Patrick: Hey everybody, I’m Pat V. and you’re listening to the Rise Above Your Best podcast where I’m not only obsessed with searching out and interviewing individuals that are achieving great success to uncover their habits, but also in uncovering and presenting the research that proves great success is available to anyone and it all starts when you believe in the power of rising above your best.
Patrick: I’ve really been looking forward to this episode. A lot of the work that I’ve done individually and with groups is around leadership and what I’ve found is that to be a good leader really requires us to be in a good place ourselves. I think it’s hard for us to inspire other people, through our actions, if we’re not happy with who we are. One of the workshops, that I put together, is a workshop that goes by the acronym of Power. It comes out of some research that was done by Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher, and I first read about it in a study, or actually in an article, that was written in Harvard Business Review back in January of 2012. And the title of it was Positive Intelligence and I thought it was so interesting because it really spoke to this idea that success does not precede happiness.
Patrick: It’s almost the opposite, is that you can’t find success, true success unless you find a way to be happy first. It’s not about the car, or the house, or the private jet, or whatever it is. However, much you have in your bank account if it’s not something more simple, and that’s what I love about the work that Shawn Achor did. He really tried to prove that in his book. Obviously, the happiness advantage certainly speaks to that.
Patrick: The challenge that I find when I work with individuals and certainly myself is to say, “How do I put this in a very easy-to-follow process where I could remember how to do it?” So this is what I did is I developed this model called the Power Hour. And the reason I call it the Power Hour is because the five action steps that Shawn Achor suggested in the model that he put together, or the 21 day happiness challenge that he speaks of it really involved only five things and all of them added up came to less than an hour a day of invested time.
Patrick: To me that says we all have the ability to do that, and it wasn’t even one hour that had to be all at the same time. This is spread out over the entire day. Some, in the beginning, some in the middle, some at the end. We all have the ability to do this and truly it is a recipe for finding happiness in our lives. Especially when we exercise it over and over, day after day. We find that these things will just rewire our minds and it doesn’t say we’re never going to be in places where we’re not happy or we’re dissatisfied where we are. That’s part of life, but what we’re going to do is we’re going to find ways that, more often than not, we’re going to find ways to overcome some of those challenges and things that might get in our way.
Patrick: So what is the happiness challenge, or what are these five strategies that Shawn Achor spoke about in his work? Well, first I think it’s important to understand that training our brain to be positive, as was mentioned in this article, is no different than going to the gym and I’ve heard it before. You’ve heard it before. This idea that we can read about exercise, but we don’t get any stronger by reading about doing exercise. We only get stronger when we actually do it and we still don’t get stronger if we do it once. I’m a runner. If I only ran once a month, I’m never really going to get any stronger. As a matter of fact, probably for the next two days, after that one run, I’m going to feel worse than I did the day that I ran and certainly the day before, and I’m going to tell myself “Why? Why do I want to keep doing this?”
Patrick: So where did Shawn Achor research this idea of behaviors and happiness? Well, according to the article in Harvard Business Review, it was with KPMG in New York and New Jersey, and this was in tax season and with tax managers, so certainly it seemed like the deck was stacked against him in terms of trying to create a happy environment.
Patrick: But what he did was he asked them to do five things. Well, really he asked them to only choose one of the five things that correlated with positive change. He asked the participants to perform their activity every day for three weeks, and then a number of days after the experiment had concluded he went back and looked at both the participants in the control group. And he looked at them over a number of different metrics. One, how engaged were they? Were they depressed? What was their general sense of wellbeing? And on every metric, what they looked at or found was that the experimental group showed significantly higher scores in regards to optimism and life satisfaction.
Patrick: What’s important here is that this life satisfaction scale, it’s a metric that’s widely accepted to be one of the greatest predictors of productivity and happiness at work. A life satisfaction scale as being one of the most accepted in terms of being a great predictor of our level of happiness at work. I think that’s incredible. Well, in this group it moved from 22.96 on a 35 point scale, before the training, to 27.23 four months later. That’s a significant increase and that really came from just one quick exercise every day that helped these managers to become happier. So what were those things and how do you put them together in your own life?
Patrick: Well, as I said, I use a model called Power and Power addresses each of those five activities that were addressed in the study. So the first one is P and P stands for praise.
