The Happiness Tips author himself, Chris Croft, distills and shares his top ten tips for more happiness at work.
- The myths about happiness at work
- How to rewire your brain to choose happiness
- The affirmation to add to your morning routine
Chris is one of the top authors on Linkedin Learning, with 34 video courses recorded during 11 visits to Los Angeles, on subjects including Project Management, Time Management, Process Improvement, Assertiveness, Surviving Organisational Change, and Happiness, with 25,000 views a day and over eleven million views in total. His Happiness course is one of the most viewed happiness courses in the world, with nearly a million views on lynda.com and linkedin – its 52 practical things you can do to increase your happiness.
He has published 15 books including The Big Book of Happiness, and he has produced a number of free apps including JobsToDo and Daily Happiness Tips. His free monthly email tips are sent to 20,000 people (www.free-management-tips.co.uk).
Resources mentioned in the show:
- Book: The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky
- Book: The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck
- Past episode: 162: The Only 5 Ways to Get More Done with Chris Croft
- Personality: Albert Schweitzer
- Personality: Sonja Lyubomirsky
Thank you, sponsors!
Chris, welcome back to the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.
Yeah, thanks for having me back. I, obviously, got away with it the last time. So, that’s great to know, Pete.
Oh, yes. Well, I’m excited to dig in again. And to kick it off, I want to hear about you are a saxophone lover. I’ve played the saxophone back in the day. What’s the story?
Yeah, somebody said to me once, “The definition of a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the saxophone but doesn’t.” And I think that’s probably pretty good. I do, I like listening to it, to people like John Coltrane and Bruce Springsteen’s fantastic sax player who died recently, Clarence Clemons. So, I love listening to it but I do play it as well in rock and jazz bands. But I don’t claim to be very good.
But I find it very therapeutic. It makes me happy to play very loudly, just to blast away. I tell people I’m the Jimi Hendrix of the sax but, of course, I’m no way near as good as him. But playing any instrument, I think, is a source of happiness. It’s creative and you get to show off. So, yeah, what’s not to like?
Well, happiness that’s exactly what we’re talking about. Well done. Happiness at work, you know a thing or two about it. Can you maybe, first, give us the lay of the land? To what extent are professionals, in general, happy at work? Can you illustrate the state of affairs there?
Yeah, most people are not very happy at work. When they’re asked the biggest source of unhappiness, it’s usually their boss or their job. And happiness at work is not really treated very seriously by most organizations. They think it’s a bit of luxury. They understand motivation which is sort of linked a bit to happiness. And, in fact, when Maslow was creating his hierarchy of needs, he was actually studying happiness, not motivation.
So, he found that happiness required things like security and social links and being valued and all those sorts of things. And that was sort of twisted into motivation, just how to get people to work harder. But there is a link between happiness and how people work. And I saw some research that said that unhappy people tend to be about 50% engaged with their jobs, whereas happy people are 80% engaged. So, they spend more time working and they work harder if they’re happy.
But it’s hard to untangle cause and effect because it could be if you loved your job, then you’re happier, and then you work harder. But it could be if you work harder, that makes you happier, and it’s hard to un-pick the whole thing. But, certainly, if there are things you can do to make your employees happier, you’ll get more out of them and you’ll make more profit. So, why don’t organizations think more about happiness at work?
Well, so happiness at work, I think we’d like some more of it just in and of itself and for the performance and productivity boost that it generates. Are there any sort of misconceptions associated with people think this makes them happy or unhappy at work but, really, that’s not the case?
Well, the big one is money.
The huge one is money, and there’s been a lot of research done into happiness related to money. And, certainly, below a certain point, money is related to happiness. If you’re so short of money that you’re worrying about where your next meal is going to come from or whatever, then clearly happiness is reduced by not enough money.
But when you get to a certain point, it really starts to level out and eventually you get to a point where more money doesn’t make you any happier. And it’s interesting because we put so much effort into earning more money. We do jobs that we don’t like because they’re better paid and we sort of sacrifice lots of time, personal life, even relationships and marriages and things get sacrificed in order to make more money. And all the research says more money isn’t going to make you happy.
