Happiness and Transformational Leadership

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This week we are really happy to have Marci Shimoff, the author of “Happy for No Reason.” If you are a busy executive who needs more sources of positive energy–and who doesn’t need that–the single most important thing that you can do to increase your level of health, wealth and success, is to increase your level of happiness. So that’s really going to be the focus of today. Marci, as some of you may have seen, is the star of The Secret video, and the undisputed expert of the law of attraction. So this shows you how happiness is a shortcut to anything. Marci will share some of her insights from her book, Happy for No Reason. We will talk about where you can learn the remarkable secrets to her 7-step process to easily and systematically raise your everyday level of happiness.

Marci Shimoff is the women’s face of one of the biggest self-help book phenomenon’s in history. Many of you are familiar with it, Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has six best-selling titles in the series including, Chicken Soup for the Women’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, which have met with stunning success worldwide, selling more than 13 million copies in 33 languages. She collectively has had her books on the New York Times Best Seller List for a total of 108 weeks. That is unbelievable! Marci is one of the best selling female non-fiction authors of all time. In addition, she is a featured teacher in the international film and book phenomenon, The Secret. Her book, Happy for No Reason: Seven Steps to being Happy From the Inside-Out, offers a revolutionary approach to experiencing deep, and lasting happiness. She is a celebrated transformational leader and one of the nation’s leading experts on happiness, success and the law of attraction.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Marci has inspired millions of people around the world, sharing her breakthrough methods for personal fulfillment and professional success. She is president and co-founder of the Esteem Group, and she delivers keynote addresses and seminars on self esteem, self empowerment, and peak performance to corporations, professional and non-profit organizations, and women’s associations. She has been a top-rated trainer for numerous Fortune 500 companies, including AT&T, General Motors, Sears, Kaiser-Permanente and Bristol-Meyers-Squibb. She is an acclaimed authority on success and happiness, and as such, Marci is often approached by media for her insights and advice. She has been, wow, in so many national media and television shows and radio shows. She has been interviewed for over 100 newspaper articles nationwide. Probably, those things are also in the global network, because often those things will be carried on major newswires all over the world. Through her books and her presentations, Marci’s message has touched the hearts and rekindled the spirits of millions of people throughout the world. She is dedicated to fulfilling her life’s purpose of helping people live more empowered and joy filled lives.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Marci, one of the ways we always like to start off, is to get a little background information about our guests. Who have been the key people who may have influenced you in your life and especially being as happy as you are and talking about happiness, who have been some of the key influences that allowed you to move forward in your path?

Marci Shimoff:  I love that question, because people are always asking me if I was always happy.  The answer is, absolutely not. I did not win the happiness jackpot at birth. As a matter of fact, I say that I came out of the womb with existential angst. I was really an unhappy kid, and for no particular reason. I had great circumstances, great family, but I was an unhappy kid. I was unhappy as a teenager, but I was very lucky. I was lucky because I had a father who was the happiest person I have ever met in my life. He passed away a couple of years ago at age 91. Every morning of his life he woke up with a big smile on his face. I remember one day, I was about 19, we were driving down the road together. I looked at him and I asked him what I thought was a brilliant question. I said, “Dad, what’s the most important advice you have for me for life?” He looked at me and he said four words. He said, “honey, just be happy!” Well, I threw my arms up in the air in frustration and I said, “Dad, that’s easy for you to say, you were born that way, but I wasn’t, what do I do?” He looked at me and he said four more words, he said “honey, I don’t know.” I realized then, that you know what, some people are really just born happy. This was before all the happiness research was out. I was not one of those, so I wanted to see what I could do, what anyone could do to raise their happiness level. That’s what I have basically dedicated the last 32 years of my life to finding out. I would say probably the most influential mentor in my life was my father, because he showed me a vision of what’s possible in life. How you can have a life that is happier, and that was my first mentor and then I have been blessed with many other great business mentors; Jack Canfield, who wrote the Chicken Soup series, and numbers of others.

Dr. Relly Nadler:  Marci, there a lot of questions we want to ask you, so let’s just jump in. So can we really create lasting happiness?

