Last weekend my wife and I re-watched the charming 2014 comedy Hector and the Search for Happiness, starring the always delightful Simon Pegg. Hector is an unhappy, unsatisfied psychiatrist who undertakes a global search to uncover what truly makes people happy. Here are a few of the things Hector discovers along the way, all of which echo findings in numerous studies on happiness (including a fabulous book with a similar theme, The Geography of Bliss - One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World, by Eric Weiner). And all of them apply as much to your work life as they do to your personal or family life!
- The grass isn’t always green on the other side and no, you can’t ever keep up with the Jones! Comparisons spoil your happiness. People who focus on their own personal growth without comparing their accomplishments to others always report being far happier that people who focus on other’s success and accomplishments with envy.
- Many people only see happiness in their future. They fall victim to the happiness-sapping trap of, “I’ll be happy once ____” mentality that prevents people from living in the moment and being happy with what they are experiencing right now.
- Surveys suggest that many people think being happy means being richer or more important. Yet, as Hector learns, and as numerous studies suggest, these people are completely wrong. So much research shows that once people have their basic financial needs met, an increase in salary has very little, if any, impact on a person’s overall happiness. And people who focus only on money or material things often end up on what’s known by researchers as the “hedonistic treadmill”, where a certain level of success or riches is never enough because there’s always “a bigger boat.”
- Happiness is calling, or at least, answering your calling. People who view their work as not just a “job” but as a true calling always report being considerably happier with their lives. And no, you don’t have to be curing cancer or saving the planet. Studies show that people in any job can shift their mindset and change up their job to create a great sense of purpose through their work.
- Hector learns in his travels that happiness is being loved for who you are. This translates into successful workplaces as well: High-performing cultures happen when you create an environment where people feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work and where people are appreciated for who they are and where individual differences are celebrated, not feared.
- Happiness, Hector learns, is helped along through genuine appreciation, gratitude and celebration. High-performing, inspiring companies and successful, happy people celebrate all the time – they reflect upon what’s working, they celebrate the small milestones in their lives, and they practice sincere gratitude for what they have and what they have accomplished in their lives.
Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame business speaker who speaks on workplace happiness, humor at work and inspiring workplace cultures. His latest book is called The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank.