because the external world has a profound impact on us.

When you wake up to news that the economy is in recession, it has the potential to plant seeds of doubt in your mind. When you receive an email from a disgruntled customer complaining about your service, it has the potential to ruin your day.

The fact is that you can receive a hundred testimonials singing your praise, but you will obsess and become despondent over that one negative comment.

This means that we have to move beyond our emotions. Sure, they are important in the decision-making process and for fostering meaningful relationships. But you cannot allow them to dictate when you will do work.

In other words, work hard, irrespective of your moods, especially on the days when you don’t feel like it.

Create a calibration practice

One of the best ways to deal with this rollercoaster effect is to create a daily calibration practice. I am a big fan of any action taken on a daily basis. Not only because of the accumulation effect that occurs over time, but also because it keeps you focused.

So, what does a daily calibration practice look like?

It differs for everyone. It could range from meditation to a vision board to journaling to listening to a specific playlist of songs. My suggestion is that you give journaling a go.

Because it’s sometimes difficult to start a new calibration practice, I have included my journaling template for you.

It’s called ‘J1G’ (pronounced as jig). I use Evernote or a notebook from HumanWrites for journaling purposes.

J: Journal

For the first few minutes, simply allow your hand to run across the paper. The idea is for you to dump as many of your thoughts onto the paper as possible.

Some questions you can answer in this section are:

  • What am I currently excited about?
  • What am I currently worried about?
  • Where am I currently winning?
  • What can I learn from what happened yesterday?

1: The one thing that you want to get done today

In this time, I usually have a look at my to-do list and decide which one action I want to get done today. Write it down and then expand on why it is the most important action. How will it move you or your business forward?

Related: Better Thinking For A Better World

G: Gratitude

In the last section, you simply write down three things that you are grateful for. Trust me, this is an important daily practice, but even more so on the days when you feel as if life is beating you down.

When you focus on the things that you are grateful for, you crowd out fear and shift your state of mind to a more positive and productive one.

The punch line

If you can stick to the three ideas I outlined above, I guarantee you will develop more resilience and perseverance. You are an entrepreneur because you chose to be one. Do not allow life to impose its will on you. I have no doubt that you will be better off because of all the challenges you face. Not in spite of them.

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Self Development

Practice This Important Skill To Get Your Way Every Day

Listening is a powerful tool to deepen trust and understanding.

Julie Christopher

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silence

“Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.” – Richard Branson

Did you know that an anagram for the word listen is silent? As an entrepreneur, have you ever found yourself frustrated trying to speak to someone who would not be silent and simply listen?

Whether you were immersed in a conversation with a client, at a company meeting or stuck in the negotiation of a business deal, it can be annoying when someone interrupts the flow of things, stealing away from your experience.

Related: Are You Listening Enough?

It can be especially difficult when you have an urgent need to communicate something important or accomplish an objective and you need to get your way.

However, did it also occur to you that perhaps you’d been the first to interrupt, thus neglecting to listen? Oftentimes, though largely unintentional, we force our opinions upon others, simply due to a lack of awareness.

The act of listening seems like it should be natural. However, in the business world, it’s one that needs to consciously be developed to manifest greater success. The act of listening varies from situation to situation, but it can be used as a powerful weapon to overcome adversity and ignorance.

So, ask yourself: Are you merely hearing, or are you actively listening? If your honest answer isn’t a favourable one, consider these five steps as reliable ways to not only connect on a deeper level with people through listening but to get your way as well:

1. Repeat or rephrase to demonstrate understanding

First, listen intently to what was just said. Then, either repeat or rephrase it so you know you’ve understood. Even better, your listener will know you did what mattered most – took the time to actually listen. This forces you to stop thinking about a response. Later on, if your audience makes a strong claim about what was said, you’re able to reference what you did to ensure mutual understanding.

Related: (Video) Shut Up and Listen!

Of course, when dealing with difficult individuals, there’s not much that can be done. As is the case with every rule, there’s an exception, and for this one, this is it. To avoid this kind of situation, should a critical conversation be on the horizon, consider taking notes. When it comes to listening, it’s one of the most sincere forms of flattery.

Also, be sure to pay close attention to listen to what is not being said, too. Like subtle body movements and other nonverbal cues that will alert you to critical information that will help you to get your way. Pay attention to them. They will help you to get a better feel for where a discussion is headed and how you can be more persuasive.

In his international bestseller What Every BODY Is Saying, former FBI counterintelligence officer Joe Navarro states, “Just as careful listening is crucial to understanding our verbal pronouncements, so careful observation is vital to comprehending our body language.”

bill-clinton2. Make your listener feel important

This isn’t easy, but if you can completely focus your attention and energy when listening, people will like you more. As stated above, the people you engage with want not only to be recognised but to be understood. When you don’t actively listen, it’s all but impossible for a favourable impression to be made.

