Happiness is serious business.
Happiness is the latest corporate buzzword. In my network, I have many “Fun Officers”! But is our ability to have fun more important than how we feel during and after difficult situations?
Fun is all the rage. Positive psychology books and TED Talks have inspired some of the biggest corporations on the planet to look to inject more fun in to the work day.
But I wonder if this infatuation with good times actually creates confusion about what it means to succeed, and what skills we need to thrive.
Resilience is the most important skill to cultivate, given the rapid rate of economic and technological change.
Feeling good is all fine and good, but happiness is fleeting.
Learning to deal with difficulty, by contrast, improves your chances of feeling good again. That’s much more useful than clinging to an illusion.
We can’t always be happy. Pleasure is a relative state, contrasted by discomfort and pain.
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Then happiness comes.
So, to be happy, you have to first learn how to be strong; to anticipate and prepare for hardship, to pick yourself up after a fall, detach from sadness when you don’t succeed, and find the will to persist instead of getting depressed when things go awry, which they often will.
Resilience is a developed skill.
Psychologists say resilience is a developed skill, not a talent of unique people blessed with a special character.
It’s increasingly being taught to adults and children. Heartmath in particular have some wonderful trainings for Schools.
Perhaps the way to make the world a better place is to teach our children resilience? So they know where happiness comes from.
For adults, developing resilience might make all the difference between keeping a job or burning out.
A small May 2018 study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds, published in Frontiers for Psychology, found that as little as two weeks of “compassion meditation” made subjects more resilient in the face of human suffering, meaning they were able to look at struggle non-judgmentally and respond with compassion rather than becoming distraught themselves.
People who had practiced compassion meditation were able to look at suffering in the negative images while showing less activity in the amygdala, insula and orbitofrontal cortex, areas of the brain that are active during emotional distress.
The meditators weren’t just more calm, they also had more compassion for the photo subjects than the other group, which tended to reframe situations with notions like, “This person isn’t suffering—he’s just an actor.”
The researchers conclude that meditation seems to develop resilience in practitioners—a trait that’s critical for people in helping professions, like medicine and law enforcement.
They say the results indicate that compassion is a muscle that can be developed and flexed, which makes people more resilient, and ultimately more capable in the face of challenges.
Even if your job doesn’t involve helping people, you encounter obstacles, disappointments, and frustrations every day, socially and professionally. These can be distracting, but bouncing back is a victory—even if only you see those small daily wins. Your unrecognised reward is that you keep going.
Resilience is a personal act of defiance
“Resilience is a personal act of defiance,’” writes author Jesse Sostrin, who heads the executive leadership coaching program at the audit firm PwC. By becoming conscious of emotions and internal dialogue and the role they’re playing in your actions, you can overcome negative states, rebelling against the part of you that sabotages yourself.
Resilience “affects everything,” according to Sostrin, including problem-solving skills, physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and innovation. “Resilience is like a super-competency, influencing many other related skills and abilities that you need to deploy in order to work, manage, and lead well.”
Bouncing back matters more than happiness because life is tough. Everyone falls or is felled. But not everyone stays down.