It’s possible to be a smarter, happier, healthier leader. To be one requires regular training of your brain to react differently to the world around you.
As business leaders and effective communicators, it is our job to make sure that business objectives are being met, customers are happy, and employee morale is high. But if we as leaders don’t feel happy or optimistic in our work, how are we supposed to ensure that those around us stay positive?
When you say a command to a pet that has not been trained to respond to that command, you can’t be upset that the pet did not respond with the desired behavior. The same goes for our own brains. If your brain has never been trained to adopt an optimistic mindset, to empathize with others or to seek positive change, you can’t expect others to respond in kind.
According to a recent study found in Shawn Achor’s “The Happiness Advantage,” a positive and engaged brain is 31 percent more productive, three times more creative, and ten times more engaged. Therefore, it makes sense from both a personal as well as from a business perspective to train your brain to be happier. Here are three steps you can follow to make that happen:
1. Develop an optimistic mindset
This may sound like a daunting task, but just like a child or a pet, your brain will not be trained overnight. Training our brains is a lifelong habit we can improve in just a few minutes each day.
In order for us to be happier leaders, we must adopt happier mindsets. A 2015 study of mindfulness in the workplace found that the ability to step back from automatic, habitual reactions is highly predictive of work engagement and well-being.
For example, if your heart rate starts to increase when you receive an email from your boss saying he or she needs something ASAP, let mindfulness train your brain to choose a different reaction – perhaps taking a deep breath or putting on your favorite song before responding. Not only will this trigger deeper, more positive thinking on your part, it will help you communicate any tasks that need to be delegated to your employees in a clearer, more thoughtful way.
2. Use the S.T.A.G.E. framework to improve your mindset
Behavior matters. This is the core belief that must fuel all your decisions on your path to becoming a smarter, happier leader. Just like a parent absorbs the feelings of their children, a connected leader should absorb the feelings of his or her employees. You want to make sure that your employees are feeling happy and empowered in order to keep morale (and profits) high.
Happify.com provides effective solutions for better emotional health and well-being. Their S.T.A.G.E. framework – which stands for Savor, Think, Aspire, Give, and Empathize – has been proven to help leaders improve their mindsets.
Start by selecting just one skill that you wish to cultivate, and practice that skill for 21 days. Set small, manageable goals and increase the difficulty level as you master each level.
3. Tap into technology to bolster success and track your progress
There are several apps and devices busy leaders can use to take a few seconds out of their day to brain train. For example, Headspace is an app that delivers multiple offerings for guided meditation. The Pay It Forward app aims to spread random acts of kindness by suggesting a “random deed.” Furthermore, taking a few minutes out of your lunch break to read a positive article on LiveHappy.com or Humans of New York can work to strengthen your empathy.
By focusing our minds on ourselves and the well-being of others for just a few minutes a day, we can take steps to become smarter, more caring, more engaged leaders that employees and customers will respond to in a positive way.
Use this technology to reinforce positive behavior in your life. Try out one app at a time and benchmark your progress using the app over the course of a few weeks or months. If you find that a particular strategy or app isn’t working for you, get rid of it. Start fresh with new technology. Find what works best for you.
Training your brain is not just a hobby for overachievers – it’s a leadership strategy. Once you commit to training your brain in the ways outlined above, you will find that not only are you happier, but that your company at large and the people who surround you are also changed for the better.
Amy Blankson has become 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 U.S. presidents for creating a movement to activate positive culture change. A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with leading organizations to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era. Amy received her BA from Harvard and MBA from Yale School of Management. Most recently, she was a featured professor in Oprah’s Happiness course. Amy is the author of two books: The Future of Happiness (CLICK HERE to get your copy) and an award-winning children’s book called Ripple’s Effect.
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