happy finishAs we search for a job or pine for a promotion, we often think:  If only I get this job, I’ll be happy.  If only I get this salary, I’ll be happy.

According to the latest research, our thinking is backward. The exploding field of neuroscience has turned the notion of “success leads to happiness” on its head. As it turns outs, quite the opposite is true:  If I’m happy, then I’ll be successful.  Being happy is so critical to my executive clients’ professional success that I include a full chapter on it in my book, The Glass Elevator: A Guide to Leadership Presence for Women on the Rise.

The happier you are, the more likely it is that you’ll land the job and salary of your dreams.  And once employed, the happier you are, the more productive you will be. In fact, in a sweeping meta-analysis of 225 academic studies reported in Harvard Business Review, researchers found that happy employees are, on average, 31% more productive. Their sales are also 37% higher, and their creativity is 200% higher.

It’s clear that we need to boost our happiness levels.  The good news is that most of the factors that contribute to happiness are absolutely in our control.  Only a meager 10% of our happiness is based on external circumstances.  That leaves us in some degree of control of a whopping 90% of our happiness.

One of the greatest predictors of success in your professional life is your optimism.  You might think people are inherently either optimistic or pessimistic.  But there is conclusive evidence that we can actually change our set points for optimism by witnessing that our behavior makes a difference.   Here are two proven ways to experience this phenomenon and increase your happiness level (and there are others in The Glass Elevator).

1.   Get off your bum

Did you ever notice that people who exercise regularly are, generally speaking, more cheerful than those who don’t?  Exercise energizes you. It allows you do more and it makes you happier. So, during your job search, get off your bum. Research clearly shows that you don’t need to compete in triathlons to reap the energizing benefits of exercise. Simply get moving:

  • Park your car at the far end of the lot and walk.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Ask a friend to stroll with you in the evening.

2.   Practice gratitude

Research has shown that practicing gratitude can boost our moods and make us measurably happier.  Practicing gratitude means bringing more conscious appreciation into our lives on a daily basis by making it a habit, much like an exercise routine.  There are many ways to do this:

  • Write in a journal daily about something meaningful that happened.
  • Send an email every day with praise or thanks to someone in your network.
  • Share 3 things you’re grateful for daily with a family member or “happiness buddy.”

While exercise is healthy for the body and outward expression of thanks is plain old good manners, when you do them consistently and consciously, you will learn that they are practices worth their weight in gold (or salary!).



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