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Engagement Looks a Lot Like Happiness

Engagement Looks a Lot Like Happiness
HR, Strategy, engagement, employee engagement, Success, HR Management, Strategies

August is Happiness Month

Rick wakes up before daylight, slips on multiple, thin layers that he carefully laid out the night before, and while filling his coffee thermos thinks to himself, “I’m so glad I’m not cramped in a small office on a day like today!”

Outside it’s snowing, and Rick loves the snow, white powder being his favorite form of precipitation. He can’t wait to get off the lift at the peak, knowing the beautiful, panoramic view awaiting him. Strapping on his equipment, Rick becomes aware of the sun on the horizon, and he looks all around him while sucking in a clean, crisp breath of air.

Ready at last, Rick double-checks his equipment from head to toe. Then, he slaloms across the terrain, escaping into his own special paradise. Finally, slipping expensive goggles over his eyes, Rick slips into the zone where the magic happens, the place where Rick feels fully alive.

Rick isn’t standing on the top of a mountain, preparing to hit Riva Ridge at the Vail Ski Resort. Actually, he’s making preparation to weld steel joints while standing on a narrow beam on a skyscraper high above the streets of Chicago.

Rick’s engagement at work equals the level of happiness that some experience only on vacation. For Rick, engagement and happiness mean the same thing.

Happiness and engagement act as twins.

Research in positive psychology has uncovered some truths that relate equally well to both engagement and happiness. If you want the research behind the tips I’m going to share, contact me for a list of books you might wish to read.

Here’s the only truth you need to know: engagement looks a lot like happiness. If you want to spread more engagement in your life and across your organization, take more time to feed your own happiness. If you are already the happiest person you know, help those around you learn these lessons.

If you’re rolling your eyes, thinking perhaps this seems overly simplistic and not relevant in a HR publication, know this: Happy people are more successful in their professional and personal lives. They also live longer, get sick less often, and are more creative. If that's not enough, happy people have more friends and experience a deeper sense of connectivity with the world around them.

And, happy people spread engagement—a metric which those of you in HR know has a dollar sign attached.

5 Tips to Ignite Your Engagement and Fuel Your Engagement

  1. Get Planning Something Positive. Keep something positive within reach. Most of us can't just pack up and go to Rome on holiday for a month. But can you plan a date night? Plan a "guys’" or "girls’" night out? Stop after work for a glass of wine (or a bottle, I don’t judge) with a friend? It's not what you do that matters; rather, it's having something positive on the calendar that matters. That’s what gets you through life’s challenges. Thinking about watching a favorite movie has been shown to increase endorphin levels (happy chemicals in our brains) by 27 percent. THINKING ABOUT IT, not even watching it. Turns out, anticipation is a most powerful happiness tool.
  2. Get Moving.In 2011, during a crazy-busy period of my life, I vented to my wife about my workload, and she said this: "You should try running."  I thought I misheard her. But no, she meant that in addition to the things on my plate, I should add a new demand: running. I thought she was crazy, and I told her so. But at the same time, I gave it a try. Guess what? She was right. Starting my day with a run got my heart pumping and my mind activated. Running improved my focus and the quality of my output. Once again, endorphins to the rescue. You don't have to run a marathon to get the benefits. If you wish to SWITCH ON your brain, kick start your butt with some rigorous morning exercise.
  3. Get an Entourage.Remember the movie Scarface starring Al Pacino? The movie is known for its gratuitous violence, but even more so for its frequent dropping of the f-bomb. After spending nearly three hours hearing that word (206 f-bombs if you’re counting), my friend asked me on the way out of the movie, "You hungry?" I replied, "Yeah, I'm f---ing starving! Let's grab some f---ing food!" Be careful who you surround yourself with. They rub off on you. If you want to be the best in your profession, it's likely that you've tapped into a couple of mentors to help show you the ropes and teach you things that you couldn't learn as quickly on your own. Do the same thing with your friends and personal support group. Find an entourage of positive, happy individuals, those more apt to focus on the beauty of the sunset instead of the pollution and forest fires that created it.
  4. Get Smiling.Have you ever noticed that it's hard to laugh when you're angry? The converse is true as well: it’s hard to get angry when you’re laughing. From research, we know that humor and laughter increases both the quantity and quality of life.  Good humor increases creativity, productivity, and energy while decreasing physical discomfort. It reduces stress, fear, embarrassment, and anger.When a person laughs, blood pressure decreases, heart rate and respiration increases, the body again releases endorphins, and depression declines.After a bout of heavy laughter, many report a prolonged euphoria that continues after the smile fades, lasting even into the next day. Find your funny bone, and give it a workout.
  5. Get Giving.Practicing acts of conscious kindness increases happiness and well-being. Something as little as holding the door open for a stranger, or paying for the food in the car behind you at the drive-thru, can shift your mood. A few years back, I raised money for St. Baldrick's Foundation (which provides money for research for childhood cancers) by offering to shave my head for the cause. I wanted to reach the fundraising goal I set. But I got even more. A coworker's 8-year-old daughter donated all of the money in her piggy bank. The little girl named Carly that I dedicated my efforts to came to watch me get my head shaved. By that time, her leukemia was in remission! And my own teenage son, Jack, walked the St. Patrick's Day parade route with me and collected money for St. Baldrick's. Then, he shaved his own head a few days later—in front of his entire high school—one day before his first-ever high school dance/date. Some gifts keep giving. Jack has made this charity his own, and he’s participated for the last several years.

Now it’s back to you. You want more engagement, more happiness in your life? Which tip will you apply?

About Scott Carbonara

Scott Carbonara is a speaker, author, and consultant known as The Leadership Therapist for his diverse background working as an award-winning crisis intervention counselor, followed by chief-of-staff of a multi-billion dollar healthcare company. He is the author of four leadership books including A Manager’s Guide to Employee Engagement (McGraw Hill 2012), and specializes in leadership topics pertaining to employee and customer engagement, and change management.

2 Comments


  1. The timeless phrase “life is to short” never goes out of style. I walk in the door of my office every day with a smile and I try to leave with a smile. Some think I am a bit “silly” at times, but they are laughing just the same. In our world of ever complaining, nothing is right and the fires keep coming, it is hard enough to breath let alone laugh. So I make it a point to find somthing to smile about with everyone and pretty soon the board faces seems to be gone. Strange how it keeps me going as well and it only takes a few seconds here and there. It works with friends and it works at home just as well! It’s also free for people on a tight budget.


    • You’re so right, Lynn. Never underestimate the transformative power of a simple smile on the masses. When we see a baby, we smile. When we see a puppy, we smile. When we see a smile, we smile. We would have less need of medications, therapists, and bartenders if we’d just practice giving and receiving a few more smiles each day.

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