From Raji Rajagopalan – Principal Software Engineering Manager at Microsoft
I’ve noticed that when I received really good news such as a pay raise, a promotion, really great results from a test (in college). My happiness level rises up for a very short time (less than 1 hour), then my emotion tapers off back to what it was before.
So let’s say my happiness level is usually at 5, on a scale of 1 to 10. After I get a promotion, I may get to level 9 of happiness for a very short period time. I would tell my love ones all about it. Then after 2 hours, my happiness drops back to a 5 or 6. And after 1 day, the promotion that I have been working towards for the last 3 years is a distant memory.
This could be the way my brain is wired. I tend to dwell on the negative, or what I could be doing better. But I recently learned that this is part of hedonic treadmill which “is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.”
The reason to stop and celebrate is to build gratefulness into big wins, build up long lasting positive energy towards the next milestone or the next big promotion and most importantly, to be kind and loving to yourself.
Most people, including myself, beat ourselves up too much and not reward ourselves enough. We as parents take care of our children. As partners, we try to take care of our spouses. As children, we try to take care of our parents. And whatever energy we have, we lastly take care of ourselves.
For those of you who love to look forward and always looking to accomplish the next big promotion, my advice to celebrate is a great way to build in positive reinforcement in your own brain so that you will have the energy to tackle the next milestone which usually is twice as hard as your previous milestone. You need every bit of energy you can get.
I try to remind myself to ride the high of the good news for at least a week. This works very well and helps me to be grateful for the good news and builds up my resilience for the bad news when it comes.
Here are some examples of how I practice this.
If I get a raise or bonus, I will celebrate 7 different ways over 7 days.
- Day 0: Of course I will set aside most of the bonus money in savings like any good husband and father.
- Day 1: I will share part of that bonus money with my daughter, a small but meaningful to her.
- Day 2: I set aside $200 for a new racket for badminton so that I will have a semi-permanent object that I use weekly to remind myself of my raise.
- Day 3: I will schedule a celebratory dinner with my entire family and tell them I’m treating them for dinner because of the bonus.
- Day 4: I may treat my wife and I to a massage
- Day 5: I will schedule a trip to a place with my wife that is my first choice, instead of having to think about someone else all the time. This is the time to celebrate this for myself!
- Day 6: I will do something simple, like going to my favorite donut shop or Thai restaurant and just eat the dish I love the most
- Day 7: I have a separate bank account for me to buy badminton gear, badminton membership and birdies. I would just deposit $200 in that account for future reward.
Other Milestones To Celebrate
You can use the 7 ways, 7 days to celebrate these other milestones
- Celebrate your birthday over 7 days for a birthweek!
- Celebrate your promotions, bonus and raises
- Celebrate a new job
Sharing With Others
With my daughter, my wife and people I mentor, I try to share this philosophy with them. For them to be kind to themselves and celebrate the big milestones.
You will find me asking them how they feel after a big accomplishment, reminding them for the next 7 days that they should celebrate even if it’s something small.
2 papers from Jennifer L. Aakar from her Stanford class on Designing Happiness
It’s that time of year for me to reflect on why we are here working everyday. Please chime in with your thoughts.
What motivates us to be happy and motivated at work?
- Being valued
- Making a difference in the world and self motivation
Money is a great motivator, it’s an enabler for future security, giving our family what they need and want and a validation of our worth in society. There have been a lot of studies online which show that incremental increase beyond your basic needs do not increase happiness.
From personal experience, throughout my work life, I have received large bonuses, increase in pay, stock option pay outs. The increase in happiness has lasted at most a few days. Surprising even myself. I told myself to enjoy the increase in monetary longer, but it fades quicker than you expect.
Recognition by your peers and your upper management can have a much long lasting affect on your happiness. As more people recognize your good work and actually regularly make comments about it, this can contribute to your long term happiness because it contributes to your sense of purpose in society.
Being valued by others as a source for advice goes beyond the output of your work. You are being seeked out to help others to grow their own career. This will have lasting impact to the people you affect. Sometimes this will even create life long bonds after both of you leave for different companies.
Making a difference in the world and self motivation would be the highest level of sustained happiness. When you feel like your work is your life calling, then your happiness is fueled by the opportunity to work. Your work increases your happiness. Your happiness makes you want to do better work. And the cycle fuels your growth of happiness.
Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. A balance between work and personal life will lead to happiness long term.