To live happy according to the principles covered below may require reinventing yourself. I say this because they are counter-cultural virtues — even spiritual principles — that purveyors of fast-living and instant gratification may shun.
But if you’re open to a new, or revised, template for working and living life to the fullest, in a way that will catapult you to success, I offer you nine ways of doing just that. Fair warning: choice and intent are the two prerequisites to pull this off.
1. Always start with love.
In the Agape sense, it’s a selfless, “I got your back” type of love that defines great leaders. It demonstrates commitment, loyalty, respect, care, and high regard for others.
In human centered workplaces that place people over profit (while becoming profitable in the long run), there is unconquerable goodness that always seeks the highest in others. When it spreads across an enterprise, it is a love that declares, “I value you as an employee, co-worker, and human being.”
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, advocates for love through “compassionate management.” In this instructional video, he says, “I need to put myself in the shoes of the people that I’m working with. I need to see the world through their lens and their perspective. I need to coach them where I can coach them. I need to play to their strengths. I need to understand what it is that they’re trying to accomplish.” That is love.
2. Choose to live in a state of joy (instead of mere happiness).
The joy referred to here is deeper than happiness. Yes, big difference. Joy is more serene and stable than the happiness the world offers, which is more emotional and temporary (like watching a movie you’ve been dying to see).
Being in a state of joy comes down to choice, and making that choice has long-term psychological benefits. Brain research by Dr. Wataru Sato of Kyoto University says that when you choose joyful behaviors (like gratitude, compassion, forgiveness, and other virtues on this list), you hold the key to rewiring a region of the brain called the precuneus.
By changing your daily habits to a state of joy, you’ll be able to control your sense of well-being and purpose. If you’re caught in a vicious circle of nasty emotions like doubt, fear, and uncertainty, replace those emotions by consciously and intentionally choosing joy.
Use the tools of meditation, prayer, journaling, and mindfulness to aid you in the process. Check in with close friends and family after two weeks and ask if they have noticed a difference in you.
3. Choose to live in a state of peace.
It has often been said that peace is the absence of confusion, or even fear and anxiety. This means having the capacity to experience peace with others, your current situation, and the path you’re on.
My personal illustration is the very path I’m on as a speaker, coach, trainer, and author. I started with an idea. While the idea evolved through phases of investor pitches that led nowhere, failed business proposals, trial and error business models, and being crushed by bigger competitors, one thing I always had and wouldn’t trade for anything was, and continues to be, a peace that surpasses all logic and understanding. It’s having an internal compass that guides you, where you hear a voice or feel an inkling that subtly hints that this is the path, keep going.
Choosing peace allows you to stick to the plan, even when the skeptics say you’re crazy. Peace blocks distractions that try to derail you from the plan. Peace means minding your own business, not comparing yourself with others, and being grateful every day for the place you find yourself.
4. Choose the path of patience.
Patience is a virtue I wish more people practiced. It helps you relax and rethink when things are snowballing out of control.
A leader who practices patience and is slow to anger receives far less attention and acclaim than a charismatic boss with a commanding presence but a short fuse. Yet the former has the clear edge.
In one 2012 study, researchers found that patient people made more progress toward their goals and were more satisfied when they achieved them (particularly if those goals were difficult) compared with less patient people.
Other research also found that patient people tend to experience less depression and negative emotions and can cope better with stressful situations. Additionally, they feel more gratitude, more connection to others, and experience a greater sense of abundance.
Finally, patience helps you see the innocence in other people during those really frustrating moments when you’d like fist to meet wall
5. Choose to practice kindness.
In the workplace, we don’t think about such “soft” virtues like kindness making any business impact, but the evidence proves otherwise.
When companies create an environment of kindness lived out in corporate values daily, they will see a happier workplace and an improved bottom line.
Research by Jonathan Haidt at New York University suggests that when a co-worker watches other co-workers help each other, it heightens a sense of well-being in that person. This is something Haidt calls “elevation.” And when we feel elevated by seeing an act of kindness, we are more likely to behave with kindness.
Kindness begets kindness and spreads like wildfire across an enterprise. This improves collaboration, productivity, and the bottom line.
6. Choose being in a state of goodness.
Being in a state of goodness is a mindset espoused by people with character and moral excellence. In being good, you cross over from a mindset of power and control over others to a servant leadership mindset of doing good, like meeting the needs of others before your own.
Being in a state of goodness requires the lucid understanding that your integrity is never, ever, compromised. When you walk in integrity and moral excellence, you discern between right and wrong, what is fair and just, and never mislead or exploit.
Billionaire Warren Buffett went as far as suggesting that, when hiring workers, integrity is a non-negotiable virtue of goodness to look for in every candidate. Buffet said: “You’re looking for three things, generally, in a person: intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.”
As an honest person with unquestionable character living and working in goodness (with yourself and others), you walk in truth and light. As the wisest King in history once said, “wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge [truth] will be pleasant to your soul.”
7. Choose to have faith.
I don’t speak of religion, which has been abusive to so many. I speak of a faith–whatever your belief system–that comes from a deep spiritual connection with a power greater than yours. A power that extends you grace, forgiveness, love.
It’s this faith that strengthens you and makes you endure your trials. A faith that helps you realize it’s better to surrender the outcome than experience perpetual anxiety and a coronary. Sound weak?
Leadership thinker and author Mike Myatt brilliantly captured my thoughts about “surrender” in this article in Forbes, where he said:
“Society has labeled surrender as a sign of leadership weakness, when in fact, it can be among the greatest of leadership strengths. Let me be clear, I’m not encouraging giving in or giving up–I am suggesting you learn the ever so subtle art of letting go.”
So surrender to the outcome, believe that things will work out according to your vision, and surround yourself with trusted advisers, friends, and family who will support you in your journey.
8. Choose to act with the unpretentious power of humility.
I’ve heard a few times from people in position of power that humility is weak. Yet this core virtue drives at the inner strongholds that make a bad leader: pride, self-centeredness, judgmentalism, control, and impulsiveness.
Best-selling author and thought-leader Jim Collins, who wrote the insanely-famous Good to Great, has probably dedicated more time writing about humble leaders than any other topic in his landmark study of Level 5 Leadership.
Collins determined from his extensive research that these respected leaders direct their ego away from themselves to the larger goal of leading their company to greatness without arrogance.
At any level, in any role, the shift from ego to humility can drastically alter the outcome to your advantage.
9. Choose to have self-control.
How do people in your office respond during a crisis? Are colleagues or managers calm, clear-headed, optimistic, and a beacon of light for the team? Or do you see temper tantrums, fingers pointing in different directions, and others foolishly acting on impulse with more bad choices that make conflict worse?
In emotional intelligence studies, self-control (or self-management) takes care of that ugly stuff. It’s a personal competence developed in every good leader. The question behind self-control is: Can I manage my emotions and behavior to a positive outcome?
Internationally known psychologist and best-selling author, Daniel Goleman, says this about leaders with self-control: “Reasonable people–the ones who maintain control over their emotions–are the people who can sustain safe, fair environments. In these settings, drama is very low and productivity is very high. Top performers flock to these organizations and are not apt to leave them.”