Marci Shimoff:  Well, that to me is the most exciting news out there in the field of positive psychology, and I think everyone should know this. I am sure that Cathy, you have spoken a lot about this as well, that research has found that we all have a happiness set point. That no matter what happens to us, whether good or bad, we will return to our set point or set range, unless we do something consciously to change it. It’s fabulous to know that we absolutely can do something consciously to change our happiness set point. The research shows that the set point is 50% genetic, it’s 10% your circumstances, and 40% our habits of thought and behavior. That’s the part we can do something about the most effectively to create lasting change.

So I think one of the things that is important for people to really get, is that we spend so much of our time and attention focusing on that 10% of our happiness that is circumstantial, thinking if I just made more money, if I just had a better job, if I just had a different spouse, then I would be happier. When in reality, it’s not that which creates the greatest impact on our happiness, but instead it’s our habits of thought and behavior.  What I did was I interviewed 100 unconditionally happy people, people who are happy for no reason. Let me, by the way, very quickly define what I mean by happy for no reason, because I don’t mean that you are walking around 24/7 with a silly grin on your face. What I do mean by happy for no reason, is that you have an inner state of peace and wellbeing that doesn’t depend on your circumstances. So you may have challenging experiences, you may feel sad, you may go through grief. My mother just passed away, I certainly have been in grief. Despite these circumstances, you still have an inner core, a backdrop of inner peace and wellbeing. What I like to say is that people who are happy for no reason don’t look to their circumstances to extract their happiness. But rather, they bring their happiness to their life circumstances. Yes, we can create lasting happiness by raising our happiness set point. What I found out from interviewing these people, these unconditionally happy people, I call them my happy hundred, is the only difference between them and everybody else is that they have different habits. I distilled them down to 21 core happiness habits that anyone can practice to raise their happiness level. I am sure that Cathy, in the research that you have done, you have found exactly the same kinds of things. Would you say that’s in alignment with what you are finding?

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:  Oh, absolutely, yes. We interviewed, for What Happy Working Mother’s Know, about 1000 globally, and it was fascinating to hear the consistency. Obviously, there is something here that we can learn, and that’s why we call it the science of happiness.  I’m very curious, Marci would you be comfortable sharing with our audience, some of the Seven Step program that you offer for getting happiness kind of underway, and a foundation in your life?

Marci Shimoff: Yes. What I have found is that there were 21 core happiness habits that anyone can practice. Looking at those, I found that they fell into 7 main categories or areas of our life. That is what I call the 7 Step Program. Now, what I have also found out over the years of training and working in organization behavior, is that people have a hard time remembering 7 of anything. So I created a metaphor, I call it “Building Your Inner Home for Happiness.” There are seven main components in building a home. The seven main components are your foundation, your four corner pillars that the walls form around, the roof, and the garden. So how I relate these to the seven main areas that your happiness level falls into, is that the foundation of your home for happiness is first taking full responsibility for your happiness, taking ownership of your life. If you don’t do that, then you go along like many people do in life, saying well, I’ll just wait for the things in my life to change—the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome. I’ll be happy when I get a better job, or when I lose 20 pounds, or whatever it is. That is being a victim of your life.  What we found is that the foundation has to do with people taking responsibility for your happiness, the need to get out of the blaming, complaining and shaming game, and move more into becoming a co-creator of your life.

Dr. Relly Nadler:  You say Marci, it’s the first step, you have to start with that. If you don’t start with that the other ones of the house aren’t going to be solid.

Marci Shimoff:  Exactly. What you are doing if you don’t take responsibility for your happiness is you are expecting something on the outside to change for your life to change, and it won’t. So, you’re right, it’s the fundamental first step.

Dr. Relly Nadler:  You know, it’s very similar to something that goes way back to 1990 and Steven Covey who said, “being proactive, is habit number one.”

