TIME leadership

7 Habits of Incredibly Happy People

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Ilya Bushuev—Getty Images/Vetta

Happiness is a state of mind. If you're willing to adopt a different approach to your actions, you can achieve it

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Jeff Haden

Want to be happier?

Great–but don’t just wish for a greater sense of satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy. Do something about it. Take a different approach. Adopt a different mindset.

And then let those beliefs guide your actions.

Here are some of the habits of remarkably happy people:

1. They choose (and it is a choice) to embrace who they really are.

None of us really likes how we look. So we try to hide who we really are with the right makeup and the right clothes and the occasional Mercedes. In the right setting and the right light, we’re happy.

But not when we’re at the beach. Or when we’re at the gym. Or when we have to run to the grocery store but feel self-conscious because we’re wearing ratty jeans and an old T-shirt and haven’t showered, and we think everyone is staring at us (even though they’re not). So we spend considerable time each day avoiding every possible situation that makes us feel uncomfortable about how we look or act.

And it makes us miserable.

In reality, no one cares how we look except us. (And maybe our significant others, but remember, they’ve already seen us at our worst, so that particular Elvis has definitely left the building.)

So do this. Undress, and stand in front of the mirror. (And don’t do the hip-turn shoulder-twist move to make your waist look slimmer and your shoulders broader.) Take a good look.That’s who you are. Chances are, you won’t like what you see, but you’ll probably also be surprised you don’t look as bad as you suspected.

If you don’t like how you look, decide what you’re willing to do about it and start doing it. But don’t compare yourself with a model or professional athlete; your only goal is to be a better version of the current you. (Remember, you can have anything, but you can’t have everything.)

Or, if you aren’t willing to do anything about what you see in the mirror, that’s also fine. Just move on. Let it go, and stop worrying about how you look. Stop wasting energy on something you don’t care about enough to fix.

Either way, remember that while the only person who really cares how you look is you, plenty of people care about the things you do.

Looking good is fun. Doing good makes you happy.

2. They never mistake joining for belonging.

Making connections with other people is easier than ever and not just through social media. Joining professional organizations or alumni groups, wearing company polo shirts or college sweatshirts, or even putting a window sticker with initials such as “HH” on your car to announce to the world you summer at Hilton Head Island… People try hard to show they belong, if only to themselves.

Most of those connections are superficial at best. If your spouse passes away, the alumni organization may send flowers. (OK, probably not.) If you lose your job, a professional organization may send you a nifty guide to networking. (OK, probably not, but they will send you the invoice when it’s time to renew your membership, so there is that to look forward to.) Anyone can buy, say, a Virginia Tech sweatshirt. (I didn’t go to Virginia Tech but I do have one. It was on sale.)

The easier it is to join something, the less it means to you. A true sense of belonging comes from giving, self-sacrifice, and effort. To belong, you have to share a common experience–the tougher the experience, the better.

Clicking a link lets anyone join; staying up all night to help meet a release date lets youbelong. Sending a donation gets anyone’s name in an event program; scrambling to feed hundreds of people at an over-crowded soup kitchen lets you belong to a group of people trying to make a difference.

Remarkably happy people do the work necessary to earn a group’s respect and trust–and in so doing truly become part of that group.

A genuine sense of belonging provides a sense of security and well-being even when you’re alone.

3. They accept they can have anything but not everything.

We can’t be everything we want to be. We can all achieve amazing things, but we can’t doeverything we set our minds to. Ability, resources, focus, and, most important, time are unavoidable limiting factors.

Remarkably happy people know themselves, know what is most important to them, and set out to achieve that. The rest they’re satisfied to do well–or to simply let go.

Pick a primary goal. Do your best to excel. Then accept that you can have other goals, but that “good” where those goals are concerned is truly good enough.

Try to have it all and your inability to actually have it all will make you feel like you have nothing.

4. They know business success does not guarantee fulfillment.

You can love your company, but it will never love you back. (Trite, but true.) No one lying on their death bed says, “I just wish I had spent more time at work…” Business success, no matter how grand, is still fleeting.

Fulfillment comes from achieving something and knowing it will outlive you: raising great kids, being a part of a supportive extended family, knowing you have helped others and changed their lives for the better…

Work hard on your business. Work harder on things you can someday look back on with even more pride–and personal satisfaction.

5. They have someone to call at 2 a.m.

Years ago, I lived in a house beside a river. Then a flood caused my house to be in the river. I had about an hour to move as much stuff as I could, and I called my friend Doug. I knew he would come, no questions asked.

