“Happiness is a state of activity.” –Aristotle
Happy is as happy does. Happiness is not something you are born with. Some people may always be jolly and skipping along, but it’s not automatic. In order to be happy, you have to be active in it.
But sometimes, it’s what you don’t do that gets you in a jolly state. We all carry cranky beliefs, mindsets, and habits. To enjoy more of what life has to offer (which, in case you didn’t know, is quite a lot!) you have to quit doing that harmful stuff.
Below are 11 things you need to drop today in order to be happy.
1. Spending time with toxic people.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” –Jim Rohn (tweet)
There’s an old Mexican saying: tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are.
You eventually become more like the people you spend most of your time with. Our mindsets, moods, even our mannerisms shift to mirror those of our best friends or partners.
This also includes the bad stuff. Their toxicity will become yours. Their anxiety will become yours, too. Life is hard enough as it is, so nobody needs that extra gunk. Look around at your circle and assign positive or negative feelings to each person, and start to peel away from those who are keeping you from being happy.
2. Being focused on the goal and not enjoying the work.
“It is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives, whether good or bad, that we find happiness, not by trying to look for it directly.” –Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Goals are essential. They give us a sense of clarity and purpose to our days. But being too attached to goals, or the result of our work, can make you miss all the joys that are sprinkled along the way.
One thing you’ll miss if you are too concerned with the end result is a state of flow. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi has spent his whole life detailing this state of mind that happens when you are so immersed in the task at hand that you lose sense of time and being. You are happily in a groove. This state can only happen if you concern yourself with the work itself, what’s right in front of you, not the end of the journey. This way, you’ll enjoy the ride.
3. Thinking of money as a goal, not a tool.
“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” –Democritus (tweet)
Guess what? Money is a pretty crappy purveyor of happiness. Money is great at taking away problems or concerns, but not great at consistently bringing us joy. There’s a larger (very interesting) explanation of why that is (i.e. Herzberg’s Motivation Theory), but the gist is this: to find happiness, you have to stop focusing on money so much.Advertising
That does not mean, however, that money has no influence on your sense of happiness. It is influential, but in a roundabout way.
In order to make money work for you and help you be happy, use it to either be generous (more on this below) or to purchase experiences. Experiences include vacations, taking interesting classes, or going on a weekend retreat. These experiences have a more profound and long-lasting happy buzz than does buying an HDTV or a new dress.
4. Being too focused on what you want and not grateful for what you have.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”–Denis Waitley
If you could buy everything in the world (all the cars, houses, trips, everything), what else would you want? If you have a nagging feeling that there’s still something more out there, then you may need to pause. You need to drop that mindset or else you’ll never be happy.
You, like pretty much everybody else, are not appreciating your current blessings: your job, your friends, your health, your collection of leather-bound books. You are probably taking them for granted, just like I do all the time.
In order to be happy, you need to start with what you have right now. Happiness doesn’t happen in the future when all your wishes come true. It happens when you can appreciate and savor what you have now. That way, whether you have a little or a lot, you’ll always have enough.
5. Comparing your Facebook profile to your friends’.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” –Oscar Wilde (tweet)
Today, everyone is connected (yay!) which also means everyone is comparing themselves to each other (boo!). Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—all of these are social networks that can have a dark side. When you use them to compare your life to the lives of your friends, you start to feel insufficient, boring. You wonder, “Why can’t I have as fun a life as his!”
But it’s not a fair comparison. Social networks are tabloids you can editorialize any way you want, which means we all only show each other the really good stuff. But we forget about that when we compare everybody’s lives to our own. Nobody has a life that’s only full of great food and breath-taking views.
I’ve written more about this on my blog, but the main takeaway here is to stop comparing yourself to your social media peeps. That image you see of them is not the full picture, so don’t be hard on yourself. Be kind.
6. Holding grudges and seeking payback.
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.” –Robert Muller (tweet)
Remember that guy who cut you off the other day? Or that old lady at the DMV who was really rude? Taking revenge, at a small or large scale, is a pretty common instinct.
But most of the time, we never do anything about it. You just sit there, stewing with thoughts of revenge. “I shoulda told her to go suck a lemon!” Those people who ruined your day will never hear from you. Meanwhile, you are tossing and turning, twisted by anger and bitterness.Advertising
Even if you were to do something, what would you get? Just a new cycle of tit for tat. Today’s fight would sprout tomorrow’s battle.
In order to be happier, you need to just let go.
Let go of that diss.
Let go of that insult.
Wash it off like dirty water. This doesn’t mean you ought to lay over and take it. Not at all; one thing is forgiveness while the other is allowance. But if there’s nothing you can do to prevent it, then try to forgive them for their unkind act. Otherwise, it will keep living in you for way longer than you deserve.
