Workplace Wisdom

Happiness Is an Input and an Outcome

One of the amazing things about happiness — not just rose-colored-glasses pretending, wishing, and hoping everything will be all right, but actually feeling good — is that if you persist in it long enough, others around you will eventually take notice.

They may shift slightly, moving with the ripples caused by the pebbles of happiness you’ve lightly tossed into the pond of your workplace. Over time, your co-workers will miss having the sense of your happiness nearby; eventually they may even notice that you were the source, and miss you when you’re not there. And in the long term, the level and currents of the pond can change as well.

You Can’t Declare “Mission Accomplished”

Just don’t make a big banner for the lunchroom proclaiming a new happiness initiative, or tell people in any way how you expect them to feel. Try mandating happiness and it will end up as just another failed “flavor-of-the-month,” juice-’em-up program instead of an organically nurtured sense of lightness. On the other hand, if folks start noticing your more positive demeanor or interactions and comment or ask about the changes, you can explain why and how you got to feel better, and encourage them to try it too.

And don’t think you can suspend other rules of operation: Feeling happier doesn’t mean you can afford to have anything spin out of control. In fact, having everything go as well as usual is the pancake, and happiness is the syrup.

You Can’t Require Anyone to Feel Happier

As for people who seem to be constitutionally unhappy, just appreciate them for who they are and don’t try to sprinkle fairy dust on their heads. Even though you’re committed to increasing your own happiness, try not to fault anyone who appears to prefer to be unhappy. Don’t take them on as a special project, or bemoan their lack of insight or moral fiber.

The Golden Rule for happiness isn’t “Do unto others,” because what works best for you may not work for everyone around you. Some of this is personality-based: Person A is happiest figuring out solutions to thorny problems and seeing those solutions implemented. Person B may also like to get problems solved, but may feel happier about being recognized by the team for having come up with the solution, than for figuring out the solution itself.

For your own sake, start small so you can maintain your efforts — and also to be sure you don’t weird anyone out. It’s important not to overwhelm yourself. You could decide to put flowers on your desk, greet people in the elevator, or thank people for their participation just a couple of times more each day. Happiness is inherently practical. Once you’re feeling good consistently you can look for more complicated things to improve… I’ll give suggestions for that next week. But now I need to get up, look out the window, stretch, and enjoy a few moments of satisfaction and gratitude that another post is done.

Onward and upward,

LK

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