I tend to view things in a positive way and as a new month unfolds, I get excited about the potential. Recently I started reading a book my niece sent me by Tho Ha Vinn, called A Culture of Happiness. To be honest I hadn’t really planned on reading as I thought it was about being an optimist and having a “just do it” attitude. There is nothing wrong with that, but those books don’t resonate with me.

Out of respect for my niece, I committed to reading it.  As I read, the concepts felt familiar and my reading picked up. The book talks about how to apply the framework of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which is a way to measure happiness. Lately, happiness at work has become a topic, particularly when related to mental health.

Success today is often equated with busyness, 24/7 digital connection, and little consideration to time for thinking or reflecting. It’s no wonder that recent polls and surveys of employees during the pandemic and post-pandemic spawned terms like “great resignation,” “great realignment,” and “quiet quitting.” Gallup reports only 31% of employees say their mental health or emotional well-being is excellent. Globally employees are not any better. Anger, stress, physical pain, and worry reached a new high of 33% in 2022 vs 24% in 2006 for employees.  Research by Cigna suggests that 84% of all employees are stressed, but among workers between the ages of 18 and 24, 91% are stressed, 98% are burned out, and 71% are more overwhelmed than usual. These statistics tell a story of unhappiness.

You can find many suggestions and tips to become happier, reduce burnout or reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed. The general dissatisfaction about work was present before the pandemic and the pandemic just made it more prominent. Will tips really have a big impact on people’s outlook? Happiness might be due to our view of things rather than our actions. I do believe that some tips can help, but they seem like quick hacks rather than addressing the longer-term concern.  

The reason that GNH struck me as familiar is that the first three domains are psychological well-being, health, and time use. These three encapsulate the most common issues I hear from clients, and it hit me that happiness is beyond having a positive attitude. It is more about what you do. The domains align with the leadership pillars of Leaders are Clear Thinkers and Leaders Lead Themselves in The Complete Leader. Within those pillars are the skills of self-management, personal accountability, and goal achievement.  Skills are growth opportunities. I would also add emotional intelligence because emotions play a major part in our lives.

What to do? Let's look at each of these from my perspective as a coach.

Psychological Wellbeing. This is a big area so I will focus on what stresses exist. Many clients ask how they can go on with all the pressures and expectations on them. I put this issue in with psychological well-being. They often lack clear self-awareness and how that affects them and others as they go about their work and home lives. Strong self-awareness is more than feeling good about who they are but accepting the good and bad of who they are. And developing others to help with those areas you might need help. Here are some questions I could ask them.

  1. What is your life satisfaction level and what is missing?
  2. What is the reason(s) you are not able to incorporate more of what is missing?
  3. What are you good at?
  4. What do you need to do your best?
  5. What is the challenge that keeps you from being your best?
  6. What are you able to do to reduce or resolve those challenges?
  7. Are there supports/networks that could shed some light on these?
  8. How will you tell if you have increased your life satisfaction?

Health. When clients are stressed, stretched, or just tired, I shift to health-related questions to determine if they can identify one source of their poor moods. Such as: Are you getting enough sleep? Or, What do you do to lower your stress level? Often, their response is “Not enough” or “I used to exercise or do yoga, but lately it has slipped.” Good health is a key quality of a sustained high performer and a happier human.

Consider these additional questions:

  1. Are you a renter or owner of your body?
  2. Who is responsible for your health—sleep, what you eat, and stress relief?
  3. What assumptions are you making for not meeting your health needs?
  4. When was the last time you visited a doctor and were you happy with your results?
  5. What can you do to have a better work-health balance?
  6. What tool/technology can you adopt to help measure your activity/progress in this area?         

Time Use. Finally, time use is a perennial concern of clients. Many clients say they do not have enough time in the day to do everything they believe should be done. Time is limited, but how or where you place your attention is the key to being a better performer and happier. Here are some questions I might ask to shift the focus from time to attention.

  1. What system(s) do you use to manage your time? Is that working?
  2. What system(s) do you use to manage your attention?
  3. What are you managing—tasks, activities, people, team members, meetings, family interaction, or sleep? All, some, none?
  4. Do they all need the same level of your attention?
  5. What is it about managing your attention that could make it more helpful than managing your time?
  6. What can you do to lessen your task time and change it to attention time?
  7. How will know if you are managing your time or attention better?

A confession about me and time use. I have four or maybe five different systems I regularly use to help me manage my attention including a peer coach. I do this because I know I am motivated by learning and new ideas. I am easily distracted. I can use a lot of my attention to the pursuit of knowing a lot. I have come to recognize knowledge isn’t wisdom.

It is unlikely that anyone can answer all the questions above satisfactorily. They are designed to make you shift your thinking and consider other options about how you want to go about your day. I have seen clients who are addressing many of them and are now rethinking their work and personal life. I believe examining yourself in these three domains and acting on them is a great start that will help you ensure a more productive year and the year after.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels.