Life seems to be becoming increasingly overwhelming and stressful. It is clear that if we do not start working on behaviors and strategies to cope with these challenges, the levels of disengagement, depression, and stress will continue to reach new highs. In fact, a national survey of 614 HR leaders, including CHRO’s, VP’s, Directors and Managers, found that 95% of participants admit that employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention. It is no wonder that Gallup found that 51% of the U.S workforce is not engaged, the impact of which is not only on individual wellbeing, but including massive losses in productivity costing between $450 and $500 billion a year according to Mental Health America.
Even though this picture looks so very gloomy, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In her book “The How of Happiness,” psychology professor Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky lets us know that as much as 40% of our happiness can be driven by the intentional activities that we choose to engage in. These activities include being absorbed in moments, experiencing joy, acts of kindness, and not dwelling on problems.
We wanted to find out what behaviors contributed to people and organizations who experienced high levels of productivity, fulfilment, happiness, and engagement. So, as we usually do when our curiosity gets the better of us, we got to work!. We used our process of extensive research and data modelling – the same that has been used to create models for authentic leadership, and high performing organizational culture – to define a success model for positive energy management. We defined this as the ability to engage behaviors and mind-sets that enable you to navigate negative states into more positive ones.
It’s been nearly a year, but after lots of modeling, testing, and iterating we found 12 core factors that contribute to high levels of energizing behaviors. Underlying this is 75 key behaviors that enable greater levels of awareness, fulfillment, and engagement. Here is an introduction to the 12 factors of energizing behaviors!
This is the ability to hold yourself accountable for your actions, mindset, behaviors, and attitude. It is the understanding that you are in control of what you do and how you act. It can be easy to look for reasons external to ourselves when things do not work out as planned. By looking to external factors without looking at one’s own role it can lead us to feel a lack of control over our lives and the outcomes we experience, it can also hinder our ability to learn. People that demonstrate energizing behaviors tend to take authentic accountability for their behaviors.
Being accountable means taking ownership over all outcomes, bad or good, because ultimately it means that no one else has control over us and when one comes to this realization it can open the gates to the energizing mindsets necessary for true authenticity.
Being able to embrace opportunities for growth, setting challenging goals, and acknowledging your meaningful achievements can help you cultivate positive feelings. Often times our most challenging moments provide us with the greatest opportunities to learn. Approaching life with this growth-mindset can help you better overcome challenging moments. People that tend to have higher levels of performance and fulfillment tend to take a moment to think about what they have achieved and the value it brought – to others, to their company, to themselves, and to the world. We are so busy moving onto the next thing we need to do that it can be easy to forget to take pause and reflect on what we have achieved each day.
3: Alignment of Task and Time
It can always feel like there is not enough time in the day to get everything done. Often times we find it easier to sacrifice the time we spend on ourselves, or we cut short activities that are not related to work. We have all been there, that deadline comes up so we cancel a dinner date with a friend, or that email comes in so we are distracted instead of focusing on that conversation with our partner. People that demonstrate higher levels of engagement in life and at work tend to be aware of how they spend their time. Not only aware, but take actions to create and respect boundaries that enable them to correlate their time to their purpose, skills, and to activities that are meaningful to them. In fact, the Harvard Business School surveyed 4,000 executives worldwide and found that the most successful leaders consciously managed their time and priorities to maximize their professional and personal lives. By consciously utilizing time in this way, they can maximize moments of peak clarity and focus, and make time for work, play, and the people that matter. It can help to reflect on how you spend your time and make sure that each day you have the balance that works for your happiness between work, self, and relationships.
Being genuinely nice and behaving in ways that demonstrate true compassion and your value system may sound like a no-brainer, but it can be much harder than it sounds. I am sure many of us have been in that meeting, or that conversation where we do not feel totally comfortable voicing our opinion, or situations in which we feel we cannot be totally ourselves. People with optimal energizing behaviors make sure that they live their core values in all of their daily behaviors. It can help to start by identifying what values make you happy. For example, what brings you true joy? What traits do you respect in others? You can then use these as a guiding compass to help you demonstrate aligned behaviors, to drive your actions, and to help you through challenging moments.
Being aware of yourself, your emotions, your environment, and others is critical in ensuring your response is as optimal as can be. When we take in the clues that context can give us –whether this is in conversations, when problems arise, or when we experience certain emotions– and then use this context to determine the best response, it can help us communicate in a more effective way with a better likelihood of seeing the desired outcomes. People with positive energizing behaviors listen to the clues around them, especially to those from their body’s as our bodies are seen as physical representations of our emotional state. By being able to understand others, it can help you better connect with people, and determine the best way to interact with them. It is useful to remember to listen to first understand, then pause and formulate your response, rather than listening to create your response.