And I know everyone’s listening to this thinking, “Yeah. Well, it would make me happy.” But, actually, if you look back over the jobs you’ve done in the past, if you’ve had a steadily increasing income as your career has gone on, then it’s hard to know whether it’s made you happier. But if you’ve had a career like mine where the money has gone up and down, you’ve done all kinds of different things, looking back, so times I’ve been happiest when I was earning very little money. And some of the jobs where I’ve earned quite a lot were really stressful and I wasn’t that happy.
And my theory about why this is true is I do think money makes you a little bit happier. If you earned twice as much, and you spent twice as much on your car and the wine you drink and things, I think you would be 10% happier. But the problem is that you pay a 20% price to earn that money, to earn more money. Why will somebody pay you more money? And there’s got to be something wrong with the job that they’re paying you to do. They have to pay you more in order to get you to do it, and it’s usually stress, or working longer hours, or a lot of travel.
And so, yes, the money makes you slightly happier, but the price you pay to earn that money outweighs the gain that you get.
But there’s good news because it means we don’t have to search after money at work. We can think about doing a job that we’re going to enjoy. You could start thinking about work that’s going to be satisfying and make a difference, and all of those things. And that’s good news, I think, in the end.
I’m curious, you mentioned that after a point, the incremental happiness for extra money levels off. I’ve seen some studies on that. Do you have a sense for what that point is, like, dollar terms?
Yeah, I saw one and it said $60,000. And I remember being a bit disappointed because it hoped it would level off at like 20 or 30 because then I could say to pretty much everybody, “Don’t look for more money,” but, of course, a lot of people don’t earn 60,000 and, of course, it’s personal, so for some people it may level off at $40,000 or $50,000, and a lot of people are at that kind of point there.
And even at 30,000 or 40,000, it’s levelling off fast. So, if you can earn a whole load more, it won’t make much difference to your happiness. It’s completely leveled above 60, that’s the numbers I saw. But I think it varies depending on the country and your personality, and there’s a lot of factors going on in there.
And maybe your zip code and size of family and such.
Yeah, but certainly it’s not millions. It’s not your second million doesn’t make you happier, although I’m sure that’s true. It levels off a lot sooner than that so don’t chase after the money. That’s not going to make you happy. But lots of things can, and that’s what I’ve got some tips for you in this podcast. I’ve got some practical things people really can do to get more happiness at work.
Well, lay it on us. What do you think are sort of really the big levers, the things that make all the difference?
Yeah, so I’ve got a list of ten here and I’m planning we can zoom through them. They’re not really in any particular order and I think different ones will work for different people. My first one is a really quick one which is projects. And all the people who know me will laugh when I say projects because I am quite obsessed with Gantt charts and project management and things.
But it’s not project management that makes you happy but it’s having a project. It’s a feeling of moving towards a worthwhile objective.
And any project that you’re working towards gives you a nice feeling of progress and that your life isn’t being wasted. And we probably all had the feeling of driving home at the end of a day and thinking, “Where has that day gone? I’ve achieved nothing today.” But if you’re working on a project, you have that feeling of moving forward and you have that feeling of a worthwhile objective.
So, the first thing you can do at work is make sure you’re involved in a project, not just processes which is the same every day but a project, something that’s going to take a few months or a year where you’re working on something big. And I think it probably has an extra spinoff because you’re in a team, you’re working with people on a team, and that’s always good as well. That’s sort of a secondary benefit.
And so, it sounds like when you say projects, some will say, “Hey, I’ve got too many projects and it isn’t doing it for me.” It sounds like it’s something you can own and observe your efforts are creating improvement, advancement, like a house you can see or, maybe, I don’t know if sales numbers…
It could be a website. It could be an exhibition that’s going to happen. Yeah, it could be a piece of software. It could be an app that you’re working on but something where you’re going to get closure in the end and you’re going to think, “I did that,” or, “I was involved in that, and there it is.” That’s the thing.
