Overcast   36.0F  |  Forecast »

OTJOY

ICAN Women's Leadership Conference gets Happy and gets Busy framing Happiness and how to apply it to Business

 

Happy is as happy does.

As organizations get ever leaner-meaner trying to maximize profits, happiness may seem a strange value to cultivate. But experts like Shawn Achor, whose consulting firm Good Think Inc. applies positive psychology findings to help clients achieve happier, more effective work experiences, say their research shows the happy quotient is a lead indicator of business performance and employee satisfaction.

Happiness may just be the antidote for the lagging productivity and job dissatisfaction plaguing America. Lack of happiness may explain why so many workers rely on controlled substances to relieve stress, enhance mood and boost energy. Philosophers and artists have waxed about happiness as a desired state of being for centuries in treatises, songs, poems. It's even written into the U.S. Declaration of Independence as an unalienable right to be pursued.

Achor's study of belief systems and attitudes has led him to develop a kind of happiness index that equates its attainment with realizing human potential. His easily digestible analysis has made him a best selling author and popular TED presenter. His "The Happiness Advantage" lecture, which airs on PBS, is much in demand.

He's hardly alone today in framing happiness. Books, films, seminars and classes try unlocking its metrics. This hunger for bliss is part of a growing self-reflective movement that finds many folks, including business professionals, taking stock of what really matters and putting into practice habits that promote happiness as a pathway to success.

All this interests Mary Prefontaine, whose journey for enlightenment and fulfillment aligns with her work as president and CEO of the Institute for Career Advancement Needs (ICAN). Her Omaha-based nonprofit is all about "inspiring leaders and transforming organizations," so she pays attention to what's affecting businesses. Noting that studies of happiness were trending up, she and her team made Happiness, Bending the Bottom Line, the theme of this year's ICAN Women's Leadership Conference.

"We plan the conference around what seems to be relevant in our work, in business, in people's hearts and there's a social conversation going on about happiness and what it means," she says. "The work of ICAN is built around that holistic model of self-examination of body, mind, spirit, emotions. So what if we are accountable to all of that and the choices we make?. Does that make us more happy? And how do we define that? How do we distill our lives to get clear enough to understand what it means to me to be happy at the most fundamental level?. How do I shed my attachments to things in order to get there?

"Some research shows that people who are givers are happier."

The April 9 all-day event at the CenturyLink Center is presenting speakers and a  panel to synthesize the latest thinking on happiness and to perhaps answer questions about this ephemeral, elusive thing. 

Getting happy

In setting the conference agenda Prefontaine says she and her team asked, "Is happiness a glib thing or a real thing? Is this just a made-up human condition that isn't even actually plausible? What does it really mean and how do we actually know we have it?"

The consensus holds happiness is not something that happens to us, rather it's something we manifest as an intention or choice or attitude that informs how we apprehend the world and act in it.

"Looking at happiness as a choice rather than just happenstance intrigued us. We really began to look at it from the perspective of self first and then the impact it might have in everything around you. We're interested in this idea of raising human consciousness. That's what the work of ICAN is all about. At the conference we're examining this idea that happiness is a choice.

"One of the great points of intersection to decide on this theme was looking at Shawn Achor's meta analysis of happiness as it relates to the workplace, and the life of a business and the human talent associated with that business., That took us into how does having happy employees with a sense of well-being affect productivity, innovation, teamwork and the bottom-line. Well, the research shows it has a huge impact in a positive way."

It seems happiness has little to do with the things in our lives.

"What's interesting and what I'm most excited about is that in most instances research says those who have encountered the most adversity in their lives are also some of the happiest individuals."

She's seen this phenomenon on trips to Kenya, Tanzania Singapore, Thailand and China.

"I see a lot of happy people with nothing. We have much to learn from them. In Buddhism you're actually invited to stand in a place of suffering, without attachments, and come to peace with what really is. But we're not living in a society that thinks that's a good idea,. We place no value on that. Some research states if you have certain things in place you're more likely to be happy. Here in the West many of us have stable shelter, food, employment. In other parts of the world that would make many people happy. Yet in this nation of plenty we're increasingly dependent on pharmaceuticals to treat depression."

Spreading happiness

Prefontaine says the conference is a vehicle for holding a forum about happiness and its ability to bend the bottom line. She's excited by the prospect of 2,100 expected attendees who can potentially make their work environments more attuned to individual and collective well-being.

"The research is saying happy employees are more engaged and productive and therefore more effective and innovative and that happiness really can bend the bottom-line in an upward trajectory. In that case, how do you as an employee affect it and as an employer what's your accountability? How accountable and aware are companies to this idea? I think it's about a company being aware that health – good diet, exercise and sleep – makes for a much healthier, happier life and a more satisfied, productive employee."

