Happiness at Work – A Realistic Perspective

It was a delight to hear Drs. Itai Ivtzan and Tim Lomas speak at Conway Hall last week on ‘Positive Psychology – New Ideas for Happier Living’, an Action for Happiness event. Among the many topics touched upon, one that particularly resonated was their exploration of the word ‘Happiness’.

As Positive Psychology practitioners, we have both an affection for, and a wariness of, the word happiness. We love that it’s universally accessible, a simple short-hand for what all human beings are looking for and want for their friends and family. However, ‘happiness’ also creates associations of a bright, shiny positivity that excludes any dark side. This unrealistic view of happiness is not what Positive Psychology is about.

It’s helpful to use two Greek terms, hedonic happiness and eudaemonic happiness, to clarify what we mean. Hedonic happiness is, as Itai explained, defined by its exclusion of anything perceived as negative – it is cheerfulness, pleasure and avoidance of pain. By contrast, eudaemonic happiness is defined by an integration of perceived negative and positive emotions. It is learning how to be our best selves and relate to others in an emotionally intelligent way, regardless of circumstances. It is the state of flourishing, wellbeing and self-actualisation.

It is eudaemonia, this more realistic and meaningful version of happiness that Positive Psychology aims to help people achieve. It is also the raison d’etre of Bailey & French; all our interventions focus on supporting people to experience more eudaemonic happiness at work.

Itai also shared a fascinating piece of research which again confirms the influence of our beliefs and mindsets on our quality of life. To give a simplified summary, two groups of people were compared: Group A was composed of people who believed that happiness could not include pain or negative emotional experiences. Group B was composed of people who believed that it could. Group B, who believed in eudaemonic version of happiness, were found to be less anxious and have higher wellbeing during stressful situations. Their belief and definition of that one word ‘happiness’ made a difference to their ability to flourish in life.

Much of our work at Bailey & French focuses on helping individuals, teams and whole organisations be aware of the impact of their beliefs, and develop beliefs and mindsets that lead not only to great performance, but also to deep, authentic happiness.

It’s not about trying to be upbeat all the time. It’s about embracing each step of the challenging and rewarding journey that is human life.

Get in touch to explore how we have successfully helped organisations of all sizes and in all industries, in the UK and internationally, improve the way they motivate performance. We work with organisations to find the best next step for them in cultural evolution.

We empower people to be their best.

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