And, yeah, you don’t want to have too many projects. Stress is bad. But a lot of people are really stressed out by the processes. For example, I used to run factories for a living before I escaped. That’s quite a tough job to do. We were just churning out stuff and we were trying to churn out 1% more stuff every month. And it was just stressful and you just felt like you were running to stand still.
But every now and then there’d be a project and we would get a new machine installed or extend the factory or start making a new product. And that was great because we could get our teeth into something new. And then after possibly a few months, there it would be working, done. And it was the projects that I used to enjoy. And the projects were a little bit stressful because there was often a deadline but it felt good when you finished them.
Yeah, that’s a great distinction with the manufacturing world because it’s sort of like, in a way, at the end of each day, like, “Hey, there’s a warehouse full of stuff that I contributed to,” but it’s sort of like, “But that was happening before I got here and will happen after I got here and I see it every day, so it’s not distinctive in terms of that’s mine.”
That’s right. Yeah, I really think ownership is important. And that’s actually part of my second one I’ve got here actually, but to have ownership of something, even ownership of part of a process would be fine, even if you were just sweeping the streets, let’s say. If it was your street and you always swept the same street and you could take pride in it, then that would increase your happiness.
So, I think ownership of anything is good but, you’re right, ownership of projects is the best thing to have because you don’t have that futile feeling of doing it over and over again, Groundhog Day.
But my second tip, with ownership as part of it, is to work hard. And I know this sounds like an old thing and people may think I’ve been put up to saying this by some sinister boss behind the scene somewhere. But, actually, if you work hard, you’ll be happier. And I know people whose job it is all day just to skive and do the minimum. They’ve set themselves the challenge of doing the minimum amount of work. And I can still remember I’ve got my daughter a work placement at a garden center when she was about 18, and at lunchtime she said, everyone at the garden center, when they had their half-hour for lunch, they went into the mirror room and they just sat there and either fell asleep, which is sort of stared at the wall and just did nothing for half an hour. And she said, “I was totally bored so I went out and volunteered where I could help on the till, and was there anything, some plants that needed repotting or something.”
And they all thought she was mad to volunteer to work. But she said, “What’s the point of just sitting there? It’s not going to make you happy in the end because you’re just not achieving anything. And deep down, part of you knows you’re wasting your life.” So, I actually think having decided to do a particular job for a particular wage, having decided to do that job, you might as well work as hard as you can and absolutely do the best you can.
And people have said to me, “Oh, it’s different for you, Chris, because you’re self-employed. You’re working for yourself.” But everybody is self-employed in a way, and you’ve decided to turn up to work today and sell your time for money, and you might as well do a job that you can be proud of. And I think that that, then, means you’ve got to find a job that you believe in because it’s much easier to work hard at something you do believe is making a difference.
And before we dig into that one, in terms of hard work, it sounds like part of it is that it’s, I don’t know, you do honest work in terms of like you’re really doing some stuff as opposed to just showing out or trying to dodge or staring at a wall. So, it sounds like it’s a matter of focus or kind of really plugging into it as opposed to sheer number of hours. Like, it’s hard work.
Yeah. It’s not the hours at all, no. In fact, don’t work long hours because that’ll make you less happy. And, in fact, there’s been research that shows that every half hour that you commute takes 10% off your happiness. So, half an hour each way that is.
And if you take an hour to get to work, an hour to get home, that’s two half an hours, that’s 20% off your happiness your whole life. So, working longer hours is a really bad idea. But when you’re at work, you should absolutely do the best you can, best quality, but also put maximum effort in. And the time will go quicker, you’ll feel happier, the customers will be happier, and they’ll give you a better response back to you.
And a sort of little subset of that is to try to evolve the job, evolve it towards what you like. So, if there’s 10% of your job you really love and 10% that you just don’t like at all, say to your boss when you get your appraisal, or if you don’t have appraisals, just say anyway to your boss, “I’d like to do more of this. I’d like to spend more time directly with customers,” or, “I’d like to spend more time coding,” or whatever. And they’ll go, “Yeah. Well, that’s great. I was looking for somebody who wanted to do that.” And you can move your job towards the stuff you like and away from the stuff you don’t like.
