If I work hard, I’ll be successful and if I’m successful, then I’ll be happy. This is the basic formula for happiness in schools and work the world over. CEO Shawn Achor, who studies the connection between happiness and success, says the problem with this formula is that every time you achieve a goal, you just move the goal posts.


He discusses the broken formula in his TED Talk:


“You got good grades, now you have to get better grades. Got into a good school, now you have to get into a better school. Got a good job, now you have to get a better job. You hit your sales target, we’re going to change your sales target. And if happiness is on the other side of success, your brain never gets there.”


Unfortunately, this isn’t how the brain works. Instead, research indicates that people who are happy and optimistic are more successful and resilient. Likewise, organisations that value optimism, happiness and the overall well being of their staff are also more resilient than organisations that cultivate an environment of pessimism and negativity – in short, promoting a growth mindset (Carol Dweck).


Moreover  organisational culture can be a strategic advantage or a major roadblock. Imagine two teachers. The first works at a school with where the leaders and staff have a positive and optimistic outlook regarding creative, out of the box thinking. The second teacher works in an environment where she feels stifled by rigid bureaucracy and a traditional attitude toward change.


In both cases, the environment and culture of the schools will impact upon the performance of the teacher and as well the lives of the pupils and students. Even when the work is challenging, the teacher in the first school is more likely to feel happy and greet those challenges with optimism. On the other hand, even if the teacher from the second school is a generally optimistic person, the negative, relatively oppressive environment probably makes her feel less successful overall.


While individual outlooks certainly factor in, the key difference is the culture in which the teachers work. Just as a positive and optimistic culture will support the happiness and success of its staff, the opposite also holds true: A pessimistic, inward-looking, traditional culture and environment can lead to weary, overworked and disengaged employees.


This is something companies that top best places to work lists understand and they know that happy employees equal happy customers, clients and users. So take note, if your organisation seems stuck or stagnant – ask yourself when was the last time you invested in the happiness, engagement and wellbeing of your team?



Image by Dino Reichmuth. All rights. Unsplash.com