7. Worrying about the plan when there is no plan.
“Happy people plan actions, they don’t plan results.” –Dennis Waitley (tweet)
You grow up thinking that you need a plan for everything. You need a career plan, a marriage plan, a get-happy-by-finding-your-bliss plan. But you quickly find out that all the answers you thought you had are not really there. There are tons of questions, instead. This can make anybody miserable.
Let go of the plan. Life is so immense that any plan you can think of will be somewhat off, at best. And that’s fine. The beauty isn’t in the plan, but in your intentions, your work, and your reactions. To be happy you have to ditch “the plan,” and just try your best. Good stuff will happen, happiness will happen, you just have to let it breathe.
8. Being your own worst critic.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” –Gautama Buddha (tweet)
Human beings are pretty good at being their own worst critics. That rough call you had with your client means you are bad at what you do which means you’ll soon be without a job which will make you homeless and you’ll lose all your friends. I’m exaggerating about the thought process, but not by much.
This is called catastrophizing. To enjoy a happier life, you have to stop beating yourself up.
Here’s one easy way of doing that, developed by Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness.
Once you start to feel this catastrophic thinking emerge, follow the ABCDE method:Advertising
– A: What adversity just happened?
– B: Because of that adversity, what do you believe now? That you are a bad person?
– C: What did that belief cause you to feel? Are you now angry? Disappointed?
– D: It’s time to disputate. Argue with yourself that your belief is wrong. You are not a bad person, because you’ve always been kind and fair This is just a rare occurrence.
– E: Now that you’ve argued yourself to a healthier thought process, you should feel energized.
9. Giving stress its super power.
“When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage.” –Kelly McGonigal (tweet)
Stress is a silent killer. We all know this, and we all know the litany of deadly consequences it has if left unchecked.
You just need to stop stressing out in order to be happier. No duh, but how do you take the power away from stress?
Easy: re-think the definition of it. Kelly McGonigal has done amazing research on the effects of stress, but, more importantly, how one’s attitude can drastically change its effect on us.
If you view stress as helpful, the adverse side effects plummet or almost completely disappear. Stress loses its power, and you lead happier, healthier lives.
To view stress as helpful, you need to reframe your stress-induced reactions.
Stress is not bad. It’s actually preparing you to rise to the occasion. Your heart is beating faster to prepare you to act. You’re breathing faster because you’re sending more air to your brain so it can react more swiftly. You are sweating because your body is cooling you down so you’re more comfortable.
A simple tweak like this will help you walk away smiling from from stressful situations.Advertising
10. Being too careful with your generosity.
“Being a giver is not good for a 100–yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.” –Adam Grant (tweet)
We live fast-paced lives, where time, energy, and even money are not easy to dish out. In order to survive, you ought to be stingy with yourself and hoard as much as you can.
Maybe. But if you want to be happier, this is horrible advice.
To be happy, you must give. Being generous has been proven to boost your happiness. Any act of generosity can make you feel automatically better about yourself and everything else. It also doesn’t have to be about money. You can be generous with your social connections, your listening, or, like Professor Grant, author of Give and Take, with your time:
Grant incorporates his field’s findings into his own life with methodical rigor: one reason he meets with students four and a half hours in one day rather than spreading it out over the week is that a study found that consolidating giving yields more happiness”
11. Caring about everyone else (in the wrong way).
“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” –Virginia Woolf (tweet)
We care too much other people, but in the wrong way. We decide what to wear based on what others might think. We are careful with what we say to not upset anyone. We avoid stating our opinions, and the potential conflict therein, to please everybody around us. Essentially, we are imprisoned by other people’s expectations.
To be happy, you have to be you. Whatever that entails, you must be it.
If that means you are a comic book nerd, then nerd on!
If that means you love wearing tie-dye shirts every day, then right on, brother!
Once you stop caring about other people and stop letting them dictate what you are, how you act, and what you like, you’ll achieve an authentic level of happiness that few ever do.
Everybody has their own kind of quirks and weirdness. Most of us just don’t ever show it for fear of being shunned as “different.” But how can you be happy when you are constantly fighting against yourself, not letting your full self enjoy the sunshine? Drop the act, be yourself, and be happier.
Featured photo credit: whologwhy via flickr.com
Last Updated on April 11, 2019
How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success
Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.
I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.
I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.
Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.
Table of Contents
How Communication Skills Help Your Success
Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.
Create a Positive Experience
Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:
When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.
What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.
Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.
As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.
Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.
Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.
Help Leadership Skills
It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.
Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.
As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.
Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?
If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.
Build Better Teams
Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.
In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.
If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.
When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.
Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.
How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success
There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.
Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!
Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:
Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.
People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.
Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.
Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.
2. Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.
Here is a good way to think about it:
Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!
You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.
I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.
He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.
Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.
State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.
The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.
4. Over Communicate
So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.
What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:
Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.
Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.
Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.
There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.
5. Body Language
The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.
When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.
In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.
When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.
Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.
Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.
There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.
Now go communicate your way to success.
More Resources About Effective Communication
- Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work
- How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home
- How to Work with Different Communication Styles in the Office
- 13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships
Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com