She says some mavericks are taking the lead.

"Certain business leaders today are paying attention to the well-being, happiness and engagement level of their employees, so much so they are encouraging nurturing practices that allow for rest, mindful meditation, sleep and wellness at the core of every part of being, knowing that will help employees deliver more to the company."

Breakout sessions will feature speakers exploring specific themes:

  • Achor – "The Happiness Advantage at Home and Work"
  • Stacey Flower – "Maximizing Opportunities: One Person, One   Moment"
  • Amy Dorn Kopelan – "Your Life is Always an Interview"
  • Jo Miller – "Take Charge of Your Career Trajectory"
  • Ishita Gupta – "Get the Confidence to Be Yourself"

ICAN faculty will conduct a "Live Your Voice: Values-Based Leadership" session and Omaha Yoga Path founder Mark Watson will lead a session on "Mindfulness and Meditation, Simple Ways to Manage Your Stress."

In addition to Achor, two other keynoters will share their spin on becoming empowered in uncertain times: CBS news personality Norah O'Donnell and global economist Sherry Cooper.

A panel will discuss the STEM gap that finds more women in the workplace than ever before but females lagging far behind males in science, technology, engineering and math studies and careers.

Whatever your path to bliss and success, Prefontaine says the conference has it covered. Setting the tone the day before is a special public screening of the documentary Happy, which explores notions of happiness around the world. It shows at 6:30 p.m. on April 8 in the CenturyLink Grand Ballroom. Admission to the film is $9 and all screening proceeds benefit the ICAN Education Scholarship Fund.

Prefontaine says the conference offers a full immersion in the power of leadership and positive thinking. "I think I'm most excited about bringing a conversation to our community about happiness being a choice."

For the conference schedule and registration details, visit www.icanglobal.net.

Shawn Achor Resets the Happiness Formula

Popular Psychiatrist to keynote ICAN conference

ICAN conference keynote speaker Shawn Achor, a leading positive psychologist, has become a happiness guru after years immersing himself in what makes people tick.
"I studied Christian and Buddhist ethics at Harvard Divinity School to explore how our beliefs change our actions," he says. "This is exactly what I do in positive psychology now. Since then I've traveled to over 50 countries researching and speaking at over a third of the Fortune 100 companies and with schools worldwide. I became fascinated by the idea we are not just our genes and our environment, but that we can choose happiness."

As a teacher he repeatedly saw students fall short of happiness when they expected it as a birthright or reward.
"In my 12 years at Harvard I saw students who thought the success of getting into a good college would make them happy, but 80 percent report work debilitating depression at some point over the next four years. I saw the same things out at companies. Even as success rose, happiness flatlined. It turns out we had the formula wrong. Success is a moving target. As soon as we hit a goal our brain changes the goalpost of what success looks like. If you hit your sales target, we raise your sales target. If you make more money, you're surrounded by others who make even more money. 

"But flip around the formula and it actually works. Raising optimism and deepening social connection raises every business and educational outcome. My TED talk has over 6 million views, which feels surreal, but is yet another indication that we are living through the beginning of a revolution where people recognize that the greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain."
He found happiness to be an internal construct we build as we grow.

"In my work we define happiness as the joy you feel striving toward your potential. This changed the way I pursued happiness. Many researchers try to separate which is better a happy life or a meaningful one.

That is impossible. Happiness cannot be sustained without meaning. Pleasure is short-lived, but joy is something you can experience in the ups and downs of life. And we only feel it on the way to our potential, so growth as a human being is crucial."

He says most of us have been programmed by societal tenets to follow the wrong formula for happiness and success.

"We think if we work harder we’ll be more successful and happier. It’s a broken formula. The human brain is actually designed to work better when it is positive, rather than negative, neutral or stressed."

Nurturing ourselves and our passions, combined with serving the needs of others, are surer ways to bliss than slavishly working to get ahead.

When all is said and done, he says some simple but profound differences separate happy people from unhappy people.
"The happiest people can delay pleasure but they do not delay happiness. And they realize happiness requires a work ethic. Only by creating positive habits like writing down gratitudes, journaling about positive experiences, meditation and writing positive emails to people in our social support group can we create sustained and quantifiable positive change."

Achor's keynote talk is at 9:15 a.m. He will lead a breakout session at 10 a.m.

_______________________________________________________

 

“In my work we define happiness as the joy you feel striving toward your potential.”

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleEdit Module
Advertisement