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We Seek Success, But We Crave Connection

November 21, 2018 Joe Mechlinski


What is it that most people search for in life? Wealth? Success? 

These are goals for most of us. But for virtually everyone, the unacknowledged goal is personal connection. 

This was one of the remarkable findings that came from a notable work of research, The Harvard Grant Study. It followed the lives of 268 male graduates from 1938 onward. At regular intervals, the study, which lasted more than 75 years, collected data on the lives of these graduates. 

The key finding: relationships are the only things that truly matter, said George Vaillant, the study’s director. A man could have achieved professional success and lived a healthy life, but without love, he wasn’t happy. As Vaillant so eloquently wrote, "Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse."

Most of psychology, through the 20th century, worked at trying to diagnose what was wrong with people from a psychological standpoint, ignoring other aspects of people's makeup, such as their feelings. 

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, took a different approach. 

He decided to examine folks who felt fulfilled and content, in order to learn what works for people. Based on his research, he devised a model called P.E.R.M.A, which is an acronym for the five building blocks of well-being and happiness. The P and E stand for positive emotions, the R is for relationships—being authentically connected to other individuals. The M stands for meaning and the A stands for achievement. It's clear that the heart brain represents two-fifths of the model.

Some companies that are beginning to understand that good business is about trying to form connections of the heart. Working in a call center, for example, was never thought of as a desirable job. It’s tedious. The reason people are calling in is because they’re dissatisfied, sometimes angry, and the operator’s job is to make the person happy. Spending your days trying to please people is exhausting. 

But a company like Zappos has made a point of creating a call-center culture that is based on connection with customers rather than simply being a sounding board or a complaint-resolution service. This has made a huge difference in engagement within the company, and with how customers view the company. 

Ready to Shift?

I’ve written a white paper that describes how you can use brain science to be happier at work. It’s called “How Brain Science Helps Engagement” and it will give some some clear strategies to shift your work.

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