And even if you only move a 10%, after three or four years, you’d kind of really transformed what your job is like, and you can actively influence what your job consists of. And most managers are delighted when their employees say, “I’d like to do more of this and less of this.” Sometimes there’s unpleasant work that has to be done by somebody, and they say, “Well, look, sorry, you’ve got to do that.” But quite often, there’s some other crazy person who wants to do the bit you don’t like. So, you say, “I don’t want to do the filing.” There’s somebody else who’d probably love to do filings, so win-win.
So, it’s to think about what your ideal job would be like and influence your boss, to just slowly edge it towards that, and then it’ll be easier to work with your heart and soul into whatever it is you’re doing.
All right. So, just as simple as asking. Just like that.
I think so. If your boss isn’t interested in your happiness, then you can start to think about whether you want to do something else and vote with your feet, but it’s definitely worth a try. And I think most bosses are pretty amenable to being asked about that kind of thing. We’re not asking for everything to be totally different. We just want to do a bit more of that instead of a bit of this, and just evolve it towards in that direction.
So, that’s my second of my, gosh, ten sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Although some of these are shorter. Shall I go on to number three?
Creativity. So, we get happiness from creativity. And we were talking about the saxophone earlier, and one of the great things about music is it’s a challenge to be creative. And actually, funny enough, in the band I’m in, sometimes they give me a fixed line they want me to play, “Can you play this rift all the way through the chorus?” And I’m thinking, “Well, yes, I can play that but it’s boring. And even if it’s a really good rift and it’s better than anything I could think of, I still want to play my own. I like my own better and I want to vary it.”
And so, there’s something in us that makes us want to be creative. And I would say even if you’re not very good at something, do it anyway. Even if you’re not very good at playing an instrument, play it. Or if you write poetry, even if it’s not very good poetry, or art, just do some paintings.
But once you get into management, then creativity becomes really important. I think it’s probably the most important thing a manager can do actually is to be creative. Because if you’ve got a process you follow as a manager, then what’s the point of you because anybody could follow that process? You could just get anybody, any old person in, and they could just, you know, “If this problem happens, do that. If a customer is unhappy, give them a refund, or whatever.” So, the purpose of management is to think about how to improve things, and that’s creative.
So, you need to find a job that’s creative and find creative parts within your job, and do as much of that as you can because creativity is a big source of happiness. And we talked about projects earlier, and I think projects have a creative element always, don’t they, because they’re always to do with doing something new. So, creativity, that’s the next thing to think about.
Certainly, yeah. And I hear you that it’s not purely about sort of art and music. Creativity, I guess, the core of it is you are inventing or putting something into existence out of you.
Yeah. And where does creativity come from? I mean, there’s a question.
And, by the way, never say, “Oh, I’m not creative. I can’t do it,” because everybody is. Everybody can be. So, you must never just give up and think, “I’m not a creative person. I’m just not,” because you can do it. And with practice and with nurturing and a good boss, because you don’t want a boss who just tramples on your ideas, “Oh, that will never work.”
Look at kids. Kids are always really creative, aren’t they? So, we’re all born with creativity, and you can see it in kids. Kids are always inventing stuff, aren’t they, and imagining, “This stick is actually an airplane,” and all that. So, we’ve all got creativity within us and you can rekindle it, and it’ll make you happier if you can use it.
All right. What’s next?
What’s next is learning. And I like asking people, “How long could you do a job for if you weren’t learning anything new? If it was quite easy and it was quite well-paid and you were good at it, how long could you do that for?” And answers vary from a couple of weeks to a year or whatever. I worked, part of my apprenticeship when I was an engineer, I had to make washers on a lathe.
And you would make 10,000 in a day. And I had to work there for six weeks which is part of my apprenticeship, and it just drove me absolutely mad. I couldn’t stand it. Within a week, I had become quite good at making washers, and I’d made, I don’t know, 50,000 by then. And after two weeks, I was just climbing the walls. It was so boring. And I tried stacking them in pyramids and trying to calculate how many were in the pyramid, and how many seconds till I can have a cup of tea at 10:00 o’clock, just to keep your brain going.
