This is part of a series of posts based upon the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. See this post for my summary book review or follow along with the entire series below. If you like what you read, then spread the love and share this with your friends and fans socially. Thanks!
Principle #7 – Social Investment (this post)
In this chapter on Principle #7 – Social Investment there was a combination of personal and professional evidence for where our happiness and performance at work come from. And it’s amazing!
Social Networks Are Crucial for a Happy Life
In this chapter Achor shares how very often people under stress or overwhelm go inward. They retreat and pull away from people; some in order to focus and some thinking they’ll do better on their own.
Achor says that, “The most successful people take the exact opposite approach. Instead of turning inward, they actually hold tighter to their social support…Not only are these people happier, but they are more productive, engaged, energetic, and resilient.”
I love the study he notes in this chapter that he refers to as the Harvard Men study. It’s the longest running psychological study of all time and has followed 268 men from their entrance into college in the late 1930’s to today. Lots of data has been gathered in those 70+ years.
What shocked me – and I absolutely adore – is the director for this study for the last 40 years summed up his findings in one word when asked by the magazine Atlantic Monthy…”Love – full stop.”
L – O – V – E
That’s the answer…right there!
In fact, they said “70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world.”
Read that again, please.
“…our relationships with other people matter…more than anything else in the world.”
If you’ve been on this planet for any time you’ve probably come to this conclusion yourself or had a hunch anyway. But this study has some profound conclusions about relationships, social bonds and social support.
Achor says, “When we have a community of people we can count on – spouse, family, friends, colleagues – we multiply our emotional, intellectual, and physical resources. We bounce back from setbacks faster, accomplish more, and feel a greater sense of purpose.”
Wow and wow again.
I loved this chapter. It ties right in with what I have learned in my life and that is that we are love and we need love to thrive. The social interactions we encounter with friends and colleagues raise our happiness baseline permanently. Even simple water cooler chatter if it’s positive and friendly can improve our happiness and performance.
The Happiest 10% Among Us
There was a study conducted called “Very Happy People”. You know, those…outliers. The people on Facebook and Instagram who are constantly smiling and rejoicing with gratitude at how great their life is and what they love about the world.
Yeah, those people.
Well, in this study of the very happy people they found “there was one – and only one – characteristic that distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: the strength of their social relationships.”
“The more social support you have, the happier you are.”
Talk about a [success] formula right there!
If you get nothing else out of this book or my posts about this book, please do yourself a favor and make some friends or strengthen the bonds you have with those you already have. Invest time in your social support network. Make time for friends at the office, call or spend some time with your friends. And although the author doesn’t say it, I don’t think it matters one bit the number of social relationships you have as long as YOU think you have a lot of social support. This can mean a small intimate group of friends you know have your back and you adore or a larger circle you swim in of lots of acquaintances that brighten your day and help you feel connected to people.
Happy and Thriving Thanks to Social Connections
What’s fascinating as you read in The Happiness Advantage about the social support and connections that help us thrive and be happy is how fundamental it is. It’s part of our biological makeup even. We have an innate need to form social bonds. I remember reading about how babies who weren’t handled after birth have died. I don’t remember the studies or stats, but it was shocking to me how fundamental connection with other humans is to our well-being.
Achor reports, “When we make a positive social connection, the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin is released into our bloodstream, immediately reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus.” He talks about how people with fewer connections and interactions socially suffer poor heath and are more likely to suffer from depression.
This probably doesn’t come as a s surprise, but the impact is a lot bigger than I realized before and it can even extend the length of our lives. Being a part of a breast cancer support group can actually double a woman’s life expectancy. Damn! Connect people, for heaven’s sake…connect! Connect!
Work Performance and Success Improved by Social Support
I won’t go too in depth like Achor does in this book because the purpose of the book is business based. Yet, allow me to share some valuable insights he shares in this chapter about work performance being boosted due to our social support system at the office.
“…over the long haul, employees with more of these interactions become protected from the negative effects of job strain.”
“psychological resourcefulness” and…”employees can work for longer hours, with increased focus, and under more difficult conditions.”
This sure sounds like what I experienced during the dot com boom days in Silicon Valley. People were like machines (and many still are) because the work environments were made so conducive to interacting and social connections. Just look at Google or any of the big companies that facilitate a lot of social interaction and fun in their work environments.
“…individuals who invest in their social support systems are simply better equipped to thrive in even the most difficult circumstances, while those who withdraw rom the people around them effectively cut off every line of protection they have available, at the very moment they need them most.”
“…social support is a prescription for happiness and an antidote to stress, it is also a prime contributor of achievement in the workplace.”
People we enjoy interacting with at work…”actually fuels individual innovation, creativity, and productivity.” Not to mention motivation and overall performance.
If you’ve ever stayed at a company and enjoyed your work environment I’d bet it had a lot to do with the people you worked with. Achor talked about how working with people we enjoy far outweighs status or bigger paychecks. People are more successful and self-motivated when they do work they enjoy…and do it with people they love doing it with.
He goes on to talk for quite a while about how valuable it is to have great interactions with our colleagues and managers. Great leaders should encourage social interactions in the office because it leads to greater payoffs. A study at IBM found something like every email contact a person had added $948 in revenue to the bottom line.
I’d like to sum it up with Achor’s statement, “all it takes, we have seen, is a commitment to frequent and positive social interaction.” Take that to the bank if you’re a business owner or manager!
I hope this chapter and the insights you’ve just learned about can help you in some way in your personal and work life. A simple prescription for happiness and thriving is really just spreading love and feeling the love as best you can. Invest in your social network, even when things seem busy or overwhelming. There is no greater predictor it appears to your longevity or well being that feeling connected to other people.
With love and light,