Make your listener feel like they’re the only person in the room. Give them your undivided attention. Resist the urge to look around or check your phone. In today’s day and age, with so many competing distractions, this kind of focus is rare. You’ll be remembered and respected as someone who does things differently.

Former President Bill Clinton was famous for his ability to do this. No matter how long the engagement, treating people properly can curry favor for a future need. It’s no secret that people typically will help those they like, right? Needless to say, it’s much easier to get your way when you’re liked, and this is a great way to increase the likelihood of that happening.

3. Resist the urge to always be talking

In any business-related conversation, you’d prefer to be in the “driver’s seat,” right? Believe it or not, during a negotiation, the person who speaks the least tends to be perceived as the one in control. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs believe the opposite – if they’re busy talking, they’re in control.

The truth of the matter, however, is that he or she who’s loudest frequently comes off as aggressive, egotistical or even desperate.

By listening, you learn. As you learn, you gain knowledge and wisdom. As you grow wiser, you’ll gain influence and become more charismatic. If you develop your listening skills and become an exceptional listener, you’ll be amazed at how attentive people will be when you finally do speak your mind.

Related: Are You Prepared To Listen To Your Board Of Directors?

Now that you have their attention, you can share everything you’ve learned from your conversation and you’ll know exactly what to say to get your way.

4. Be present in the moment and listen to your intuition

Imagine for a brief moment that you’re in a conference room at a large networking event. The majority of your peers can’t wait to “vomit’ all over you with mind-numbing information about what they do, how they offer it and why you stand to benefit.

Sound familiar? It’s a familiar scene for relationship-driven entrepreneurs.

Yet, what’s funny about all this is that it really takes only one introduction to the right person for your business to take a quantum leap forward. So, rather than trying to meet everyone, focus on how you feel around those in attendance before introducing yourself.

Related: Why You Should Be Listening To Informal Entrepreneurs

Are you ready to learn the secret of being a great listener? Simply pause for a moment and take a deep breath.

When you breathe deeply and in a controlled manner, you’re forced to focus on the present moment. This allows you to sharpen your self-awareness as you observe your surroundings with clearer and broader vision.

In this deeper, more intuitive-driven stage of listening, you’re free to release tension and doubt, helping prepare you for difficult questions, rejections or even objections. When not placed under pressure, you’re able to listen with your entire self: the body, the mind and the heart.

Bringing consciousness to your breathing develops intuition. With intuition on your side, you’re prepared to listen and (and learn) through the lens of your highest logic. The result? Others feel content and confident. Even better, you’re in a position to truly connect, as opposed to correct. All this from taking a much-needed breath or two before talking.

robert-cialdini5. Invest in building “relationship equity.”

Have you heard of the term “relationship equity”? It’s become very popular recently. Truth be told, there’s a reason for it – every time you demonstrate the ability to listen, you deposit “relationship credit” into your audience’s account.

Then, when it’s your turn to speak, the chances of the favour being returned with deliberate listening are increased. If not, gently remind the other person of the fact that you gave her the stage to speak her mind first and you’d simply like the same respect and courtesy now.

By listening first, you’ll influence others to reciprocate and return the favour. Reciprocity is a powerful subconscious tool to creating influence according to behavioural scientist, Robert Cialdini, in his latest bestselling book, Pre-Suasion – A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. As an entrepreneur, you can use reciprocity to your advantage through listening.

People not only need to be heard, but they deserve it, too

Both inside and outside of the working world, at the core of each one of us, lies a need to be understood and accepted. Active listening is a simple method that supports emotional intelligence. It not only makes others feel special but also demonstrates your ability to focus.

With this new focus, we can now effectively shift our attitudes from those of want and neediness to those of gratitude and even compassion. Actively listening summons feelings of security and stability in others. This is important, as it is actually an evolved form of recognition.

Even in business, listening is one of the best gifts that can be given. Listening magnifies your perceived value and validates your power of authority as a leader and an expert in your field. Intentional listening unlocks greater self-awareness, which is a state of consciousness that leads to joy and fulfillment.

In this state, you have a much better chance to influence conversations and get your way by listening, as long as you have the best intentions in your heart and that it is for the highest good.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

10 Ways To Develop A Success-Oriented Mindset

Confidence empowered entrepreneurs to take decisive action, and decisive action is what builds confidence.

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Take a minute to imagine an entrepreneur you deeply respect. Think of that person at the start of his or her career, working on a product or service that will eventually make it big. Regardless of whom you’ve chosen, chances are the entrepreneur in question had a success-oriented mindset from the outset.

