Originally posted August 25th, 2011
Happiness is not only good for your health, according to a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences but apparently it’s good for business too. In his Harvard Business Review article, Shawn Achor sites that happy doctors diagnose 19% faster and happy sales people increase sales by 37%. He goes on to say, “Happiness is the single greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy.”Over the last 17 years, I’ve seen dramatic business turn-around’s occur in as little as a week. The only change being an increase in a persons happiness. The results I’ve witnessed have been dramatic. My clients on Wall Street made better trades, CEO’s made more profitable decisions and sales people made more sales all with a shift in their mindset, which lead to greater well-being. Having been trained that correct business systems trumped all human factors, the outcomes that occurred from “enhancing one’s mood” were shocking.As a result, in the late 90s I decided to focus my career on the pursuit of happiness and fully investigate its impact on the success process. Over a ten year period I found that happiness was a skill that anyone could learn and that happiness was a hidden determinant in success. Bottom line; when entrepreneurs learn the skills to be happy, they have unexplainable increases in their results.
4 Happiness Skills Anyone Can Learn
There are a set of specific, actionable skills & tools that will cause a person to be happy regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in. The following is the short list that I suggest to all new clients.
1. Give up being right.
Most people are addicted to being right and they don’t even know it. This leads to endless amounts of argument and strife. To be happy, you must let go of this ineffective habit of thought.
Try this: Notice that The Drunk Monkey (my nickname for the chatter in your mind) has an opinion on everything including things it knows nothing about. Opinions are vanities and are always from your perspective. Your perspective my be right for you, but certainly not for everyone and everything. And yet, when you pay attention to The Drunk Monkey you see that it actually believes that it is right about almost everything.The desire to be right often puts you into a resistant state which does not lead to happiness. When you are in a resistant state of mind – trying to prove your opinion is right – you will not be as effective as when you are open to all possibilities.To give up being right, put yourself in the other persons shoes. Look at the world from their perspective and acknowledge that there are multiple ways to view the situation. In short, have compassion for others.
2. Accept the situation as it is and then take action.
A client of mine found himself in an unpleasant situation. His company was merging with another company and he was informed that he would be losing his coveted office with the sun shining into the windows that he was accustomed to. This may sound trivial. For him, this was the end of a 10 year era and he was very attached to what the office represented in his life. He had been angry for a week when we finally spoke. The merger had not yet happened. Yet, his anger was creating dysfunction in has ability to produce sales results today. He was suddenly procrastinating on things that were important. His sales were suffering.In a short period of time I helped him to realize that he was moving no matter how angry he got. Ultimately he accepted this as the case and promised to stop complaining simply because it was not making him feel good. Next I asked him a question I want you to ask yourself when faced with adversity, “What are you committed to?” We shifted his focus to defining what he wanted to create out of the merger. He described his best case scenario. As he did, new options began to be illuminated, his mood changed and his energy went up. Getting happy allowed him to get out of his resentment, see new possibilities and get creative.In the following weeks his sales results returned and he discovered a compromise that would work for his new working environment. If you don’t accept the situation as it is, you become frustrated, and unhappy, which makes you feel stuck and you can’t move forward. You literally get blinded to all your available options.
3. Quit pretending you are a psychic who can tell the future.
Just the idea of a change to his office environment caused him to hallucinate about a future he didn’t like. Problem is, he’s not psychic so he doesn’t know what the future will hold. Yet he was suffering, right now, as if the negative future had already occurred. This is a trick The Drunk Monkey plays on people to strip them of their happiness.The Drunk Monkey in your head is not your friend. As a biological survival mechanism one of its functions is to predict potentially negative situations and then mobilize the body to avoid them. Problem is, most of your life is not dangerous. The salesman moving into a new office is not dangerous and yet, The Drunk Monkey invented futures that caused his body to be filled with chemicals that created great stress. Nothing had happened and yet his life experience had been degraded by a figment of his imagination.Today just remind yourself that you are not psychic and that you can not predict the future. Work to see the situation with exacting clarity by removing your fear and your opinions. Next identify what you want to have happen. Only then will new and interesting possibilities arise.
4. Stop protecting yourself from people who aren’t attacking you.
A Wall Street executive was managing billions of dollars in assets and yet he felt like nobody listened to him and that he wasn’t important. This perspective had him feel repressed and defeated. His positive results didn’t seem to match hisunhappy mindset. He was making money for his firm and the firm was doing well as a whole. With further investigation it turns out that he felt like other people in the firm didn’t think what he had to say was important and therefore he was an outsider and not involved in making critical decisions. He realized that taking on more responsibility was important but felt powerless to do so.I asked him how he knew this was true. He told me about incidents that had occurred the year before. I asked him to give me something that happened this week. He couldn’t even think of something that had happened in the last six months. The Drunk Monkey was at it again.The Drunk Monkey creates generalizations. Example; you walk over, pet a dog and it bites you. The next time you see a dog, it shoots your body full of chemicals that put you on the alert. Do all dogs bite? No! But the survival mechanism will steer you clear of anything today that might have seemed dangerous in the past.