Patrick: And that was in the study asking participants to, every morning, write down three things that you’re grateful for. Just three things. Could be, I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for another day. I’m grateful for maybe good weather today, whatever it might be, but just three things every day. Now, as I read into that in terms of, well, where do you put these things? My recommendation would be, do at the beginning of the day. When you wake up, do you three things that you’re grateful for every morning. And I’ll tell you why as we go through this.
Patrick: So the next part of the study, participants were asked to do something for somebody else, more specifically there were asked to basically send a positive message to someone in their social support network. Could be an email, could be a note, just something recognizing somebody else. In our acronym, Power, that really is the o for others. Do something for somebody else every day, sending somebody a note, words of encouragement. Because what does that do? That provides an opportunity. One that sets up a ripple effect where when we do something good for somebody, chances are they’re going to do something good for somebody else, it puts them in that space, and we can often think of reversed when it’s us, we do the same thing. Somebody does something for us, we generally want to pay it forward.
Patrick: So one of the next activities, that Achor had asked his group to undertake, was to take two minutes to describe, in a journal, the most meaningful experience over the past 24 hours for them. In the Power acronym that’s W for writing, so just two minutes. Now, when I coach individuals, I will recommend doing the gratitude at the beginning of the day and the writing at the end of the day and that way it bookends.
Patrick: You start your day out in a great place and you end your day in a great place writing about what went well, what was the most meaningful experience of the day? And certainly right before you go to bed, what a great place to sort of jump off from to go to sleep for restoration in a good place. How often do we maybe go to bed and we’re thinking about what didn’t go well for today or certainly may be what’s coming for tomorrow and it’d be nicer to think about what we’ll write down, what went well by our standards? Wouldn’t it be better to write about what went well for the day and to go to bed on that thought then what we didn’t do right?
Patrick: The next thing that Achor mentions out of the five habits, or the five tactics, was exercise for 10-minutes, just a minimum of 10-minutes of exercise, and that obviously is the E the Power. We can do that anywhere. I don’t care how busy you are, we all have the ability to find 10 minutes. To set the alarm 10 minutes earlier. To go out while we’re eating our lunch or to take a break. Just 10 minutes a day, that’s all that was required. And what’s interesting is there’s even research that backs this up, that’s more recent, that said that as little as 60 minutes of exercise a week had a positive impact on people’s wellbeing. So it certainly falls in line with what we’re seeing here from 2012.
Patrick: The last thing that people were asked to do was to meditate for a minimum of two minutes every day. This isn’t asking people to levitate off the ground or anything crazy, but think about it just from a standpoint of mindfulness of just closing our eyes, and in a quiet place for two minutes, and just trying to reflect again, maybe on what’s going to go well during the day.
Patrick: Maybe it’s a mantra that you have, that you say something over and over to yourself over those two minutes, “Every day in every way I’m getting stronger.” Whatever it might be, but just for two minutes, we can find that space. And that really is the R. Sorry folks, that was as close as I could get to meditation to put the R in terms of relaxation.
Patrick: But when we think about that now, we think we have the ability to almost manufacturer happiness by our behaviors. That power, when exercised, really can provide the happiness we need. It’s up to us to exercise that model and to try and find a way every day to really have a power day can always have that space to do that.
Patrick: So as we recap, we think of Power. How do we find three things to praise ourselves for every morning to be grateful for? What can we do for others each day? At least one thing. At the end of the day, can we write two to three sentences about what was meaningful that day? Can we find 10 minutes of exercise every day? And lastly, can we find two minutes, a minimum of two minutes to meditate somewhere to find that quiet time?
Patrick: And I promise you if you do these things, not only will you be happier at work, you’ll be happier at home, you’ll be happier in the community. It doesn’t matter where you are. You will gain the full benefit that this can provide for you. And the research backs up that when we’re happier, our life satisfaction score is higher and we benefit wherever we are.
Patrick: Hopefully, you are able to use this to rise above your best and if you know somebody out there that’s struggling with how to find happiness in their own life, pass this on, give them the power to be able to find happiness in their own lives.
Patrick: If you found this valuable as well, it would mean so much to me. If you would go on iTunes and rate this podcast. Better yet, to share it with somebody else or to subscribe to it if you already haven’t done that, and help me to get the message out to others on how they can rise above their best as well.
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