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  • Tamar Balkin

Keeping The Spring In Your Step

Photo by Alan Hurt Jr. on Unsplash

Take a moment and recall the first time you achieved something that you felt was significant in your personal or professional life. Remember the positive emotions associated with the achievement, that feeling of joy that made you smile, and perhaps even jump in the air. Typically, when we make a career or business decision, we need to embark on a specific course of action for at least 6 months or more to really notice any significant impact. In the words of a wise woman "you need to keep doing what you are doing, and it will pay off". As you progress in your career, you begin to recognise that most major achievements are more like a marathon than a sprint. Somehow as we advance in our careers our strong positive reactions to small achievements tends to diminish. This is troublesome, as in my opinion it’s just as important to smile when you have had a positive first meeting with a new client, as it is to pause and reflect when you close a large business deal. (For those who need convincing, the positive psychology literature focuses on multitude of benefits of regularly experiencing positive emotions.) The bigger conundrum for me is how do we maintain our joy for small achievements over time? Readers would be aware that there is a large body of research by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists on the development of ‘tolerance’ and the physical and psychological factors that drive an addict to keep increasing the regularity and quantity of their poison of choice. Does this research mean that we need to keep upping the ante with our achievements to experience joy? Or are there other ways to ensure that we allow ourselves to re-experience joy even when we have achieved something quite similar in the past. Adam Grant has a technique he started using to reconnect with positive emotions, when he noticed he was less excited at the release of his second book than his first. In a podcast with Shane Parrish he explained: “When these milestones moments occur, I rewind about 5 years and I ask myself ‘if my 5 years ago self knew this was going to happen how excited would I be?’ … It’s my responsibility to be that excited now, that generally gets me back in touch with the emotion.” This week I have been working with a group of senior executives who are in the midst of a restructure. All my clients will be moving into interesting challenging roles and the majority will be getting a promotion. Naturally in the lead up to the announcements they were anxious about the outcome, thus the main emotion many of them felt when they first met me was relief. However, as the focus of the conversations moved to the future for themselves and their teams, they began to smile, and the joy began to emerge. I encouraged them all to sit for a moment and fully experience the joy that accompanied successful sustained effort. I noticed some of them stifling their smiles, as if something bad may happen if they allowed themselves to let the positivity rise up to the surface. As one client realised that joy was not synonymous with gloating, he expressed the belief that he could return to his habit of doing a ‘happy dance’ after a successful meeting. Another told me he would be changing the screen saver on his lap top to a silly “gif” file to serve as a visual reminder to himself and his team to experience joy more often. My last cleint had just read Option B and decided she would follow Sheryl Sandberg's example and end each day by writing down three moments of joy.

So what will remind you to re-experience joy?

______________ References and further reading: The Flywheel Effect

Heath C. & Heath, D. (2017). The power of Moments (see chapter 8 Multiply Milestones). Sandberg S & Grant, A (2017) Option B. Siegel, S. (1979). The role of conditioning in drug tolerance and addiction. In J. D. Keehn (Ed.), Psychopathology in animals: Research and clinical implications (pp. 143-168). San Diego, CA, US: Academic Press. Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14. Please contact me for more positive psychology references. Listen to Jim Collins on Making good culture great, in the Eat Sleep Work Repeat Podcast Listen to Givers, Takers, and the Resilient Mind from The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish in Podcasts. For some fun gif files:

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