I’m sure you have lots of friends, but how many people do you feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night if you need help? How many people do you know whom you can tell almost anything and they won’t laugh? How many people do you feel comfortable sitting with for an hour without either of you speaking?

Most of us wear armor that protects us from insecurity. Our armor also makes us lonely, and it’s impossible to be happy when we’re lonely.

Remarkably happy people take off their armor and make real friends. It’s easier than it sounds, because other people are dying to make real friends, too.

Don’t worry; they’ll like the real you. And you’ll like the real them.

And all of you will be much happier.

6. They never mistake structure for control.

Most of what we do, especially in business, is based on trying to gain control: processes, guidelines, strategies. Everything we plan and implement is designed to control the inherently uncontrollable and create a sense of security in a world filled with random events. (Did I just go all philosophical?)

Eventually, those efforts fall short, because structure never equals control. No matter how many guidelines we establish for ourselves, we often step outside them–otherwise we’d all be slim, trim, fit, and rich. Diets and budgets and five-year plans fall apart, and we get even more frustrated because we didn’t achieve what we hoped.

To-do lists and comprehensive daily schedules are helpful, but you only make real progress toward a goal when it means something personal to you.

Deciding what you really want to do and giving it your all is easier. Plus, you’ll feel a real sense of control, because this time you really care.

And when you truly care–about anything–you’re a lot happier.

7. They never stop failing.

Most of us do everything we can to avoid failure, a natural instinct that leaves an unnatural byproduct–we start to lose the ability to question our decisions.

And we lose the ability to see our business and ourselves from the employee’s point of view. The ability to run a company and lead others is compromised when we lose perspective on what it’s like to not have all the answers–and what it’s like to make mistakes.

So go out and fail, but not in the way you might think. Forget platitudes such as, “In business, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying.” Business failures cost time and money that most of us don’t have. (My guess is “Failure” doesn’t appear as a line item in your operating budget.)

Instead, fail at something outside your business. Pick something simple that doesn’t take long. Set a reach goal you know you can’t reach. If you normally run a mile, try to run three. If you play a sport, play against people a lot better than you. If you must choose a business task, pick something you hate to do and therefore don’t do well. Whatever you choose, give it your all. Leave no room for excuses.

Remarkably happy people often try things for which they can only be judged on their own merits–and are often found wanting. Why?

Failure isn’t defeating; failure is motivating. Failure provides a healthy dose of perspective, makes us more tolerant and patient, and makes us realize we’re a lot like the people around us.

When you realize you aren’t so different or special after all, it’s a lot easier to be happy with the people around you–and, just as important, to be happier with yourself.

More:

TIME leadership

7 Things Remarkably Happy People Do Often

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Thomas Northcut—Getty Images

Happiness can be a choice -- especially when you take the right actions

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Jeff Haden

Happiness: everyone wants it, yet relatively few seem to get enough of it, especially those intheir early forties. (I’m no psychologist, but that’s probably about when many of us start thinking, “Wait; is this all there is?”)

Good news and bad news: unfortunately, approximately 50 percent of your happiness, your “happiness set-point,” is determined by personality traits that are largely hereditary. Half of how happy you feel is basically outside your control.

Bummer.

But, that means 50 percent of your level of happiness is totally within your control: relationships, health, career, etc. So even if you’re genetically disposed to be somewhat gloomy, you can still do things to make yourself a lot happier.

Like this:

1. Make good friends.

It’s easy to focus on building a professional network of partners, customers, employees, connections, etc, because there is (hopefully) a payoff.

But there’s a definite payoff to making real (not just professional or social media) friends. Increasing your number of friends correlates to higher subjective well being; doubling your number of friends is like increasing your income by 50 percent in terms of how happy you feel.

And if that’s not enough, people who don’t have strong social relationships are 50 percent less likely to survive at any given time than those who do. (That’s a scary thought for loners like me.)

Make friends outside of work. Make friends at work. Make friends everywhere.

Make real friends. You’ll live a longer, happier life.

2. Actively express thankfulness.

According to one study, couples that expressed gratitude in their interactions with each other resulted in increases in relationship connection and satisfaction the next day–both for the person expressing thankfulness and (no big surprise) for the person receiving it. (In fact, the authors of the study said gratitude was like a “booster shot” for relationships.)

Of course the same is true at work. Express gratitude for employee’s hard work and you both feel better about yourselves.

