According to the Economist, while forecasts vary, many agree that 2020 is going to be a dreadful year. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Financial Times goes on to tell us that the UK is suffering job losses on a scale and speed unprecedented even in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. As we worry about the health of our loved ones, the NHS and the economy, it can be hard to find things to be happy about, let alone be optimistic about the future.
I’ve spent the last four weeks speaking to my family, friends, and colleagues on Skype, Zoom, Whats app, Teams (I lose count), and I’ve found it interesting to observe how differently everyone seems to be handling the current situation that we find ourselves in. Some seem to be taking the challenges they face in their stride, while others are simply taking each day as it comes. I mostly fall into the latter category so I revisited a book that I read a while ago called ‘The happiness advantage’ by Shawn Achor. Achor believes that our interpretation of reality changes our experience of that reality and that when we are stressed or in crisis, we miss the most important path of all: the path up.
You may wonder why I’ve chosen to write about this in the Brand Blog, but The Happiness Advantage is a business book based on the largest study ever conducted on happiness and human potential. Following the study, Achor identifies seven principles that ‘fuel success and performance at work’ and dispels the myth that people are happy because they are successful, explaining that they are successful because they are happy. He calls this ‘The Happiness Advantage.’
I believe that a brand’s strongest asset is its people – they are the foundation upon which a brand is built. I wanted to share some of the insights from ‘The Happiness Advantage’ that I feel are useful to both people and brands in our current climate:
Keep your loved ones close
Investing in social relationships is the single most significant investment people can make in obtaining the happiness advantage. The correlation between social support and happiness is 0.7. Achor explains that while this may not sound like a big number, for researchers, it’s huge as most psychology findings are considered significant when they hit 0.3. Researchers have found that social support has as much effect on life expectancy as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and regular physical activity. With this in mind, when you’re feeling low, and you don’t feel like talking to anyone, reaching out for a call could be just the thing you need to feel better.
Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
We’ve all heard this saying before. I’m often the first to roll my eyes when it is said. However, I found it interesting to learn that psychologists have identified that many people that experience trauma go on to experience what is known as ‘adversarial growth’ or ‘post-traumatic growth.’ In a series of studies, they found that many people that had endured trauma had reported enhanced personal strength and self-confidence, as well as a heightened appreciation for and greater intimacy in their social relationships.
I’m sure you’ll know from your own experience that this doesn’t apply to everyone. Psychologists have set out to distinguish what differentiated those people that experienced ‘growth’ and those that didn’t and found that the person’s mindset had a large part to play. Research into how we perceive happiness shows that genetics account for 50% of how we feel, and life circumstances account for 10-20%, meaning that the remaining 30-40% is something that we can control. If you feel that you’re naturally more of a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, don’t worry. There are steps that you can take to change your mindset if you want to.
Learning from our failures
Numerous studies have shown that if we view failure as an opportunity for growth, we are more likely to experience that growth. If, on the other hand, we view failure as the ‘worst thing in the world,’ it becomes just that. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, reminds us that “we are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes or even staggering defeats along the way. We are freed by our choices.”
Out of adversity comes opportunity – Benjamin Franklin
Many of America’s top companies have used recessions to re-evaluate and improve business practices. During the financial crisis, Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, saw the recession as an opportunity to travel around the globe, boosting the spirit and trust of her employees in person. Achor explains that this paid dividends: not only did she strengthen the overall morale and performance of her company, but in 2009, Fortune voted her as the most powerful woman in business.
I hope that you’ll find some of Achor’s findings useful. I highly recommend reading his book if you have time. The following quote from the John Milton poem, Paradise Lost summarises the sentiment of the book perfectly:
“The mind is its own palace, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
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