Scientists have found a reliable way to measure happiness. They’ve also found a way to make informed assumptions on what’s required to create the optimum conditions for happiness. So what’s the secret sauce? It’s all comes down to having compassionate thoughts, apparently.
By measuring the ‘relative activation of the left prefrontal cortex in the fMRI versus the right prefrontal cortex’ it’s been possible – for some time now – to see how our thoughts impact our overall happiness and sense of wellbeing.1
Technology giant Google might be best known for search engine domination, but what’s less publicised is their focus on mindfulness and employee wellbeing. The Google mindfulness course, Search Inside Yourself, for example, was set up by former employee and software engineer, Chade-Meng Tan.
In a 2010 TED talk, Meng – as he is often referred to – uncovered why learning to be compassionate is vital for happiness at an individual, organisational and world level.
Watch the video below, or read on for an overview of the key points from the talk.
How to make compassion a painless priority
While most people won’t put compassion high on their list of priorities, he suggests, we really need to find a way to ensure that compassion isn’t seen as a chore.
So make it fun, he says.
And make it good for business.
Let’s look at it from the business perceptive. If someone told you that compassion creates
- Highly effective business leaders,
- An inspiring (and inspired) workforce, and
- A vibrant, energetic and collaborative work environment,
wouldn’t that pique your interest?
How to bring compassion into the workplace
As an individual, take the initiative and start something, says Meng. Invite others to join. Build from there with the intention of doing things for the greater good. Think big. Aim for world peace, if you like.
As an employer, create an environment that encourages doing things for the greater good.
According to Meng, the key ingredients to help organisations develop compassion and happiness, are as follows:
- Create a culture of passionate concern for the greater good,
- Encourage autonomy, and
- Focus on development and personal growth.
How to build up your personal compassion muscle
Quoting the Dalai Lama, Meng offers the following:
If you want others to be happy, practise compassion.
If you want to be happy, practise compassion.
It sounds beautifully simple, but how?
Before altruism and starting new initiatives for the greater good are even possible, consider the following suggestions from Meng:
- Attention training is the foundation for emotional intelligence,
- Developing self-knowledge and self-mastery is also key, and
- Creating new mental habits creates the right environment for compassionate thoughts, ideas and initiatives to arise.
In relation to creating new mental habits, imagine, for example, the idea that Meng puts forward: every time you meet someone, wish for them to be happy.
Practise, practise, practise. It will become instinctive.
It ‘changes everything at work’, says Meng, generating trust, positive and productive relationships, and the right conditions for compassion, which in turn leads to happiness.
All of this sounds great, idealistic even, but if you consider how much time and energy is spent at work, it’s undoubtedly an idea worth considering.
And realistically, the impact outside of work is going to be worth it too.
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References and further resources
- Tan CM. Everyday compassion at Google. TEDPrize@UN. 2010. //www.ted.com/talks/chade_meng_tan_everyday_compassion_at_google. Accessed 3 October 2018.