This system is great for making sure kids don’t touch the hot stove more then once but it’s terrible for everyday life. A couple incidents that occurred a year ago that made him feel angry and unappreciated. Since then, he’s been protecting himself against a whole bunch of people who aren’t attacking him and frankly, don’t even remember what happened.
I asked him to consider that he had changed, they had changed, times had changed, and the world had changed since then. I asked him if he would be willing to run an experiment to put The Drunk Monkey into place so he could return to happy, fulfilled and satisfied with work. He agreed. Here’s what I told him to do.
Instead of trying to keep his ideas safe, instead of wondering how he could move his objectives forward; for the next week, find out what other people were committed to. See what the other people in the company were working on and discover ways to contribute to each of the people in the company. Make it a game. See if you can contribute something to someone everyday for the next seven days. An idea, a contact, a resource or even just an encouraging word.
Through this process, he shifted from protecting himself from all the people who weren’t attacking him, to being supportive and giving. Within the year he became one of the most celebrated people in his company. Everyone wanted to get him involved in their projects. He was suddenly important. The next year he was recruited away by a superstar in his industry and made a partner in the firm. This was a five year dream that came true in one. The trick was simple, he needed to be the change he wanted to see in the world, just like Gandhi said.
When you are happy, you are creative, approachable, flexible and easy to be with. Add those characteristics to your skill set and you will see an immediate positive benefit.
Most people believe that happiness is something that occurs when the conditions of life are favorable. But the truth is, happiness is the skill navigating challenging situations without getting reactive. If you wait for happiness to find you, you’ll be waiting a long time. Happiness is an inside job.
How you look at a situation influences your response.
Here’s what I mean:
You are at work. Sally says something that you think is rude.
“That Sally, she’s always such a jerk. Why can’t she just be nice?”
Now, no matter WHAT Sally does, you are convinced she is being rude.
Fast forward a week.
Sally is genuinely kind and helps someone out in the office. Your impression: Sally is just trying to make herself look good.
And you continue to view her as a problem to avoid.
But here’s the actual problem: YOU.
Because you’ve adopted a perspective that limits how you see Sally. No good deed she does is actually acknowledged. No, your mindset is grounded in your point of view – that only sees her one way.
This is what most people do. They live like their perspective is the only perspective.
And, you are missing out!
In reality Sally is helpful. She just has a communication style this is abrasive to you. It’s not her, it’s you.
Unfortunately, this scenario plays out over and over in your life, every day. What you THINK is true, is just your un-examined point of view.
As a result, you are limited by your mindset.
The good news; you can do something about it.
Learn about The Drunk Monkey – not just as a silly name I invented – but as the old, outdated biological system that holds you back.
When you do that, you begin to see that how you look at a situation influences your response.
And when you can see The Drunk Monkey in action, you can shift your response to one that more aligned with reality (like thanking Sally for being so helpful).
Your mindset matters.
Feeling stuck? Fear stopping you?
The Worst Case Scenario Exercise to the rescue! Go through this process when you are feeling stuck… when you are resisting something… or you just can’t figure out what is standing in your way.
- Write out the worst possible thing that could happen.
- Make a plan to move forward after the worst possible thing happens. Don’t make a plan to avoid the worst case, that will just give The Drunk Monkey more power over you.
- Make peace with the worst case scenario. Make a promise to yourself that if it happens, you will deal with it and survive it.
Once you show The Drunk Monkey that you CAN and WILL survive the worst thing happening, it can begin to chill out.
Advanced Level: Next write out what you are grateful for now. Shift your energy back into an effective state by focusing on what works about your life, what you are happy about and what you like – now.
This doesn’t mean you don’t want more. It simply means that you are acknowledging and appreciating what IS. From this new place you can take new, more effective action.
Try these techniques the next time you are feeling stuck.
One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
Agreement #1 is Be Impeccable with Your Word.
Today, give that idea some thought.
Consider that your words created your experience.
How you describe situations… how you talk… how you share about what is occurring in your life actually CREATES your life.
And that’s really cool for this simple reason: at any time you can shift the conditions of your life toward what you really want.
