smile-1307144When a colleague tells you to put on your business face before a meeting, I doubt they mean for you to smile broadly. Yet at least one author is suggesting that in business (and other parts of your life), you’ll be more successful with a smile than a grimace.

Neil Pasricha is probably most known for his “1000 Awesome Things”, which twice won best blog in the world. Or you might know him from his subsequent “Book of Awesome” (which had two follow-up Books of Awesome and a journal). At a conference this summer where Pasricha was promoting his new book, “The Happiness Equation”, he explained that he wrote it as an open letter to his child. The book was the culmination of considerable research into the concept of happiness and how we can best achieve it.

I’m a business coach, so why do I care about happiness? Because much of coaching is focussed on helping professionals to identify where they are self-sabotaging, and assisting them with the development of a happier and more productive work life. It’s tough being successful if you’re miserable.  A positive attitude is required to improve your circumstances. So I was interest to hear Pasricha’s secrets for getting happier. He had nine: I’ll focus on three.

  1. Be happy first. Pasricha said that the mantra of his immigrant parents was that if you work hard, you’ll become successful, and then you’ll be happy. But research shows it’s the opposite. If you become happy first, you’ll do great work and this will lead to greater success in life.   Happy people are 40% more likely to be promoted, are 30% better at selling things, and live on average ten years longer. But how do you work on getting happier in the first place? Here’s what Pasricha found to be the keys to improving happiness:
  • Go on three 20-minute nature walks per week. This is extremely powerful, and can even help people manage depression.
  • Spend a few minutes each day journaling about something good that happened that day. Then read it. You will have experienced the goodness, written about it, then read it, thus experiencing it three times.   This doesn’t need to take long – a quick sentence will suffice.
  • Do five conscious acts of kindness per week. Pay for someone’s coffee, give a street person some change, allow someone to go before you in the grocery line-up, compliment someone, etc.
  • Mediate. This creates a space for calm contemplation and better perspective. If you’re unfamiliar with mediating, check out ,, download a mediation app at
  • Express five gratitude’s per week. Ideally, think about one thing to be grateful for each day. I tend to do this at night, just before I go to sleep.

2. Get focussed. We are happier when our minds are focussed. The average person gets 147 email messages per day and checks their phone 150 times per day. We make an average of 295 decisions per day. But we only have so much decision-making capacity. When that’s gone, the only way to rebuild it is to get some sleep or intake glucose. The cure? Limit your decisions. (This is one of the reasons Steve Jobs wore the same outfit everyday). Develop routines. Turn off message indicators. Try to simply your life in lots of small ways.

3. Just do it. When there’s something we don’t want to do or are afraid to do, we think we have to get our motivation up first, and then do the thing. It’s the opposite. Just dive in – even if it’s at starting pace.  But just start. Getting a bit of skill and confidence will increase your motivation, which will then encourage you to practice more, which will further increase your skill and confidence, etc. Consider Newton’s law: an object in motion will stay in motion until something stops it. Get in motion. You’ll be happier that you started, you’ll be happier as you learn to do it, you’ll be much happier when you’re doing it well.

My focus as a business strategist and executive coach is on productivity. I have found that professionals who are happier with their careers tend to be more productive. The challenge is usually a lack of discipline to do those things we know are good for us. that There is a very low barrier to doing these things. They don’t take money, they don’t take much time. Mostly, they take personal discipline. But when we start something and then begin to feel the benefits, it becomes a little easier every day to keep it up. And really, what do you have to lose, other than some unhappiness?!