Just the other day, a friend and I were discussing the living legend Sachin Tendulkar and his incredible feat of scoring a hundred centuries. A cricket buff himself, my friend believed Sachin’s magic ingredient was happiness. “Look at him carefully when he is at the pitch,” he said. “He looks so happy! His childlike enthusiasm seems to melt away the 22 years of hard work that he has put in.”
I couldn’t agree more and kept thinking about it afterwards. There was no doubt about the fact that happiness is the magic ingredient in any field. Think of all the experts or leaders you admire: The one common factor among all of them is the sheer joy you see on their faces when they are in their professional domain.
And yet, happiness seems so elusive at work, almost like an oxymoron.
Mercer’s What’s Working™ 2011 survey revealed that over half of Britain’s employees are unhappy at work. Sure, you can dismiss this as a sign of the times, but the fact is that this is the moment when we most need the positive energy of our people at work. A general malaise or apathy among the workforce will only dig the hole deeper.
HR experts believe that happiness at work is achieved when you are in the ‘flow’. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the architect of the notion of ‘flow’. He believes creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. According to him, “When we are involved in (creativity), we feel we are living more fully than during the rest of life.”
Tony Hseih at Zappos has been using scientific sense, business sense, and human sense to build a business model around a culture of happiness at work. Most people agree that the happiness quotient leads to an incremental increase in productivity. And Tony is living proof of this.
So how do we find this zone of enjoyment, this magic ingredient of happiness at work and in our lives? I believe we can do this by taking charge of our time and therefore, taking charge of our life. In a previous post on this blog, I had mentioned a conversation I had with a very interesting gentleman on a train ride during my days as a student when I was quite a drifter! He told me, think of time as currency. In fact, it is the only currency we are born with. Treat that currency as what you are spending – every second, every minute, every hour and day. You have to think about who decides to spend that currency. When you begin to take responsibility for your time, you start enjoying it more – simply because it is your conscious decision to spend it the way you do. That is the magic ingredient.
So now, let’s go back to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his thoughts on finding the flow. In his words: If one prays in order to be holy, or exercises to develop strong pectoral muscles, or learns to be knowledgeable, then a great deal of the benefit is lost. The important thing is to enjoy the activity for its own sake…”
In other words, if you are doing what you choose to do at a particular moment in time, and then focus all your energy on creative execution of the activity you have chosen, you will find yourself in that elusive zone of enjoyment. And when all these joyous moments add up together, isn’t that the very definition of happiness and success at work?
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