Whether you’re a leader in your workplace, or managing your kids at home, most of us have some kind of leadership position. And even if you’re on your own, you need to lead yourself!
With leadership comes responsibility, stress and worry.
How do you cope?!
I’ll be sharing my ideas in the tips below. But first...why focus on happiness?
Why be a Happy Leader?
We are programmed to think that success comes first. Happiness comes after.
But research shows happiness comes first, and success follows.
When you’re happy, you have better relationships, you’re more creative and you’re more productive.
Most leaders make the mistake of chasing after success.
If you’re a parent, you may be pushing your child to get the top grades.
If you’re a coach, you may be trying to get more clients, more sales or more success for the business you work for.
If you’re a CEO, your focus may be on profits and cutting costs.
But the most forward thinking, successful and innovative companies in the world are looking at the latest research in the science of happiness, and applying it in their organisations.
And happy pays. They are finding their staff enjoy and engage more in their work, there is a much lower turnover in staff, and the happier staff leads to happier customers and a bigger profit in the long run.
I’m not talking about a fake happiness. I’m talking about creating conditions so whoever you are ‘leading’, and yourself, is happier.
How Can I Be A Happier Leader?
Don’t worry. You don’t have to joke and laugh all day long! Although that’s no bad thing.
In my personal experience, peace and kindness lie at the heart of a happy life.
Inner peace and a kindness both to yourself and those around you.
So, if you like my approach to feeling happier, try this approach.
1. Enjoy cultivating peace and kindness for yourself, daily. If you’re a regular reader, you know I’m slightly obsessed with meditating. I love it! You need to find what kind of daily ritual soothes your body and mind. You could also try yoga, tai chi, mindful walking or just joyful resting! Whatever you choose, notice how peaceful your mind is on a scale of 1-10. Then notice what you need to do to make your mind more peaceful. That way you’ll cultivate the right attitude to more towards more and more peace.
2. Bring an attitude of kindness to your body. If you throw your body into the gym however your body feels...if you drink 5 cups of coffee every morning to just stay awake...if you drink a lot or struggle with other addictions, maybe you need to look at what’s underneath all this behaviour. Please don’t criticise yourself. Instead, treat yourself as a deeply wise and kind friend would treat you. This is based on the science of self-compassion. Let’s say your name is Jane. Perhaps you’d say to yourself:
‘Dear Jane, how are you today? Are you feeling tired? I’m not surprised, you work so hard, and your brain works even harder. How about you take a little break my dear. You DO deserve it. Yes you do have a lot of work to do, but the world was running before you were here and will keep running after you leave too. So take a bit of time off everyday. Even if it’s only 5 minutes to start with. Try some deep breathing or a bit of stretching. And do it with a little smile on your face and you’ll enjoy it even more. If you like walking, how about a little walk, without your phone or other distractions. Just you and your walk. Just pick an activity that’ll help you relax and smile. Shall we try that today?
3. Practice kindness to others. Help others out. Does a colleague need some coaching? Does a friend need help moving house? Try volunteering in your local area. Even Harvard agrees. The simple act of volunteering on a weekly basis has been shown to have profound benefits.
4. Ask yourself the magic gratitude question daily. The quality of your leadership is based on the quality of the questions you ask yourself. So why not have a go at asking yourself the magic question: ‘What am I grateful for today?’ The amount of high quality research on the power of gratitude is awesome. The real magic is in your self-reflection and answer to the question.
5. Focus on How, not just What. When you’re working, take a look at your attitude. The attitude you choose to bring to your activities has a far greater impact than whatever you actually do. Do the best you can with whatever you’re working on, with a smile on your face, and I’m sure you’ll immediately notice a positive shift. The science agrees.
6. Find meaning in your work. Research shows it doesn’t really matter if you’re a cleaner or a doctor to find meaning. It’s your attitude that creates meaning. The happiest leaders focus on how their work is making the work a better place. For me, for example, writing this blog every week is something that gives me great meaning. Want to try finding meaning in your work? Think about the work you do, and ask yourself how you can help others to have a happier, healthier life. It can be as simple as making a cup of tea for someone, or sending a positive email from time to time.
7. Turn bad stress into good stress. A beautiful piece of research has found that stress itself isn’t bad - it’s your attitude to the stress that does the most harm. So find out the positive benefits of stress, and ride the wave of your challenges at work to ensure a long, happy, healthy life, whatever stresses you face.
8. Live Simply. Do you need a bigger house? A faster car? The next iPhone? The more money you spend on extrinsic rewards, the more challenging your life will be. Live humbly. Spend money on things that’ll make you truly happy - not just more stuff. That’s better for you and better for the planet.
9. Take a Break from Your Goals. Striving towards goals may be the work you need to do. But also take time out to rest from ‘doing mode’ and enjoy the pleasure and refreshing rest of ‘being mode’ to help avoid burnout.
10. See Failure and Success as Fuccess. Fuccess is my word that combines failure and success. Each time something goes wrong, rather than thinking you failed, think you fucceeded! Because you can only ever learn from so called ‘failure’, not success. A positive attitude to failure will make you more resilience to life’s challenges.
11. Single tasking day. Although most people now know doing one thing at a time is more relaxing, efficient and productive than multitasking, many people are addicted to doing more than one thing at a time. So try having a day of single tasking. You’ll feel so much better, you’ll get addicted to doing one thing at a time instead!
12. Hire for Attitude and Train for Skill. If you are involved in hiring staff, I recommend you hire people who share your positive attitude to life. You can always train people in different skills, but you can’t train people for attitude. This way, you’re create more positive, mindful and happy culture in your workplace.
Happiness has been shown time and again to lead to success, not vice versa.
And happiness is mostly an ‘inside job’.
Deep states of mindfulness and happiness are cultivated when you nurture inner peace, kindness and gratitude as regularly as possible.
You can cultivate happiness by prioritising these values and encouraging those you lead to do the same.