Happiness is the most important human motivation. The United Nations has found that people’s primary desire around the world is happiness.
It is such a powerful desire that we can predict whether an employee is going to leave your company one year before the decision is taken.
Yet, how are we assessing the chances of companies will be successful in the future? We look at how much they make today. It happens the same with countries. We look at how much money their economy produces today, or we look at their unemployment rate. But that only offers us a look into the past, not in the future, as the future depends more on the estate of current well-being and happiness of employees than on the past economic results.
We are failing to capture the strongest driving force of results: how people feel.
And thus, we are blind regarding the outcomes that these emotional estates will produce. Take a look at the last presidential election in the US. All economic indicators were positive. GDP was getting better, unemployment was at a low of 5%. But how did people feel? Happiness picked down just before the election to the lowest point since happiness has been tracked there.
Happiness is not only affecting the destiny of nations, it can very well predict the results of companies.
Only the happiest companies will survive
200.000 years ago lived Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthals. Many think that homo sapiens survived because our brain developed in such a way that made us smarter. But recent discoveries prove this idea wrong. Homo Neanderthals had bigger brains. The difference? Homo Sapiens’ brains developed to be finely tuned to emotions and happiness which allowed them to develop more complex solidary social groups.
Humans have survived thanks to Happiness, the essential glue that allowed our species to stick together, to collaborate and progress in a world full of stronger species.
And also, happiness makes us live longer better lives. Those who are happier can live longer and are 22% less likely to develop heart-related diseases.
Happiness does not depend on our genes, it can be fostered by company culture
The most famous research to decide whether happiness is in our genes is known as the Minnesota Twins Study (1979, Bouchard). It was very clever to study happiness taking identical twins that had been given in adoption to different families when they were only 6 weeks old. Those pairs of twins had had very different lives but had identical genetic makeup. So, if their happiness was different, then it could not be dependent entirely on our genes.
After various surprises, the researchers pinpointed that happiness could be widely changed, independently of our genetic makeup. Recent genetics studies put genetic heritage at only 32 to 36 %.
How do we maximize our 40-60% happiness that depends on our decisions?
Happiness has two components that reflect also in the way our brain works.
One component of happiness is “experiences”. Although it is easy to understand that positive experiences influence our happiness. We also know that relying solely upon positive experiences does not truly make us happy. On one side, we get used to them, and we kind of need the negative ones to cast a light on the positive ones so we can savor them. On the other side, positive experiences activate the dopamine circuit on our brain. It is the circuit of happiness that runs through our brain creating desires for “more of the good thing”. It is the circuit that, for example, make us desire an ice cream, make us open the freezer, take a scoop and quickly makes us realize that one scoop was not enough to make us happy, that we needed two…
Relying only on increasing the number of positive experiences to increase our employees’ happiness is an expensive and never-ending objective that produces less and less results.
The other component of happiness is more reflective. It is about how we think of our life, of ourselves, of our potential and values. This kind of reflective happiness uses the neuronal path of serotonin. Activating this type of happiness through finding purpose in one’s job, feeling autonomy, witnessing diversity and inclusion, cultivating good relationships with colleagues and learning on the job; produces lasting deep increases on employees’ happiness
Both types of happiness are important and necessary to create happier places to work so both people and businesses can thrive together as happiness is a condition for human and economic growth and not a consequence of it.
Happier people are healthier, more creative and collaborative, which results in higher customer satisfaction, productivity and employees’ engagement.