Marci Shimoff:  Exactly. There are fun ways that you can bring this into your workplace, and I’ll just give you a quick example of taking responsibility for your happiness. I often tell people to do this in their workplace with the work teams or with their families. It’s a little game called the “Blame, Shame and Complain Game.” What you do is you just notice every time you go into more of a victim mode, complaining about something, making excuses, justifying, blaming others, or blaming yourself, which is feeling shame or guilt. Any time you or your coworkers fall into that trap, you just put a dollar into a basket. You do this for a week. What you’ll find is that you need to have a lot of dollars on you and after two or three days you will become more and more aware of how often you fall into that “blame shame and complain game”. Just that awareness of it tends to help you stop the behavior and help you take more responsibility for blaming the guy next to you for why you didn’t get your project in on time or for blaming the traffic for why you weren’t there on time. It’s even the very insidious, subtle ways in which we feel guilty or feel shame, or make excuses for what is going on in our lives. That’s just a very simple thing you can do to create an awareness.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:  So Marci, I am very excited about this “home for happiness.” So we start with a foundation, and then you said there are pillars, a roof and a garden?

Marci Shimoff:  So the 4 corner pillars of the “home for happiness” are the mind, heart, body and soul. The mind has to do with our thought patterns. The heart has to do with our emotional intelligence, which you know so much about Relly. The body has to do with the biochemistry of happiness; are you creating, are you making the cells in your body happy. Then the soul or spirit has to do with how much you are feeling connected with the bigger energy of life. Then there is the roof of your “home for happiness” which has to do with your purpose or passion in life; are you living a life that’s inspired? I am sure we will come back around and talk about some of these topics that interest you the most. And then finally the garden of your “home for happiness” has to do with who you surround yourself with. As you mentioned earlier, Relly, there is emotional contagion. Are you surrounding yourself with toxic people? Are there lots of weeds in your garden? Or are you surrounding yourself with a support team; people who are really supporting you and experiencing greater happiness in life.

You know, one of the areas that I find the most challenging for people, and particularly in the workplace, has to do with the pillar of the mind. And that has to do with our thoughts. I titled that section of my program, “don’t believe everything you think.” Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean that it is true. The research shows that we have about 60,000 thoughts a day for the average person. Eighty percent of those are negative. The scientists call that the negativity bias. One of the researchers I interviewed call it the Velcro/Teflon syndrome, and here’s what he meant by that. Our minds are like Velcro for the negative. The negative just sticks to us, whereas, it’s like Teflon for the positive. The positive just slides right off.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:  Right!  One of the things that we say a lot in our books is that we are hard-wired for hard times. So, it is very natural for us to go to that space. But I want you to give that statistic again for our audience.  Yes, how many thoughts a day?

Marci Shimoff:  Sixty thousand thoughts a day, on average, 80% of those are negative. It was survival wiring we inherited from our ancestors, the cavemen. We no longer need it to the extent that we have it. What it does is it makes us hyper alert for the negative. So, for example, you are at work. You get 10 compliments on your performance in a day, and you get one criticism. What do you remember at the end of the day?

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: All the good negatives. They are going to make me a better performer in my mind as a high achiever.

Marci Shimoff:  So what we found is that more successful people, actually, will focus on the positives. It takes 20 seconds to remember something positive. So somebody says to you, “oh, you did a great job on that project.” Rather than deflecting and saying oh, it was nothing. You in fact know that you worked hard on it, take in that compliment, say, thank you, I actually worked really hard on that project and I was happy with the way it turned out as well.

Dr. Relly Nadler:  So say that again, less than 20 seconds for it to sink in? Is that what you said?

Marci Shimoff: It takes 20 seconds for that positive to actually stick to you, to sink in. It takes longer for the positive message to make an imprint on the mind than for the negative.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So that the stickiness factor, so it takes 20 seconds. Most people brush it off… oh, it was nothing, no big deal, and so it doesn’t stick.

Marci Shimoff:  That’s right.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: So we need to be more like Velcro and less like Teflon.

Marci Shimoff: The way we do that is by making note of the positives, even keeping a journal of the positives things, the “wins” that have happened in a day.

Hear more from our interview with Marci and how “Happy for No Reason” can help you be a transformational leader in both your work and your home life. You can listen to the complete interview above.


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