The happiness principle and its connection to wellness

Dr Anothy Grant on supporting sustainable performance

Although the idea of happiness can be highly subjective, there’s no questions it is profoundly connected, perhaps inseparable from sustainable wellness. As more organisations deal with the challenges of disruption and global competition, the ability to foster an environment that supports meaningful happiness has never been of greater value in improving sustainable performance.

Anthony Grant is an Associate Professor and Director of Coaching Psychology at the University of Sydney, establishing the world’s first Coaching Psychology Unit, where he researches and teaches the psycho-mechanics of positive change – the psychological, environmental and behavioural factors that facilitate purposeful, meaningful change.He is an accomplished author, having co-written and coedited five books on evidence-based coaching, as well as “Eight Steps to Happiness”, and the TV series “Making Australia Happy”. His books on coaching have been translated into eight languages, and he is is widely recognised as a key pioneer of coaching psychology, working as a consultant to corporate enterprises on the psychology of coaching team leaders and goal setting.

How do you define happiness?

Happiness is a very difficult term, and in some ways an unhappy word, because people hang so many things off it and different connotations off it, so I would say that in a technical sense, happiness is a level of subjective wellbeing, because ultimately it can mean different things to different people and different times. You can feel happiness browsing through a shopping centre satisfying material urges, and equally as happy sitting alone on a pier contemplating life.

In the context of work and business, how are organisations shifting and taking ‘happiness’ more seriously.

If we think about happiness in relation to the workplace, we think of two key dimensions for organisations to be thinking about. One is the performance dimension – from low performance to high performance; and the wellbeing dimension, again from low wellbeing to high wellbeing. If we think of this as a 2 x 2 framework, where there are four potential situations – high performance / low wellbeing; high performance / high wellbeing; low performance / high wellbeing; and low performance / low wellbeing – the ultimate position for an organisation is to develop an ecosystem that facilitates high wellbeing and high performance, because that is sustainable. Many organisations, however, are geared to deliver high performance at the cost of low wellbeing, which is completely unsustainable. Without personal wellness, people inevitably shift to low performance, which is clearly bad for the individual, and the business.

How do physical environments contribute to wellbeing, given there is a limit to what organisations can do?

The fundamental principle of coaching for performance is setting goals that resonate for the individual. But just as important for organisations, is to create an environment around their people that actually nurtures their desire – physically, emotionally – to work towards those goals.

Now, that environment is often a combination of many things. It can be the physical workspace – and there is tremendous research now that supports the correlation between better design of workplaces and better outcomes – it can also be the physical building and its location too – and again, there is a growing understanding, internationally of the impact architecture and commercial precincts can have to the psychology of people – their attitude, their optimism and their happiness.

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