What is happiness?

August 29, 2017
3 min
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Happiness is largely abstract concept. We yearn for it, pursue it, revere it… but what exactly is it? Happiness is a feeling, an emotion, an intangible entity. It’s impossible to quantify, impossible to source, and impossible to control. It is found in success and it is lost with failure. Or is it?

The truth is, happiness is much less elusive than we tend to assume. With the emergence of the field of positive psychology, researchers have begun to uncover the mechanisms that control how we experience happiness. Not only have the identifications of specific neurotransmitters and brain areas allowed us to quantitatively measure happiness, studies have shown us how to understand its role in individual and organizational success. In fact, rather than being viewed as a result, it appears that happiness should be treated more as a skill.

Why is happiness so important?

Beyond the pleasurable feelings of happiness, individuals who practice happiness benefit from greater success. As explained by Shawn Achor, “Only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75% of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.” This analysis demonstrates the crucial (and often overlooked) role happiness plays in individual achievement. By capitalizing on happiness and actively utilizing it as a skill, we can fuel our own success.

Looking beyond individual success, how does the power of happiness translate to the workplace? It’s simple. Happy people make better employees. In addition to being, on average, more focused, innovative, driven, hard working, and passionate, happy employees are also more engaged, productive, loyal, and profitable. According to the Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organization, disengaged employees are 18% less productive and 16% less profitable than their engaged counterparts. The companies where these dissatisfactions fester also see 65% lower share price. In essence, happy individuals are more adept and eager to accelerate the growth of the company they’re dedicated to while unhappy employees hinder growth.

How do we improve happiness?

We have great control over our own happiness. Instead of simply arising when good things happen and diminishing when bad things happen, happiness is controlled by mindset. Studies have shown that “good” and “bad” events actually have much less significant effects on our happiness than we expect. We actually have the power to synthesize our own happiness, and daily exercises can strengthen this power.

Just as individual happiness can improve company culture, companies can foster individual happiness. If we continue to consider happiness as a skill and a professional habit, we can engage in exercises to improve it. Simple tasks, such as appreciating someone’s work, can lead to increased happiness for both individuals. By capitalizing on the simplicity of generating happiness and its contagious nature, leadership can implement strategies to boost employee satisfaction. Encouraging engagement with daily happiness activities elevates the moods of the employees which, in turn, builds company culture. And so, rather than being treated as the trophy we earn from achieving success, happiness should be viewed as an accessible and improvable skill with which we can interact and grow.  

John Paul

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