“If you look at the data, we get our creative bursts when our brain is in delta wave mode, when we are in a state of daydreaming,” says Emma Seppälä, Science Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University and a leading expert on health psychology, well-being, and resilience. She is also the author of “The Happiness Track.”
She was recently a guest on the popular Radio Free Leader Podcast hosted by David Burkus, Associate Professor of Management at Oral Roberts University. “That’s why we will get those burst of information right at those seemingly inconvenient times. When our brain is in those very deeply relaxed modes is when we are more likely to have those breakthrough moments.”
A Real Pain Point
Seppälä says she wrote the book out of a “real pain point” that she sees with high achievers that were operating on the “misconception that in order to be successful they had to postpone or even sacrifice their happiness,” causing 50% to burnout in the American workforce 70% to “disengage”. “These kind of statistics are shocking to me,” Seppälä said.
“If you look at the data… if you take care of yourself and the people around you are actually going to be more charismatic and make better decisions, have more emotional intelligence, be more creative, more focused and more productive,” said Seppälä. “There is a better way, you can be happy and get the things done that you need to.”
Do Drive and Stress Go Together?
David Burkus pointed wondered if this is “unique to America or if it’s unique across all countries and all cultures to the people who strive to be high achievers?” He said, “It seems like there is a tolerance to the idea that it’s going to be stressful, it’s going to be hard work, we have to stay focused and we have to prioritize that in order to achieve that level of success. In the United States we are the land of the 90 hour workweek. Many people buy into the idea that if you want to be successful you have to drive at all costs.”
“We know that the US is driven by two things, the product at work ethic, which is this idea that you have to prove your worth in the eyes of God through your life’s work,” said Seppälä. “We’re also influenced very much by the immigrant work culture. The ancestors of this country had to pull themselves up from their boot strap and had to work very hard. Those are two very influential factors that has turned the US into such an industrious and innovative place.”
Seppälä points out that the problem is that for many Americans life is work and that is burning them out and is making them accomplish less than they would take more care of themselves.
“I think about my own life and probably yours too, I really love what I do,” says Burkus. “What’s wrong with that? The work that you do actually does engage and energize you but it still makes you at risk for burnout. How do you figure out that right level when you actually enjoy the work?”
“I see people focused on doing the next disruptive thing, but when they are not stopping and are constantly working they are shooting themselves in the foot,” says Seppälä. “If they were to actually stop and relax they are more likely to find a solution.”
Being Present is Key to Business Success and Happiness
Being present is also very important to both happiness and success and as Seppälä notes, it’s a big part of what makes someone charismatic. “We know that individuals that are highly charismatic have this incredible ability to be so present that they can connect with people in powerful ways,” said Seppälä. “Bill Clinton, for example, apparently makes people feel like they are the only people in the room and so he has this incredible charisma. That is the ability to be so incredibly present.”
Seppälä says that through research we have discovered “that your relationships matter, whether it’s your employees, people at your level or people above you. Those relationships are key and your ability to be fully present will make an incredible impact on your career.”
“That ability to be present, we know from Happiness research, not only makes you more productive, but you never are happier than when you are present right now, even if you are doing something you don’t want to be doing, said Seppälä. “You are happiest when you mind is with whatever it is you are doing.”