That's why our company has been working with Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think and an expert in the field of positive psychology. Through his research at Harvard and elsewhere, he has proved that when our brains are in positive states, the outcomes we achieve in business improve. Contrary to popular belief, happiness isn't ancillary to success - it actually generates and magnifies the success you and your clients can enjoy.
The upshot: The investment you make in your happiness and that of your clients generates a demonstrable return. Achor calls it "the happiness advantage."
A LINK TO SUCCESS
When people are happier and more positive, Achor says, they become more intelligent, more creative and ultimately more productive. Consider a couple of the experiments he discussed recently with participants in CEG's coaching program:
* Some 4-year-olds were split into two groups, one of which was primed to be extremely happy and positive. That group later put blocks together 50% faster and more accurately than the group that wasn't encouraged to be positive.
* Doctors who were primed to be more positive before meeting with patients were 19% faster and more accurate with their diagnoses than another group that wasn't encouraged to be positive.
Happiness has a special function. When our moods are elevated, dopamine, a neurochemical that makes us happy, is released in our brains. Dopamine also activates the learning centers in our brains. Those moments when we feel positive and happy are also moments when our brains are most capable of taking in information and adapting to changes in the world around us. When we feel stressed out, or even neutral, our brains prevent us from learning and adapting. If you're stressed out and unhappy and you change your mind-set to be more happy, you will achieve greater success.
This is true regardless of whether you are already successful or not. Happiness can help underperforming financial advisors do better, as well as hugely successful advisors.
Clearly, this idea has important implications for you and your clients when it comes to having conversations about investing. There's a part of our brains (which Achor calls "the Thinker") that kicks into gear and makes good decisions during a crisis or threat. But if the perceived level of the threat keeps rising, another part of the brain (which Achor calls "the Jerk") overwhelms the thinking capability. The ability to make smart decisions plummets. By watching TV for hours or constantly checking investment websites for information during market turbulence, your clients will shut down the part of their brains that allows them to make good investment decisions.
Obviously, it's great to know that you'll be smarter and more productive if your brain is happy. But what does it mean to actually be happy and positive? Having a ton of assets under management? Or, maybe, having a staff that when you say "jump" asks "how high?" Happiness does not necessarily mean what you think it does; achieving a happy, positive mind-set may require you to rethink your fundamental views.
The research by Achor and others reveals that people who succeed at keeping the Jerk at bay during tough times emphasize process over results. Most of us think that a great end result of our efforts is what makes us happy, but this is a flawed approach. Every time you achieve a successful outcome - for instance, you get a new client or you hit a sales target - your brain essentially "moves the goalpost" for what success looks like. When you get that new client, your brain says, "Don't get excited - now you need to go out and get five more!"
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? If you view happiness as being on the opposite side of success, your brain never actually gets to a place of true happiness. The only way to achieve it is to hit a target that doesn't stop moving. It's why many advisors and other professionals who are at the top of their game say they still aren't very satisfied. Instead, try thinking of happiness as a precursor to success, not the result of success. When your brain is positive and trained to emphasize happiness while you are in the process of achieving goals - not waiting until the end result - your eventual outcome will improve.