Let me give you some examples of responsible ways of relating to situations that you might not have considered before:
“I am grateful for this debt. Doing what it takes to get out of it is a catalyst to discover what I am capable of.”
“Not getting that deal gives me the opportunity to work on my presentation, and nail it next time.”
“Choosing to accept my friends anger allows me to be strong while she is weak, and not participate in the drama.”
When you are impeccable with your word you are at choice. You are being intentional. You are treating your words like they have power, because they do.
This is a master mindset skill worth developing.
Complaining is selfish. Gossiping is counter-productive. Getting upset is a waste of time.
So why do you indulge in these negative habits that strip your happiness, and distract you from taking action on the things you really want?
The Drunk Monkey is running the show.
Let’s be honest. When you go into states of upset… when you waste time talking about others… when you bitch and moan about how things “are” (The Drunk Monkey’s interpretation of your life), you are actually screwing yourself.
If you look closely, you will see these destructive habits occupy space – head space, time space. They actual BLOCK you from enjoying what you have, and investing the time it takes to achieve more.
Plus, your destructive habits are irritating to the people in your life. And secretly, they wish you would get it together.
Let me give you an example.
My son has a habit of getting very upset at inconvenient times. He’s the kind of kid who attempts to keep it all in, and then explodes when he can’t keep all his negative emotions to himself any more.
The other night we are all playing a board game, and he gets triggered. His Drunk Monkey decided that everyone was picking on him in the game (it’s a game of strategy) and slowly he starts to see the game as a personal attack. His mood slowly shifts, he starts not really playing, but refuses to be honest, and stop. So the rest of us have to deal with a “non-player” player who really isn’t interested in being at the table.
Then it happens.
Someone says something, and he explodes.
Yelling, screaming, he stomps upstairs spewing hurtful words in an attempt to injure the people he loves. His behavior is not fun to be around and it is insanely selfish. It’s the ultimate “hey, it’s all about me” egotism at work.
Here my kid, who has incredible skills and is very emotionally intelligent, allowed The Drunk Monkey to run the show. He longer cares about the game, his family, his manners, and the behaviors that are appropriate for the situation his is in.
Nope, he goes into the most self-indulgent state you can… the “I am pissed and you have to deal with it” mode.
And what he doesn’t yet understand that this self-indulgent behavior costs him massively. It costs his well-being and emotional health. I costs him having deep relationships with friends at school who don’t like when he has an outburst (while I am sure he is more in control at school, the underlying strategies he uses when he is upset are still intact) and it costs him being able to participate in fun things – because he is teaching us that he’s no fun to play with. So, even though we are his family, we have to really decide if we want to subject ourselves to his insanity the next time we play a game.
So, I have a question…
Where in your life are you letting your destructive habits block you? Where are your destructive habits costing you?
You may not be as overt in your behavior as my son. But, I know you waste time sharing your opinions, talking about your fears, and giving your point of view that you think is SO important that others must be exposed to it.
As a result, you waste away your day on things that keep you from focusing on what you want.
Today, I invite you to look for the destructive habits that you are addicted to, and then ask: is this habit moving me towards or away from the things most important in my life?
This is the first step to taking back control from The Drunk Monkey.
The moment you are for something, or against it you limit your options. When you have limited options, you have limited power.
“They shouldn’t act that way” “I don’t like that” “I wish things were different.” Each of these statements, even if a fleeting thought, create a position for and against whatever you are commenting on.
What every few people understand is that when The Drunk Monkey shares its opinions, people step back. They are less likely to include you in projects and opportunities because secretly they are afraid your opinions are going to be pointed like a loaded gun at them someday. As a result you have less power to get things done, and you have to resort to using force to make things happen.
Using force to get what you want takes tremendous effort and is not sustainable. Conversely, having power allows you to move things forward with less effort and more ease.
So, today just notice how your mind is designed to be for and against everything, all the time.
And instead practice being in a more neutral state. Noticing, appreciating, accepting how things are and then taking action from there.
Your goals, dreams and plans move faster when you are not held back by the opinions that limit you.
I started writing songs again. (If fact, in the past 3 months I’ve manifested a singer/songwriter partner and two producers. We have 3 songs in production right now. Plus, we’ve been offered a full recording studio to use in the coming weeks and months.)
Ideas for lyrics come all the time… while working, while driving, while having dinner. Here’s this mornings ideas…
If you see the dark then you chose the dark.
If you see the gloom, then you chose the gloom
If your world is painted black then you are holding the brush
Not sure if these lyrics will make it into a song or not. But I like the radical level of personal accountability that they represent.
Here is one of my favorite strategies for getting into an effective mindset. It may seem counter intuitive, but it works.
This quick video is just 2:29. Watch now.