Another easy method is to write down a few things you are grateful for every night. One study showed people who wrote down 5 things they were thankful for once a week were 25 percent happier after ten weeks; in effect they dramatically increased their happiness set-point.

Happy people focus on what they have, not on what they don’t have. It’s motivating to want more in your career, relationships, bank account, etc. but thinking about what you alreadyhave, and expressing gratitude for it, will make you a lot happier.

And will remind you that even if you still have huge dreams you have already accomplished a lot–and should feel genuinely proud.

3. Actively pursue your goals.

Goals you don’t pursue aren’t goals, they’re dreams, and dreams only make you happy when you’re dreaming.

Pursuing goals, though, does make you happy. According to David Niven, author of 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life, “People who could identify a goal they were pursuing(my italics) were 19% more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 26 percent more likely to feel positive about themselves.”

So be grateful for what you have… then actively try to achieve more. If you’re pursuing a huge goal, make sure that every time you take a small step closer to achieving it you pat yourself on the back.

But don’t compare where you are now to where you someday hope to be. Compare where you are now to where you were a few days ago. Then you’ll get dozens of bite-sized chunks of fulfillment–and a never-ending supply of things to be thankful for.

4. Do what you excel at as often as you can.

You know the old cliché regarding the starving yet happy artist? Turns out it’s true: artists are considerably more satisfied with their work than non-artists–even though the pay tends to be considerably lower than in other skilled fields.

Why? I’m no researcher, but clearly the more you enjoy what you do and the more fulfilled you feel by what you do the happier you will be.

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Anchor says that when volunteers picked, “…one of their signature strengths and used it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed.”

Of course it’s unreasonable to think you can chuck it all and simply do what you love. But you can find ways to do more of what you excel at. Delegate. Outsource. Start to shift the products and services you provide into areas that allow you to bring more of your strengths to bear. If you’re a great trainer, find ways to train more people. If you’re a great salesperson, find ways to streamline your admin tasks and get in front of more customers.

Everyone has at least a few things they do incredibly well. Find ways to do those things more often. You’ll be a lot happier.

And probably a lot more successful.

5. Give.

While giving is usually considered to be unselfish, giving can also be more beneficial for the giver than the receiver. Providing social support may be more beneficial than receiving it.

Intuitively I think we all knew that because it feels awesome to help someone who needs it. Not only is helping those in need fulfilling, it’s also a reminder of how comparatively fortunate we are–which is a nice reminder of how thankful we should be for what we already have.

Plus, receiving is something you cannot control. If you need help–or simply want help–you can’t make others help you. But you can always control whether you offer and provide help.

And that means you can always control, at least to a degree, how happy you are–because giving makes you happier.

6. Don’t single-mindedly chase “stuff.”

Money is important. Money does a lot of things. (One of the most important is to create choices.)

But after a certain point, money doesn’t make people happier. After about $75,000 a year,money doesn’t buy more (or less) happiness. “Beyond $75,000… higher income is neither the road to experience happiness nor the road to relief of unhappiness or stress,” say the authors of that study.

“Perhaps $75,000 is the threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure.”

And if you don’t buy that, here’s another take: “The materialistic drive and satisfaction with life are negatively related.” Or, in layman’s terms, “Chasing possessions tends to make you less happy.”

Think of it as the bigger house syndrome. You want a bigger house. You need a bigger house. (Not really, but it sure feels like you do.) So you buy it. Life is good… until a couple months later when your bigger house is now just your house.

New always becomes the new normal.

“Things” only provide momentary bursts of happiness. To be happier, don’t chase as many things. Chase a few experiences intead.

7. Live the life you want to live.

Bonnie Ware worked in palliative care, spending time with patients who had only a few months to live. Their most common regret was, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

What other people think–especially people you don’t even know–doesn’t matter. What other people want you to do doesn’t mater.

Your hopes, your dreams, your goals… live your life your way. Surround yourself with people who support and care not for the “you” they want you to be but for the real you.

Make choices that are right for you. Say things you really want to say to the people who most need to hear them. Express your feelings. Stop and smell a few roses. Make friends, and stay in touch with them.

And most of all, realize that happiness is a choice. 50 percent of how happy you are lies within your control, so start doing more things that will make you happier.