And I think we all have a built-in need to keep learning because that’s going to be a survival quality, isn’t it? Suppose you were making podcasts, for example, but if you get bored with making podcasts, if that day ever came, then you’ve got to do something else. And it won’t be as obvious as the washers but there will be a point where you just think, “I’m just not feeling it anymore, you know. It’s just yet another guest, and I just go, ‘Oh, how interesting’ after each thing he says.” I know you’re not there, Pete, but you know what I mean.
And, funny enough, I’d been doing training courses for years and I wondered at what point would I get bored with training, teaching people project management or something. And I notice I never got bored because the groups are different every time, and, also, I learn stuff every time from the audience. And so, you have to keep learning. And if you get to a point where you’re not learning, then you’ve got to go off a level or go sideways, volunteer to do something different. Just find something else where you’re going to keep on learning.
And I think it’s easy to avoid the effort of learning, and, “Oh, I can’t be bothered to learn something new.” And I have found if you move somebody to a new job, they’d go, “Oh, I don’t want to do that. I’d have to learn new stuff.” But once they start learning it, they love it. And, of course, learning allows you to be creative as well because it just gives you more ideas you can use so there’s a link there, isn’t there, I’m sure between learning new skills and being creative.
So, learning is something that anyone can do. You can volunteer to go on training courses. Your company is bound to have training going on so just volunteer to go on the next course and learn something that you just don’t even think you’d need, like project management or assertiveness or anything, Excel, and just volunteer and go and learn something. And I’ll bet you, you’d feel good when you’re doing it. So, learning is number four on my list of easy ways to increase your happiness.
All right. Well, I’m convinced. And number five?
Number five is to come out of your comfort zone. And this follows on a bit from learning. But to come out of your comfort zone and push yourself, volunteer for some things that are a bit scary. Maybe they want someone to give a talk at a conference, or maybe they want somebody to open a new office in Cincinnati or something. Just put your hand up and say, “I’ll do that.” And afterwards, you’re thinking, “Oh, why have I volunteered for that?” but just push yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit.
Now, ideally, you’d have a boss who would do that, who would encourage you to gradually move on up and not give you huge scary things but just things that are a little bit beyond what you normally do. So, you just keep expanding your comfort zone. And the reason this increases our happiness, of course, is because we get achievement, because we get a bit of an adrenaline rush at the time, “Oh, I’ve got to give a talk to a conference.” And afterwards, it’s like, “Yeah, I did it. I feel good,” and you’ve increased your skills, you’ve learned some things as well.
So, volunteer. It’s a bit counterintuitive because we don’t think it’s going to make us happy but actually it does. And there’s that great sort of quote which says, “We only regret the things that we didn’t do.” So, if you do come out of your comfort zone, you won’t regret it. It’ll lead to something or other, and even if it ends up being a bit different to how you thought and it turns out to being tougher, you’ll look back and think, “I’m glad I did that.”
So, I don’t think you should do things that are really stupid at work but things that are just a little bit beyond what you would normally do. And, obviously, you can do that conference talk. Of course, you can.
All right. I’m with you. And so, I guess I wonder, do you have any pro tips with regard to what is a risk worth taking versus it’s too risky?
I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a rule for that because I think everyone is going to be different. I think you want it to be kind of 10% more difficult than what you normally do and not twice as difficult. I guess you can look at the, “How big will the downside be?” When you do risk analysis, you look at the probability of it going wrong and how bad it will be, don’t you? And you can weigh up the upside and how likely that is, and the downside and how likely that is.
But I think I would mainly focus on, “Will you die if it goes wrong?” So, if you’re thinking of giving a talk at a conference, what’s the worst that’s going to happen is your talk is going to be really boring and some people are going to go to sleep because they’re not going to throw things at you, or you’re not going to get fired. So, that absolutely is the risk worth taking.
And so, I think assess how likely it is to go really badly and how bad would it be. And, quite often, when you start thinking about what’s the worst that could happen, it’s actually not that bad. We mostly have fear of looking bad in front of other people, and that’s just not a problem, really. So, I think that’s what I would do. I think that’s probably how I would assess risk.
