As you all know, entrepreneurship has many ups and downs. I love my business, but that doesn’t mean that every day is perfect. So how do you keep upbeat and happy even though sometimes can be tough? For me, I turn to research for the answer.
It is important to remember that your happiness is in a large part under your control. That statement may make sense to you or you could be surprised, but either way this statement is backed up by academic research.
I read a great book called “The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want” by Sonja Lyubomirsky who is a Professor at the University of California, Riverside. I found the book to be both interesting and encouraging.
In the book Dr. Lyubomirsky discusses how our happiness comes from three general sources:
1. 50% of your happiness comes from your individual genetic set point
In the book Dr. Lyubomirsky describes your genetic happiness set point as:
“The set point for happiness is similar to the set point for weight. Some people are blessed with skinny dispositions: Even when they’re not trying, they easily maintain their weight. By contrast, others have to work extraordinarily hard to keep their weight at a desirable level, and the moment they slack off even a bit, the pounds creep back on.”
Thus, depending on your set point you may find it easy to stay happy most of the time, conversely it may be a lot of work for you to maintain a desired level of happiness.
2. 10% of your happiness comes from your life circumstances
The research shows that only 10% of your happiness comes from life circumstances, such as your socioeconomic status, your marital status, your physical attractiveness, your health. Potentially hard to believe – but true! Why? This is the result of something that is referred to as hedonic adaptation. Hedonic adaptation means that once you get something in your life (for example, fancy possessions) you will at first have a boot in well being/happiness, but after a while you get used to having them. In the long run these things will have a small impact on your happiness. If you are looking make more money because you think it will make you happier, you are probably better off taking another strategy.
3. 40% of your happiness comes from your intentional activities
This is the part that both surprised me and excited me. Unfortunately you cannot alter your genetic set point (like your decisions and actions) and it may be challenging to change your life circumstances. Yet, you are in control every day of your actions and decisions. What you do with that opportunity will greatly impact your happiness! Dr. Lyubomirsky states in the book:
“If we observe genuinely happy people, we shall find that they do not just sit around being contented. They make things happen. They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings. In sum, our intentional effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above the effect of our set points and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.”
One of the most interesting parts of the book discuses “evidence-based happiness-increasing strategies” whose practice is supported by scientific research to help you become happier. If you are stuck in the “downs” of business ownership, read the book and try those strategies!
For me the book and its content has given me a new perspective and empowered me to make decisions each and every day that contribute to my happiness and well being.
If you are not a reader or do not have the time to take on the entire book, there is a documentary called Happy that you can watch about Dr. Lyubomirsky’s research and the research of others.]
My biggest take away from this book and the movie is your happiness is mostly in your control! Exciting!
My personal strategies
Here are some of my personal strategies that work for me:
Focus on what is under your control.
This is something that makes sense and is sometimes harder to do than it first looks. My suggestion is that each time you are feeling stressed out, unhappy, worried or anxious — determine what about the situation is under your control and focus on that. What you do not have control over – let go!
Let’s say you just gave a sales presentation and the client did not decide to start working with you. You’re probably feeling frustrated or upset. After a moment, start to focus on what you can do to improve your situation. In this situation, you could do many things including asking for feedback, reviewing your sales process, improving your presentation, and identifying new potential clients. Putting your effort and energy into what you can control will always benefit you in the end.
Take some time to celebrate the small stuff.
I love celebrations! I believe strongly in having small celebrations whenever possible. Have a list of small ways that you celebrate and make sure to have at least one mini celebration a week. I always have a list of fun little ways that I like to celebrate accomplishments in the week. One of my favorites is getting chocolate covered almonds – yum! Also, each week I need to find something to celebrate, which means I am focused on being more grateful for my life, my loved ones, my business and my achievements.
No matter what you do – I hope that you find your own ways to stay happy as you grow your business. I would love to hear about your strategies!
Image credit: by Joshua Sosrosaputro, via flickr.com.