Tag Archives: Psychology

Happiness: Creating, Fostering & Spreading the Cheer

We live in a time of unprecedented stress. We are bombarded by stressors every minute of every day of our lives, be that on the professional or the personal level. As we celebrate the International Day of Happiness, the question of maintaining a sense of balance and content becomes vital for our emotional and physical well-being.
The fact that the United Nations had to dedicate an international day to celebrate an emotion that should be the essence of our existence is a clear sign of the times. That did not go unnoticed by governments around the world, with some going as far as forming cabinets centered around creating happiness, and dedicating ministries to spreading and maximizing happiness in society (a prominent example is the UAE).
Moreover, an emerging field of research is thriving as scientists investigate factors that create happiness. Early signs and data are reassuring. Happiness seems to stem from within, albeit a conscious effort should be made under certain circumstances to attain it. The research reports that wealth and happiness are not directly correlated. Additionally, happiness and positive thinking are not dictated by nature or nurture alone, meaning that, while our genes and our upbringing play a role in setting our perspective in life, conscious effort is critical for determining our happiness levels.
One interesting finding, for example, is the role empathy plays in generating happiness. Apparently, by sharing feelings of others, we become more fulfilled individuals. A healthier and happier community, therefore, is a more empathetic and humane community.

Finding a Purpose & Defining Oneself: On What’s Needed for Success

In his writings exploring moments of greatness that separate exhilarating success from monotonous hours of mere competence, Robert E Quinn, University of Michigan’s Professor of Management and Organization, defines two “states of being”. The Normal State refers to the comfort-centered (sticking with what we know), self-focused (placing our interests above those of the group), externally-directed (complying with others’ wishes to avoid conflict), and internally-closed (avoiding risk-taking) set of behaviors that direct our day-to-day lives on the professional and personal levels. Quinn suggests that while the normal state of being is comfortable and safe, it leaves us with a feeling of languishing and emptiness. The second state Quinn describes is the Fundamental State of Leadership, which he suggests is critical to creating moments of glory and accomplishment. In a nutshell, the Fundamental State is everything that the Normal State is not. Rather than being consumed with self-promotion and personal interest, driven by pleasing others, worrying about their perceptions of you, and following the easier path, the Fundamental State prompts you to focus on one goal that trumps all else: delivering results. This state is usually attained under duress, time crunch, and exceptional circumstances where project completion becomes of existential importance for the organization/ team.

Under such circumstances, leaders become results-oriented,  fixated on the issues that matter the most and ignoring distractions because there is no other way forward. The result? Moments of brilliance and extreme productivity. When dissected, the foundations of the Fundamental State could be utilized to attain enduring, rather than fleeting, times of glory and triumph. According to Quinn, these foundations are: 1. Being results-centered, 2. Being internally-directed, 3. Becoming team-focused, 4. Opening up for feedback and adaptability.

An essential step towards implementing those foundations is defining your core principles. You cannot be relentlessly results-oriented without asking the core question: “What results do I truly care about?”. Neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl similarly postulates that our ability to thrive lies in finding a greater meaning to our existence (Man’s Search for Meaning, where he defined logotherapy, a form of existential analysis, explores this concept in more detail).

Maya Angelou once said that success is “liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”. It is impossible to imagine success in those terms if one has not defined their purpose and their passion in life, then striving to achieve it on a daily basis. For leaders, it is becoming clearer that the essence of excellence is dedication to benefit the collective, rather than one’s self. A lesson that could not be stressed enough in a world that appears to glorify hostility in the business world.