Disclaimer: No one has cornered the market on happiness, and the approaches I discuss are simply one man’s humble opinions. Happiness is a journey. You don’t have to be there, but instead, make it destination, and a goal within your journey…
Think back to a time when you felt happy. I’m going to guess that you may have also felt in control of your life. You were in control of your job, in control of your relationships, and you felt you had control of your health. Conversely, think back on times when you felt unhappy. I’ll bet you might remember a lack of control about your circumstances at that time.
One of the most fascinating studies, regarding this particular issue, took place at Rutgers University with one of the best test groups anyone could ever assemble; babies. That’s right, even babies felt happier when they felt in control!
Here’s how they proved it. They created a test I’ll refer to as “The String Test.” In this test, a string was attached to different babies’ wrists. It took a little while, but eventually, the babies figured out that by pulling the string, pictures would appear in front of them. I’ve seen a video of this and there was no question that those babies were thrilled! Then they disconnected the string, and although the babies continued to pull, it no longer showed any pictures. As a result, the babies weren’t amused anymore and they began to withdraw, and some of them cried for a short period of time.
However, what made me sit up and take a deeper look at this test was what happened next. Pictures began to appear randomly, and although the babies continued to pull the string, it had no effect on when these pictures would appear. In short, control was taken from the babies. They were not only frustrated, but they were much more upset. There wasn’t a baby in the bunch who didn’t cry – loudly. When they were given the control back, they were happy again.
One of the things that always attracted me to selling was the thought that my success, or failure, was truly under my control. Now, as an entrepreneur in my 18th year, what do you think attracted me the most to running my own business? Control.
Case study after case study keeps telling us the same thing. How about one more example? In car manufacturing plants, management found out that the workers were unhappy, and there was low morale. How did they turn it around? They gave the assembly line workers the ability to stop the assembly line if there was an issue. Control.
I consult with management all the time regarding this issue. Every time I tell management that they need to provide more recognition to those they manage, they fire back, “I don’t have enough money in the budget to do that!” I immediately shift them off the misguided notion that money is all people want when they deserve recognition. In fact, there are a series of incentives that can be offered that can make people very happy … and guess what they involve? Yep, they involve giving their employees more control.
So there you have principal #1 – Control. Seek it, build a path to it, and if you are there right now, hold on to it. In the many studies that have been conducted over the years, it is clear that control is the single biggest variable in whether people are happy. It’s not the only a principal of happiness, but it’s a very important one.