Entrepreneurs who lack confidence or who have a pessimistic mindset will usually fail. It’s hard to motivate people to invest money in a new idea or work for a fledgling company if the entrepreneur behind it lacks confidence. But having a successful mindset isn’t just helpful for those who are launching a new venture. It can also help readers from all walks of life to make smarter decisions that result in better personal or business outcomes.

Here are 10 strategies that can help you develop a winning mindset.

1. Put yourself in challenging new situations

You gain confidence by overcoming challenges, but when you fail to put yourself in challenging new situations because you assume the outcome won’t be positive, you will be unable to grow.

Instead, develop a list of exciting challenges you’re interested in overcoming. They could include exploring a foreign city on your own or enrolling in a challenging business course at your local university. Even volunteering to help with a new project at the office can provide a challenging situation that will foster growth.

Whatever the challenge you select, be sure it is something that interests you; otherwise, it may be difficult to stay focused along the way.

2. Be open to finding a mentor

Mentorship is often discussed with regard to self-improvement and business success. But many professionals assume that finding a mentor is as simple as asking a senior professional for help.

However, as Sheryl Sandberg argues in the Harvard Business Review, finding a mentorship doesn’t work that way. Instead, professionals need to put themselves in situations where they can build real relationships with senior business leaders.

In time, after an existing relationship has formed, it may be appropriate to ask a senior professional for mentorship. That means readers will need to make themselves available to build professional relationships before they can secure a mentor who can help them grow.

3. Think of failure as a learning opportunity

failureFailure is an outstanding learning opportunity. If you find yourself succeeding frequently, it may be a sign that you aren’t challenging yourself enough.

Develop a mindset that views failure as an experience to learn from. By reframing failure, you’ll find it is easier to take risks. Adopting this mindset will leave you less prone to anxiety, which is key to creating a winning attitude.

4. Keep a folder of your proudest moments

While it’s important to focus on the present and future instead of the past, maintaining a collection of moments you’re proud of can serve as a helpful reminder when you’re feeling down. By periodically reviewing past successes, you may find inspiration for future projects. At the very least, you can use past successes as a way to build long-term confidence.

5. Surround yourself with top talent

Environment plays a significant role in creating our mindsets. After all, we’re social creatures and are influenced by those around us. Surround yourself with talented individuals who can teach you new things and who can encourage you to grow personally and professionally.

If you’re involved in the hiring process at your organisation, look for prospective employees who are better or smarter than you. This will help create an environment that can consistently encourage you to form a successful mindset.

6. Find time to disconnect from stressors

The average American works more hours per week than his or her counterparts in other developed countries. Furthermore, the average number of hours worked has been steadily growing since the 1980s. Unfortunately, work-related stress has been creeping up at the same time.

Readers should find time to disconnect from work-related stress that can make it difficult to adopt a success-oriented mindset. Traveling can be a good way to disconnect, as can adopting a daily meditation practice.

7. Develop a simple morning routine

morning-routineAccording to lifestyle gurus like Tim Ferriss, we are shaped by our morning routines. That means it’s important for readers interested in developing a new mindset to develop new habits as well.

Since your morning has the power to make or break your entire day, consider creating a simple morning routine that positions you to have a successful day.

For example, waking up earlier than normal can give you time to focus on yourself in ways that might have otherwise been impossible. With the extra time you can go to the gym or develop a meditation practice to reduce stress, as mentioned above.

8. Set time-bound and achievable personal goals

More than 90 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. If you’re serious about changing your mindset, you should take a different approach to goal setting. Instead of relying on a New Year’s resolution, create time-bound goals that you know are achievable from the outset. Approaching goal setting from this angle will help to build your confidence, which in turn will reshape your thinking.

9. Listen to your instincts

Part of developing a winning mindset is learning to trust your instincts. According to the Harvard Business Review, we are usually capable of making smart decisions when we rely on our gut instincts.

Confidence in your instincts is a critical component of business success. While it’s usually ideal to rely on research and data to make decisions, there are a variety of scenarios in when empirical evidence is unavailable or inconclusive. In these situations, people with a winning mindset are comfortable making decisions with their gut. This serves them well in the long run.

10. Avoid stagnation

If you feel as though you aren’t learning new things in your personal or professional life, it’s time to change it up. Avoid stagnation in order to continue to grow. This will help you to face new challenges and overcome new obstacles.

Developing a successful mindset can take time. To get started, focus on learning new skills and putting yourself in new situations. By overcoming adversity, you’ll begin to develop faith in yourself.

Establish morning routines and build a network of talented colleagues and mentors in order to avoid stagnation and achieve moments you can be proud of.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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