All right. And what’s next?
Well, number six, we’re onto the second half now. I’m really interested by this one because this one says that when you’re thinking about what makes you happy, your brain doesn’t know what’s good for you. This is based on some research by somebody called Sonja Lyubomirsky who I’m a big fan of. I think her research is fascinating. I think she’s great.
And they found that our brain doesn’t know what will make us happy. And we’ve already said that we think money will make us happy, and it doesn’t. And how can your brain be wrong? And the reason is because we’re really still stone age people, our brains are stone age.
So, for example, we have certain rules programmed in. Like, for example, eat the maximum amount of food while it’s there because we think that will make us happy because, in the stone age, if there was a dead dinosaur, you had to eat it as quickly as you could or whatever.
And then we have other simpler rules, like laziness is more efficient. And, yet, in real life, laziness doesn’t make you happy. You just underachieve and feel bad. And, yet, we think that if we do nothing all weekend and just read the paper and drink some alcohol at lunchtime and fall asleep in the afternoon in front of the TV, that that will somehow make us happy. But, actually, you look back and you think, “That wasn’t a great weekend really.”
And then our brain tends to focus on problems because if you’re trying to survive in the jungle, you’re always thinking, “Is that a tiger over there? Why is that there? I haven’t seen that before.” So, we tend to be quite negative, and that makes us unhappy in the modern world where in the modern world there aren’t that many things to be frightened of, and, yet, we still focus on the negative things. We watch the news, we want all the bad news that’s happening around the country, and we focus on the bad news. And that is a survival thing that is now out of date.
And the final thing that our brain does that’s bad is that it drifts away from the present. So, it frets about the future, it worries about the future, what’s coming up even though it can’t do anything about it. And it goes back to the past and it sort of thinks, “Oh, if only that hadn’t happened and I wish that wasn’t like that.” And sometimes it thinks the past was great, “If only I could go back to the past.” But, of course, you can’t change the past. So, our brain is obsessed with the past and the future even though that isn’t where happiness lies, because happiness is only in the present. And you can only be happy when you’re living in the present.
And that’s why we’re happiest when we do things that absorb us completely in the present. So, if you’re doing something, it’s called being in the flow. If you’re doing something where you’re really concentrating on doing it, and it might be, say, paddling a canoe or something, and you’re really concentrating on the canoe and the balance and the water, and you do it. And you just forget everything else.
And so, our brain is not our friend. And so, number six, really, is to say don’t trust your brain. Don’t think, “Well, I’m sure I must know best for myself,” but to actively take actions that go against what your inner nature is telling you. And don’t be lazy, don’t think that money will make you happy, don’t think that eating loads of food will make you happy. Don’t take the easiest path.
One of my favorite books is The Road Less Traveled. And the road that’s less traveled is the high road, the hard road. And he says in there that laziness is the biggest problem. He says that’s the root of everything, actually, is laziness. And why would we be lazy? And the answer is, in the stone age when we were short of energy, short of food and warmth, we had to be really economical. But, now, if we’re not careful, we can just lounge around all day, and we mustn’t. So, don’t trust your brain is number six.
Yeah. And I think that hard work piece, that’s sort of why that helps is because you’re not able to be thinking about other things at the same time when you’re working hard and, thusly, you are engaged in the thing.
You’re in the flow.
So, I dig that. Well, just to accelerate a smidge, could you give us seven, eight, nine, and ten in a sentence or two each, and then maybe we’ll dig into one of them?
Okay. Well, number seven, it is a biggie but we can dig into it, is you can be happier by getting rid of your negative emotions because your negative emotions, and whether it’s sort of frustration and anger, or sorrow, regret, guilt, worry, you’re actually choosing all of those negative emotions. Your brain is choosing those for you, and you’re choosing it because you think you’ll get a payoff. You think that worry will make you perform better but, actually, it’s a substitute for planning. And you think that getting frustrated will make things go quicker but, actually, you just do things worse and you end up taking longer.
