Hardwired into each of us are behaviors that help leverage the part of the brain where resiliency, innovation, and human connection (even remotely) most effectively take place.
“They're correlated with physical health, emotional health, and particularly helpful in a time of stress,” explains Greg Hicks, co-founder of FosterHicks, speaker, and co-author of the bestseller How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People.
Hicks’ decades of research with longtime collaborator Rick Foster offer insight into how we can navigate this pandemic that has turned our lives upside down. During Haworth Connect, a series that engages inspiring speakers on a range of topics, Hicks described nine behaviors that increase our resilience and happiness.
- Intention – The active desire and commitment to be happy, and the decision to choose attitudes and behaviors that lead to happiness. Mindset controls future action. Intention sets attitude and behavior. Goals are the things on your “to-do” list. And, intention is your “to-be” list. How do you want to be?
People who really thrive take 2-5 seconds before they do anything to ask themselves, “What's my best choice right now?” The beauty of setting your intention is that you can potentially make new positive choices. With COVID-19, intention is critical because everything is new, everything is different.
- Accountability – The choice to create the life you want to live—to assume responsibility for your actions, thoughts, and feelings and refuse to blame others or view yourself as a victim. Accountability is about first being accountable to yourself, and then to others.
People who self-describe as extremely unhappy see themselves as victims. Accountability is the flipside of victimhood. If you focus only on what isn’t working, you will not move ahead. Amid the pandemic, one could argue we are all victims. So, what can we do? Begin by looking at what we can control. Ask, “How can I make things better for me and the people around me today?”
- Identification – The ongoing process of looking deeply within yourself to assess what makes you happy, apart from what you’re told should make you happy.
Try finding just two minutes a day to take out a pen and paper and speed-write every single pre-COVID-19 thing you loved to do. And then, do a little brainstorming: Even staying at home, what can you do now that will bring you joy?
- Centrality – The insistence on making central to your life that which brings you happiness. People who are happiest and thriving live their passions. They are not talking about COVID-19 24/7.
It’s important to talk about how you're feeling and what's going on, but it's also an opportunity to talk about some of the joys of life, tell funny stories, laugh, and not forget about the rest of our humanity.
- Recasting – The 3-step process that transforms stressful problems and trauma into something meaningful, important, and a source of emotional energy.
Recasting helps when you hit a major roadblock in your life. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Analyze
People that thrive are not deniers. Be honest and ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now? Is it anger? Sadness? Fear? Is it all those things?” We need to think about our so-called negative emotions as our friends because they don't lie.
Step 2: Find Meaning
This is really a logical analysis, where you really think about the answer to, “Why am I feeling this way?”
Step 3: Find Opportunity
Determine what can be changed, and ask yourself, “What can I take from this?”
- Options – The decision to approach life by creating multiple scenarios, be open to new possibilities, and adopt a flexible approach to life’s journey.
One of the worst places for human beings to go is hopelessness, which basically feels like it’s never going to get better. The only way to go from being hopeless to hopeful is to open new options. Sit down for 3-5 minutes and think of the big picture. Ask, “What are different ways to approach this? And what new ideas do I have?”
- Appreciation – The choice to appreciate deeply your life and the people in it, and to “stay in the present” by turning each experience into something precious. This is focusing on what you have. It’s not losing sight of how much in your life there is to appreciate.
Right now, we’re hearing a lot of survivor's guilt because, “I still have my job, my family is healthy, and we're isolating in a good place. But so many people are struggling.” Being concerned about others is great. Look for ways that you can be part of helping these people. Guilt, however, doesn't serve you well. Try to flip the feelings of guilt into appreciating your own life and just being in the moment of how lucky you are.
- Giving – The choice to share yourself with friends and community, and to give to the world without expecting anything in return.
Recent studies show that people who give of themselves—non-monetary giving—actually live longer. If we look back to our roots, we see that giving to one another has always be been good for the survival of our clan. For this reason, our bodies naturally reward us when we authentically give.
- Truthfulness – The choice to be honest with yourself and others, and to not allow societal, workplace, or family demands to violate your internal contract.
Finding the right way to express your truth to others, not keeping it squashed down, and doing it in a respectful way are important. That way, we're not making false assumptions about what's going on and what other people are thinking. Part of this is revealing why you're doing what you're doing.
The point behind the whole model is that we can't choose our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude, behaviors, reactions, and intention.