By Joel E. Adelman, President Advance

Like many of my friends and family, I feel battered by bad news. I had a terrific day yesterday: I solved a particularly puzzling problem at work, had several great conversations with clients, and was looking forward to a wonderful evening with my family when I hopped in my car just in time to catch the 6 pm news. Picture a large, beautiful bright yellow latex balloon complete with happy face exploding, POP!, punctured by a ragged, rusty pin. My mood was instantly altered, clouds appeared from nowhere, and I began fretting over a potentially difficult meeting scheduled for the next day.

What had changed in those few minutes? The history of my day had not been re-written, the events I would likely encounter at home hadn’t changed, and yet I was suddenly somber and felt heavier somehow. It was, of course, an altering of my mood brought on by non-stop negativity spewing from my radio. The Dow was down – again and record-breakingly so; crime in my city had soared, and so on and so on. And, I thought, what if I hadn’t tuned to that station; what if I had put on my favorite CD instead? World events would still be what they were, but my personal level of happiness and, therefore, my effectiveness as a husband, father, and businessman would have remained higher.

The answer is not to poke our heads in the sand ignoring news and world events, but rather, I believe, to keep them in perspective and balanced by choosing to tune in to an atmosphere of happiness that is within our control.

Authentic Happiness Coach and Customer Loyalty expert, JoAnna Brandi, states, “The level of happiness you feel is largely in your control. When you’re happy it’s much easier to create happiness for the customer.”

“Research proves that positive feelings reduce stress, build up the immune system and even enable people to think more holistically – to be open to new ideas and solve problems more quickly, efficiently and intelligently. Happy employees have a broader range of options to draw from; they are more creative and helpful. They are better equipped emotionally to create happy, loyal, referral generating customers. Ultimately, happy employees are more resilient. They help create resilient companies – ones that can withstand the challenges of an ever changing, increasingly competitive marketplace.”

Happiness seems such an elusive goal, more of an ethereal concept than a concrete state of being. But, there are steps you can take to help create an atmosphere of happiness. Ms. Brandi calls them, “the eight happiness factors” that are in your control. No matter what personality you were born with, no matter what your circumstances are, you can boost your feelings of happiness by taking charge of these eight factors:

Optimism. Despite what people say, optimism can be learned. It’s about perspective, how a person chooses to interpret and explain what he experiences during the day.
Gratitude. Consciously, willingly and deliberately take moments throughout the day to feel gratitude, and to express it to others.
Forgiveness. Letting go of ill will toward others and oneself, surrendering resentments and regrets, and making peace with the past clears the way for happiness to be felt more often and more deeply.
Improve your self-talk. It’s important to transform your self-talk from negative and punishing to positive and energizing. When you make a mistake and find yourself thinking, ‘You idiot,’ you know it’s time to take a deep breath, and ask yourself a question like, ‘How can I use my smarts to make this better?’
Flow. Is there any activity, interest or hobby you enjoy so much that you lose all track of time when you’re engaged in it? That state of being where you forget about everything else is called ‘flow.’ Being in a state of flow actually increases your happiness.
Savor. Savoring is about being ‘in the moment.’ The great thing about savoring is that you can do it before an activity by happily anticipating what’s to come; you can do it while you’re enjoying the activity, and you can savor your memories afterward.
Reframe. This is another tool for shifting your perspective. Look at a stressful situation as if it were an actual photograph, and think about the dozens of ways you could reframe it. You can crop it, enlarge it, make it smaller. Whatever you do, you’re creating a different view and perspective of the same picture, which can help you to transform negative feelings and responses to a situation into positive, happier ones.
Build on strengths. Research shows that enduring happiness comes from spending time in one’s strengths – having the opportunity to do the things one does well even better. Identify your strengths, then deliberately and creatively build on them. Evidence shows that over time, this skill works better at creating lasting happiness than anti-depressants.”
Arguably one of our greatest presidents, and the one man to whom everyone looked for leadership out of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said, “Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

I choose to focus on my creative effort and to instill it in my business. Are we fiddling while Rome burns? I don’t think so.

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