And so, negative emotions are always unhelpful, and you’re choosing them, and you can, therefore, not choose them. And you may think, “Well, I can’t choose my emotions. They just well up from within,” and they do well up, but you can choose whether to give them house room or not. You can choose whether to fan the flames, and think, “Yeah, God, that guy did it, is annoying at that meeting.” Or, you can think, “I’m not going to get annoyed with him. He means well. It doesn’t matter. There’s no point.” So, number seven is you choose your emotions, and you can choose not to have negative emotions.
Number eight is to not be focused completely on achievement but don’t forget enjoyment at work. A lot of people think that enjoyment is for outside work and then achievement is for work, and that’s the split. But, actually, you should enjoy your work as well.
And so, it’s worth thinking about, “What would enjoyable work look like?” Have goals for that. If you think that you would enjoy going out to visit customers, have that as a goal at work, “I want to find a way to get into doing that somehow.” And it might be the 10% evolving of your job but it might be to just go to a whole different department, and say, “I’d like to work here.” I mean, I don’t know. So, think about what you would enjoy at work, and have some goals for enjoyment at work. And linked to that is self-talk, to say to yourself, “I love my work.”
So, as you drive to work, don’t be thinking or even saying out loud, “Oh, not work again. I hate my work. Oh, I bet it’s going to be awful today. It’s the sales meeting, that’s always awful.” But, instead, say, “I love my work. It’s great.” And the first few times you’ll say that you’ll think you’ve gone mad and don’t let anybody else hear you because they’ll think you’ve gone mad. But it becomes true surprisingly quickly because your brain is really quite malleable. And if you say, “I love my work. I really do, I love it.” And, by the way, you have to say it like you mean it. You mustn’t just go, “I love my work.” That won’t work. You have to say, “I really do love my work,” and it will become true.
Number nine is to help other people. And this, again, this is a quick one to explain. But take every chance you get to help other people at work and outside work, of course. Because not only does that make them happier, but it makes you happier as well. For some reason, we are wired to help other people. And you’ll know this if you’ve traveled abroad, if your car is broken down, anywhere people will help. People help, they love helping.
So, if you help other people, you get kind of a triple win because you feel good and they feel good. And then later, they’re more likely to help you as well. So, helping other people is one of those things which a lot of people don’t do but you absolutely should take every chance.
My last one, number ten, is you can choose to set the temperature in every encounter you have with people. You can consciously be nice or not nice. And why would you not be nice with everyone that you deal with? Just be the nicest person.
A very quick story about this. I was doing a customer care call a while ago and there’s a guy, he was actually the carpenter, he’s to fix people’s desks and doors and things. And he said, “Well, I’m only nice if they give me tea. When I’m working on a job in someone’s office and they give me a cup of tea, I’ll be nice, but otherwise, they can get stuffed.” And I said to him, “How often do you get tea?” And he said, “Oh, about one time in ten.”
So, I said, “Okay, so nine times out of ten you’re not nice.” And he said, “Well, no, but they don’t deserve it.” And I said, “But what if you set the temperature and went in really nice every time? You’d be more likely to get tea. You’d probably get tea half the time. You’d probably get five times as much tea, which clearly is your objective in life.”
And he said, “Well, yeah, but if I was nice ten times, and I got tea five times, that means I would’ve wasted half of the times. I’d have wasted being nice half of the time.” And I was like, “Yeah, but it doesn’t cost you anything to be nice, and you’re going to get five times…” He’s going, “Yeah, no, no, I’m not going to do it, not unless I know they’re going to be nice; I’m not going to do it.”
And I’m just thinking, “What can you do with a guy like that?” So, put it out there and be the first one to put it out there. And there’s a little circle called do-get-feel. So, what you do affects what you get, and what you get affects how you feel, and then how you feel affects what you do. So, if you’re a bit lazy and you sort of do the minimum, then what you’ll get is sort of hassle from your boss and hassle from your customers. And then you’ll feel unhappy about your work. And then what you’ll do is even less work.
And you can break that circle by thinking, “No, even if my boss is maybe not treating me that well, I’m going to do the best job I can,” because then you’ll get better results and you’ll feel better about it, and you’ll be in the good circle, and you might even win over your boss. But, in a way, who cares what your boss says? Do it for yourself and do it for your customers to an extent too. But mainly do it for yourself because you’ll enjoy the work more.