6: Basic Wellbeing and Self Care
This factor is foundational. It is critical to be your best self for you, and for others. It is easy to let this one slip as life’s responsibilities are plenty, however when you think about it, pushing yourself to your limits when overcommitted doesn’t allow you to be your best self for others. Sometimes exhaustion leads to crankiness, lack of tolerance, patience, and feeling distracted. Looking after yourself is the best way to make sure that you can be there for others in a meaningful and quality way. This goes beyond sleep, nutrition, and exercise, it includes being gentle with yourself. Not being overly harsh or critical. This doesn’t mean that you do not face your flaws or ignore when you mess up…it means that you treat yourself with kindness when you do.
7: Mindful Practice
This is the practice of paying attention to the task at hand. Whether it is a conversation, admiring the beauty of nature, eating, or focused work, it is about being present in the moment without judgement. When we are absorbed in the moment we are more engaged and experience moments with greater intensity. People with high levels of energizing behaviors practice this approach even in stressful situations. They listen, they engage, and they focus on the situation at hand by being both physically and mentally present. There is an ever growing body of research highlighting that being focused on the here and now has positive impacts on happiness and wellbeing.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha
8: Positive Outlook
This is the expression of genuine gratitude and seeing the good in situations, even when they are challenging. If we ask ourselves – are we grateful for what we have? The likelihood is that we all say yes. However, people with higher levels of energizing behaviors practice gratitude – they spend a few moments daily thinking about what they have, who they have in their life, and what they value. Studies have shown that gratitude, especially when expressed to those you are grateful for, can lead to many benefits, including better sleep and flipping the mind-set from anxious or negative states into more positive ones.
9: Purpose and Meaning
This is being connected to a greater purpose and placing a focus on what brings you satisfaction. This does not have to be a massive or grand thing, it means something that you are living for beyond your immediate circumstances – that enables you to see true value in what you are doing. Sometimes this can be meeting the need of paying bills or providing for your family, sometimes it may be contributing to something for social good. Whatever it is for you personally at this current moment in life, understanding it will enable you to experience greater levels of satisfaction. In fact, research has shown that having a sense of purpose in life appears to widely buffer against mortality risk across the adult years, and, may even help combat stress.
Relationships are critical in life. There are many types, the relationships you have with friends, family, a partner, or colleagues. People with higher levels of energizing behaviors tend to spend time fostering quality and authentic connections with others. They value the depth of a relationship, and spend time helping and developing others. We can so easily get caught up in the tasks we have to do or the daily grind, that often we sacrifice those moments in which we connect with loved ones or take the time to help someone. Not because we don’t want to, but because we feel we have no time. When we spend time each day focused on our relationships with others we can feel happier. Not spending enough time with friends and family is one of the greatest regrets people have in life.
11: Solution Focused
This is ability to move past frustrating or challenging circumstances. By being able to resolve guilt, adjust your mindset, and being able to forgive, you can limit over worrying and ruminations that can lead to negative states of mind. People with higher levels of energizing behaviors see moments as opportunities – to develop and improve in a way that enables them to be in a better state than they were before the problem. This helps them reduce their levels of stress, and forms a positive cycle of growth. Being able to objectively look at situation, take pause and move beyond initial reactions when needed can help you look at moments with greater clarity. Having a growth mindset, rather than a fixed one, has been found to have many benefits as people with a growth mindset see their traits as changeable and therefore they are more resilient in difficult moments.
12: Support Network
None of us can handle life alone. We all need the support of others. People that have higher levels of energizing behaviors tend to keep supportive company that lifts them up, they realize it is ok to need help, and are not afraid to reach out for it when they need it. Supportive relationships have been found to be critical to live a happy life. Supportive company includes people that you can be open and honest with, that have values you respect, and that you feel positively around. When thinking of support or help, it is important to realize this can be support for life altering events, as well as that stressful presentation you have to give. Moreover, asking for help when you need it gives the other person the opportunity to make a difference – so the positive impact is double!
So there they are! The 12 factors of energizing behaviors that enable people to be engaged, fulfilled, and productive in life and work. In future we will explore the impact to organizations, the stories of those that are working on their development, and the trends we are finding as more people assess their positive energy management capabilities.
While it is complex, the critical thing to remember is that these strategies, behaviours, and mind-sets can be grown and developed. It is a journey, but the first step is looking at yourself and your life with clarity, from there you can make the dedicated commitments you need to engage new, energizing behaviors!