Years ago, I recall working on a major project for months. Every individual on the team was expected to do his or her own regular day job, and also work on this massive initiative on the side. At night. On the weekends. In whatever spare time you could find.
I recall the brutal travel required to get it all done. The entire team finished, and it culminated in a big presentation at company headquarters. Visiting executives were positioned in a large conference room, listening to the findings and recommendations of the group.
What that team did was impressive, and the executives in the room were pleased. That was clear because they immediately adopted the suggestions.
But they didn’t tell us. They didn’t say anything.
The team had imagined that they would take us all out for a big celebratory dinner. It didn’t happen. Instead, we simply faded back into the daily activities that consumed us before it all started.
The problem was a senior management failure to recognize the huge contribution of the team. The senior executives had an entitlement mentality. I am sure that, if you asked any one of them, they would say, “Well, that’s what they are paid for!” Or, under significant stress, they simply did not think about it.
Having served as a senior leader for many years myself, I am conscious of this more than ever. In the busyness of the job, in the pressure of the need to perform, it isn’t always easy to remember to pause and say thanks. We are on to the next thing and there are dozens waiting in line.
Ask yourself, how often have I been guilty of the same behavior?
“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” -Gertrude Stein
This is an excerpt from Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title by Rick Miller. For over 30 years, Rick served as a successful business executive in roles including President and/or CEO in a Fortune 10, a Fortune 30, a startup, and a nonprofit.
Being Chief requires us to develop insight. It is as much about being as it is about being Chief. Insight is a key to increasing your confidence, effectiveness, and, since your power increases as you connect what you do to who you are, deepening your self-understanding through insight will deepen your power. Insight can come from the simplest experiences and from the places you least expect it. Always be on the lookout for gems of insight that can guide your path in life.
There are five ways a leader can learn more about themselves. Specifically, Chiefs choose to be:
Be Present: When you become totally aware and conscious, you can use all of your senses to learn everything possible in the current moment. Specifically, when you give 100 percent of your attention to the people you spend time with, you will find that your relationships become much more fulfilling.
“Insight is the understanding that comes from self-awareness. -Rick Miller
Be Still: Contrary to many Western cultural norms, perhaps our most important choice is to develop the deeper understanding and truth that comes with being still. To maintain inner balance, choose the tranquility and peace of stillness. In that peaceful state, you will develop the ability to trust and have confidence in your own voice.
“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen-that stillness becomes a radiance.” -Morgan Freeman
Be Accepting: When you choose to accept people and circumstances for who and what they are, you can escape the frustration of trying to change them. Try to take a nonjudgmental approach to people to open yourself to the potential of clarity and deeper relationships.
When you accept the past and remain receptive to circumstances and people, you can open yourself to the possibilities of learning from all situations and from every individual. When you accept your current reality with a certain degree of detachment, you will find that things come to you with a fraction of the effort otherwise required.
“The power to be Chief is a choice. It doesn’t come from a title-it’s a choice anyone can make.” -Rick Miller
Some bemoan the constant interruptions and endless internet surfing. Others celebrate the new-found freedom and capabilities.
How has the digital age impacted our happiness?
Amy Blankson is one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. She is the only person to be named a Point of Light by two presidents (President George Bush Sr. and President Bill Clinton) for creating a movement to activate positive culture change. A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with organizations like Google, NASA, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era.
I want to start with the question that an entrepreneur asked you at one of your presentations: “Social media and technology are destroying our happiness, right?”
In recent months, I have seen a growing number of posts about how bad technology is for us. Technology is blamed for social isolation, disconnection, and corruption. But I’ve also heard and seen how technology can be used for good — a means to connect, to share knowledge, to empower, even to save lives. So, which is it: Is technology good for us or bad for us? Does technology make us less happy or more happy? As Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Technology is a tool, a means to an end–and WE get to decide how that story ends.
Fact: 95% of Americans spend 2 or more hours a day using a digital device.
Since technology can both bring joy and destroy it, tell us a few ways you’ve used it to your advantage. And tell us about what apps you’re using for happiness, productivity, and to “tune in, not zone out.”
One of my favorite examples of “happytech” is the Spire stone. The Spire stone is a small wearable that clips onto your bra strap or waistband to monitor your respiration and, in turn, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase the flow of endorphins in your blood stream. The Spire uses your breathing patterns to figure out when you are tense, calm, or focused, and provides gentle notifications to guide you when you need it most.
