How happiness could be the secret to your business’ success and what to do about it…

On the Nosto blog, we write a lot about tactics to improve your ecommerce business – be it optimizing your homepage, improving your emails, or (of course) using personalization. But it is important sometimes to take a step back and remember that improving your business isn’t just about processes and technology because even an ecommerce business is built on people – and not just using Excel spreadsheets and code. Sometimes looking at yourself, your employees and your colleagues is all you need to do to make real measurable improvements.

With that in mind, I am going to discuss some of the lessons I recently took from the TEDTalk “The happy secret to better work” as presented by psychologist Sean Achor. As well as some of the tools that I recommend for implementing his solutions.

The basic premise of Achor’s talk is that as human beings we are more productive if we are happy– in fact, this is not so much an assumption as something that has been proven time and time again by research. As Achor states;

“Our brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.”

Why? Because dopamine, a hormone which enters your body when it is in a positive state, works not only to improve your mood but also to help you retain information and remain focused by turning on reward centers in your brain.

However, there is a problem with this – as a society, we associate success with the completion of goals. This means that in the workplace these physiological responses are primarily triggered with the constant hitting of targets and positivity is only achieved in an interspersed and temporary manner, with the goalposts being moved each time. Therefore our productivity, and essentially our happiness, suffers. But this needn’t be the way.


The Solution

We can reverse the process. According to Achor, “90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.” This is especially telling in the business sector, with Achor going on to explain that IQ predicts job successes only 25% of the time. 75% of job successes are attributable to optimism, social support and someone’s ability to frame stress as an opportunity.

Essentially all of this means that, despite what we have thought previously, happiness is less about the events of our life but by the lens through which we view the world – which is something within our control to change, meaning we could trigger separating positivity from external goals, nurturing it as more of a constant state and increasing productivity as a result.

We can do this by reversing the formula for happiness and success. By changing the trigger we essentially rewire our brains, a process that Achor argues can take only 21 consecutive days to achieve this, with the daily repetition of a two minute activity. This involves the writing down, every day, of three things that you are grateful for. It sounds like a simple act but by constantly looking for the positive the brain starts to “retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first”. This is just a slight shift in your lens, the way in which you view the world and also the resting state of your mind, but it has a profound effect on how you are able to work- meaning that 31% increase in productivity could soon be yours.

If you need a little encouragement in doing this then consider the Happier app, which describes itself as “a social network dedicated to happy moments.” Here you can share happy moments in text, photo and even song form, as well as following other people who are doing the same and offering encouragement. If you’re more of a private person, then you can also use the app to track your moments privately.

Other things that Achor outlines to be useful to this process of re-wiring are:

  • Journaling: Writing about one positive experience you’ve had in the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it, again triggering the positive emotions and chemicals that were produced the first time around. Effectively you are mentally recycling an experience for all the productive positivity it is worth.

    For a list of smart journal apps to help you on your “Dear Diary” way see this blog– it looks for apps that sync to the cloud, offer calendar views, search and tagging, as well as being password protected.
  • Exercise: We know that exercise is a natural stimulant of mood-enhancing hormones but Achor also claim that it teaches your brain that it is your behavior, rather than your circumstances, that matters. Now, there are of course loads of different ways to get some more exercise in, for one you could just stop reading this blog and get up and go for a run- but if that doesn’t excite you here are a few other things you could consider –
  • Buy an exercise machine for the office: In our office we have a step machine, which at the time of writing I am currently exercising on (60 calories burned so far, which as far as I’m concerned means I can 1) get off soon and 2) I can have a chocolate muffin with my afternoon coffee). Obviously you’re not going to spend all day on something like this but a burst of activity while you work through your emails in the morning could be just what is needed to start your day in a more positive and productive manner.


An insight into my makeshift in-office excercise efforts (as well as my Snapchatting habit)…

  • Insist on “walk and talks”: Why have a meeting stuck in the boardroom when you could take a walk around the block insead? It’s a simple idea but an ingenious one and one I stumbled across in another TEDtalk, see the benefits outlined here.
  • Download Pokemon Go: Because, who says excercise has to be boring? If you haven’t heard about Pokemon Go then you’ve probably been living under a rock, because this augmented reality game and app has taken the world by storm. Not only that but, unlike traditional video games, it encourages you out into the real world and forces you to get some exercise. So instead of sitting at your desk this lunch time, why not go and catch them all.
  • Meditation: Meditation has, time and time again, been shown to physically alter the brain in a number of beneficial ways (preventing aging, helping concentration and improving productivity), so it is no surprise that it has made it on to list. It can, however, be a struggle to master – if this is the case for you try downloading the Headspace app which, in 10 minute daily lessons, will guide you through the process, helping you become a little more zen.
  • Random acts of kindness: Conscious acts of kindness that, of course, not only make you feel good when doing them but harbor a generally more positive environment where people are more likely to engage in positive behavior. Achor translates this approach to the workplace by encouraging people to write one positive email praising or thanking someone else when they first open their inbox. If you want to look for other ways to engage in this, check out the website Random Acts Of Kindness which is a community of people committed to spreading positivity at random.  


So, there we have it- several ways for you and your team to go about changing the lens through which you see the world and the outcome you bring to it and your business as a result. I hope the summary and practical recommendations were helpful but I would, of course, encourage you to watch the video – for one, it is only 12 minutes long. And two, it is funny and endearing and anecdotal and everything else you want from a TEDTalk.

Find this useful? Check out my blog ‘5 TEDtalks that every ecommerce merchant should see’.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – feel free to tweet me @LottieColtman.

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