12 Steps to Happiness

Written by Jurgen Appelo, a creative networker and author on a mission to help organisations survive and thrive in the 21st century. Jurgen will be speaking at our Summercamp 2016 in September. He's just launched a book – Managing for Happiness a practical handbook for making management great. 

I love doing a bit of research.

I remember doing this particular research when I was enjoying a vacation in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While in a happy mood, I thought to myself,

“What are the things, according to science, that usually make people feel happy?”

So, while sipping a drink or two, I spent a few hours browsing the Web for scientifically backed articles on happiness, and I noticed that the same things were mentioned again and again across many articles and research reports.

I ultimately arrived at a list of 12 items that I refer to as the 12 Steps to Happiness because I want to emphasise that happiness is a path, not a destination.

There are no keys, roads, or flights to happiness because happiness is not some place where you can arrive. It is what you experience when you take steps in the right direction.

Here is the list of 12 steps. As a founder, entrepreneur, manager or team member, take each one of these into account and try to apply them wherever possible. Your aim is not only the increased happiness of your colleagues but also more happiness for yourself.

In fact, just trying to contribute to other people's happiness is almost guaranteed to contribute to your own at the same time.

We all deserve a bit of happiness each day.

Thank your coworkers and always try to be appreciative. Showing your gratitude to colleagues and appreciating who they are and what they do won't cost you more than writing them a simple note or giving them a thumbs up.

Give a little present to a team member or make it possible for them to offer each other gifts because gifts make both receivers and senders happier, and happier people send more gifts, in an endless virtuous cycle.

Help someone out who needs a bit of assistance or give team members time and space to lend each other a hand because altruism makes people feel good.

Eat well and make good, healthy foods easily available for everyone in the workplace. After all, there is a strong correlation between food and mood.

Exercise regularly and allow your coworkers to take proper care of their bodies. Physical exercise is touted as a cure for many ailments and as a great boost for happiness.

Rest well and sleep sufficiently. A good night's sleep is one of the most often suggested tricks to enjoy a long and healthy life.

Experience new things because the happiness you derive from experiences is longer lasting than the happiness you get from things. Make every day an opportunity to learn something new, try something out, and run an experiment.

Hike outdoors, enjoy nature, and get people to escape their office environment every once in a while. Being outside and connecting with nature leads to an increased sense of vitality that goes beyond mere physical exercise.

Meditate every day or adopt regular mindfulness practices, because there's evidence that better awareness of oneself and one's surroundings and improved inner peace and quiet are useful ingredients for greater happiness.

Socialize with people and make it easy for your coworkers to develop connections, not only with each other but also with other stakeholders.

Aim for a defined purpose as an organization and help people to develop, communicate, and realize their own goals.

Smile to make everyone feel better. Even when you feel there is little reason to do so, it's still a smart idea to try and smile. Happiness makes us smile, but it also works the other way around: Smiling makes you happy.

"The very good news is there is quite a number of internal circumstances . . . under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them . . . your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly" – Martin E. Seligman, Authentic Happiness

Join Jurgen & 120 other entrepreneurs and founders who share similar values to you at our Happy Startup Summercamp this September. Only 4 spots left, applications still welcome.