When I first started testing out the Spire stone, I had a particularly poignant experience. Last spring, my family jumped into our backyard pool to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. In an unfortunate turn of circumstances, my younger daughter jumped into the pool a bit too close to her older sister, landing on her neck and breaking her neck. I happened to be out of town when this happened, so I didn’t know how bad the situation was until I returned home and took my older daughter to the doctor. I was wearing my Spire stone the whole time and had managed to stay fairly calm through the doctor visit; however, as I was walking out of the hospital with my daughter in a giant neck brace, my Spire stone began to vibrate to let me know I was feeling tense. Pausing to think about what was going on, I realized that I was actually anxious about how other people would perceive me as the mother of a child with a broken neck. The nudge was just enough to help me reframe my thoughts to be more present for my daughter rather than worried about myself, and I was able to short-circuit an emotional response that might have taken me a week or more to realize before I had the Spire stone.
“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” –Robert Solow
Sometimes tech is fun just for the sake of the endorphin rush and the dopamine boost. But at what point do those focus-altering diversions cause us to lose sight over what we really care about? At what point do diversions turn into fixations that are distracting?
Sometimes we become so engrossed in our diversions that we don’t notice that they are no longer making us happy anymore. Like Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, we get our legs going so fast that it actually takes us a moment to realize that we have run right off the Happiness Cliff. Let me assure you that this never turns out well for poor Wile E.
According to the Law of Diminishing Returns, many diversions can actually be beneficial for our productivity and happiness—up to a point. Beyond that point, the diversion simply becomes a waste of time and eventually a time suck that becomes harmful to our productivity. To avoid falling off the happiness cliff, start your day by setting your intention for how you want to use your time. When you start to find yourself engrossed in a task, pause to ask if your technology use is helping you tune in (helping you to achieve your intention) or causing you to zone out. If your answer is the latter, then try to set a time limit for yourself to engage in that activity so that you don’t get sucked in and lose focus.
Happiness Tip: pause to see if you are tuning in or zoning out.
What does the latest research tell us about our ability to train our brains to be more positive?
The latest research from the field of positive psychology reveals that training our brains to be more positive is not only possible, it’s actually essential to striving after your full potential. Why? Because when your brain is positive, it receives a boost of dopamine, which turns on the learning centers in the brain and makes you able to see more possibilities in your environment. In fact, a positive brain has been linked to: 37% higher sales, 3x more creativity, 31% higher productivity, 40% increase in likelihood of receiving a promotion, 23% decrease in symptoms of fatigue, 10x increase in the level of engagement at work, a 39% increase in the likelihood of living to age 94, and a 50% decrease in the risk of heart disease.
Research: Positive people have a 40% increase in likelihood of a job promotion.
Thankfulness, gratitude, and gratefulness: three words to describe a characteristic, a personality trait, and a way of living.
People who live with an attitude of gratitude are known to live longer, sleep better, and have increased productivity and happier lives.
For much of my life, I would have told you that people are thankful when they are happy, things are going well, and life is good.
But then I met people who seemingly unraveled a mystery:
The elderly woman in a nursing home who was in a great deal of pain. But you wouldn’t know it. She couldn’t stop smiling and thanking me for the visit.
The middle-aged man who recently lost his job, his home and his family. Instead of bitterness, he was focused on thanking the people who offered him food and a place to stay.
The up-and-coming leader I hired who thanked me again and again for the job. Instead of an egotistical response, knowing his qualifications, he must have thanked me a dozen times for the opportunity.
As we think about gratitude, I think of the spirit inside these people. I realized that I could not predict someone’s attitude based on circumstances. I would meet someone who was wealthy beyond belief, but that person was miserable. Someone else would win a major award and shrug off compliments, grumbling that it was not good enough.
Did thankfulness allow the woman to live longer?
Did the middle-aged man end up more successful based on his attitude?
Did the up-and-coming leader create success in his life because of his thankfulness?
Does gratitude help fuel success? My opinion is that it does. It seems to play a major role in happiness, health, and prosperity. The order is more often gratitude first, then success and not success first, then gratitude.
“A spirit of thankfulness attracts others to your cause, ideas and goals.” -Skip Prichard
Here are a few tips I have learned from those who are truly grateful. These people are thankful:
That means in the morning and during bad weather. It seems that losing our health makes us more grateful if we get it back. Losing money makes us thankful for a small savings account. The death of a family member causes us to savor the sweetness of the surviving members.
“In everything, give thanks.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18