If you’re nice to people, you’ll win in the end. So, that’s number ten, set the temperature in every interaction that you have.
Well, I appreciate this rundown, and I guess I’m thinking, you mentioned get rid of negative emotions. Is there anything else that you think we should stop doing? Like, there’s a number of things here that we should make an effort to do and to pursue. What are some things we should just cut out?
The first thing that springs to mind, actually, for me is comparison and competition which are related because comparing yourself with other people is a road to nowhere. There’s always somebody who’s going to be more successful or richer or a higher achiever than you are. And if you compare yourself with people like that, it’s just going to make you unhappy. And if you try to compete with colleagues it’s the complete opposite of helping them.
So, I really like the idea of the abundance mentality. If you help somebody else, they’ll help you and you’ll both gain. And, funny enough, I visited a friend of mine a while ago, and he’s got this great big house and it’s on the edge of London. It’s beautiful. And I said to him, “So, you’ve done really well in life, haven’t you? You’ve achieved.” And he said, “No, I don’t feel like I’ve proved myself at all.” And I said, “But you’ve got a house that’s worth five strokes six million pounds.” And he said, “Yeah, but my brother has got a house that’s worth 20 million.” His brother is the chief executive at Accenture.
And I said, “Yeah, but why compare yourself with him? Of all the people you could pick, why don’t you compare yourself with me because my house is only worth about half a million?” And he said, “You?” He looked at me and he went, “You? Why would I compare myself with you?” And I said, “To make yourself feel better.” But it was really interesting that he felt it was productive to compare himself with somebody on the level above. And, yeah, that might pull him up, but will it? Or will it just make him feel bad about himself?
So, I think comparing and competing are really unhealthy. And just do it for yourself. If you’re a salesperson, you don’t have to be the number one salesperson. Just feel good about every deal that you get and feel good about the fact you helped a customer and feel good that you’re getting better at selling, and you’ve learned some new techniques. But don’t start thinking, “Oh, that person sold more than me. And, oh, that person earned more bonus than me.” Just feel good about the amount of bonus that you’ve got.
So, I think that’s definitely something to stop doing, is comparing and competing.
All right. Thank you. Well, now, let’s hear some of your favorite things. Can you tell us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?
Yeah, I’ve got two happiness-related quotes I really like. The first one is from Albert Schweitzer, and he said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.” And so, if you love what you’re doing, you will be successful.
The other quote I like is totally different. And it just says that, “Allowing yourself to feel hate is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
And how about a favorite book?
Well, if I was a real egotist, I would say my Big Book of Happiness isn’t a bad place to start.
But there is a book that’s better than mine, and it is The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. I really think she’s nailed it.
All right. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you a lot?
I think it’s probably that you choose your negative emotions. People are always fascinated by that.
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?
ChrisCroft.com. Just go to my website. I’m always putting stuff on my blog. And from my blog, you can get my tip of the month, which is a free email I send out every month. I’m on YouTube as well and things, but ChrisCroft.com would be the starting place.
All right. Not to be confused with Chris Cross.
Yes, that bass player. I do get address, caught up letters addressed to Mr. Cross, but it doesn’t make me angry because anger is a negative emotion and you don’t think about it.
You’re not cross about it. Ha ha ha.
Yeah, it’s not worth it, is it?
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?
I think the easiest call to action is probably start a project. Yeah, what are you going to do? What projects have you got on the go? But if you’ve already got a project, then my sort of fallback call to action would be learning. What have you learned recently? How are you going to improve? Because all you’ve got is what’s between your ears really. What’s in your head is that’s your main tool nowadays, isn’t it, for earning a living, and you’ve got to keep improving your ticket.
They’re easy things you can do and they will lead to other things. So, make a start with a bit of learning and some sort of reasonably ambitious project that give you a sense of achievement.
All right. Well, Chris, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck and happiness in your adventures.
Yeah. Well, thank you for having me again. And I really hope it makes a difference to people listening.