Others in this series:

TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Things That Define Indispensable Employees

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Sam Edwards—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

An employee survey turned into much more when a set of fascinating themes emerged

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Here’s the Danny Meyer school of thought on how to make a traditional service business into an enlightened, customer-centric hospitality mecca: Put your employees first and shareholders last to create a “virtuous cycle of enlightened hospitality.”

That’s lovely and all, but can it really be applied to a startup? It seems a little overwrought.

When Greg Marsh, CEO of Onefinestay, a home-rental startup based in London, set out with his co-founders to survey the hospitality company’s 100 employees more than a year ago, he was looking for insight on the very company he’d built. He and his team didn’t expect to find what they did.

“We listened to their answers and videotaped them all and noted the themes that emerged, and from that discovered a set of truths or behaviors that were fairly universal,” Marsh said.

The behaviors of existing employees helped Onefinestay identify its existing company culture and pinpoint traits it would look for in ideal new hires. Key among the findings was an unusual mix of applied problem solving and natural empathy. Call it the left brain and the right, in harmony.

There was also, in those employee videos, what Marsh calls “a distinctive pattern of drive and raw determination to succeed.”

Onefinestay boiled down the traits it loved in its existing employees to what it has dubbed “The Magic Six.” These traits now serve as motivators for the company’s now more than 500 employees, and a guideline for the culture the company is striving for as it grows.

Want employees who are competent and hard-working, and truly care? Here’s what to seek out and nurture.

1. Fire in the belly.

Take risks. Be determined, be ambitious, and get stuff done.

2. Smart works.

Be practical with your intelligence and apply it wisely.

3. Empathy is your friend.

Understand yours, and others’ feelings and motivations, and act accordingly.

4. Integrity is integral

Earn trust by telling it straight. Honesty gets you a long way.

5. All for all.

We’re all dependent on one another. Be ready to help, and willing to accept help.

6. Remember Alice.

(Yes, this means Alice in Wonderland, the little girl who dreamt she dined with the Mad Hatter, and got advice from a caterpillar). The quirks make us who we are. Embrace them.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Top 10 Qualities of Extremely Successful People

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Martin Barraud—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Lolly Daskal

If you really want to bring success into your life, you should cultivate yourself just as you’d cultivate a garden for the best yield.

The attributes here are shared by successful people everywhere, but they didn’t happen by accident or luck. They originate in habits, built a day at a time.

Remember: If you live your life as most people do, you will get what most people get. If you settle, you will get a settled life. If you give yourself your best, every day, your best will give back to you.

Here are the traits that the highly successful cultivate. How many do you have?

1. Drive

You have the determination to work harder than most and make sure things get done. You pride yourself on seeing things getting completed and you can take charge when necessary. You drive yourself with purpose and align yourself with excellence.

2. Self-reliance

You can shoulder responsibilities and be accountable. You make hard decisions and stand by them. To think for yourself is to know yourself.

3. Willpower

You have the strength to see things through–rather than vacillate or procrastinate. When you want it, you make it happen. The world’s greatest achievers are those who have stayed focused on their goals and been consistent in their efforts.

4. Patience

You are willing to be patient, and you understand that, in everything, there are failures and frustrations. To take them personally would be a detriment.

5. Integrity

This should not have to be said, but it’s seriously one of the most important attributes you can cultivate. Honesty is the best policy for everything you do; integrity creates character and defines who you are.

6. Passion

If you want to succeed, if you want to live, it’s not politeness but rather passion that will get you there. Life is 10 percent what you experience and 90 percent how you respond to it.

7. Connection

You can relate with others, which in turns makes everything reach further and deepen in importance.

8. Optimism

You know there is much to achieve and much good in this world, and you know what’s worth fighting for. Optimism is a strategy for making a better future–unless you believe that the future can be better, you’re unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.

9. Self-confidence

You trust yourself. It’s as simple as that. And when you have that unshakeable trust in yourself, you’re already one step closer to succeeding.

10. Communication

You work to communicate and pay attention to the communicators around you. Most important, you hear what isn’t being said. When communication is present, trust and respect follow.

No one plans on being mediocre; mediocrity happens when you don’t plan. If you want to succeed, learn the traits that will make you successful and plan on living them out every day.

Be humble and great. Courageous and determined. Faithful and fearless. That is who you are, and who you have always been.

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The Top 5 Reasons Small Businesses Fail

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TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways Successful People Avoid Freaking Out

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Compassionate Eye Foundation/Martin Barraud—Getty Images

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Jessica Stillman

If you spend much of your days being frantic in your pursuit of success, you should know that research shows that the vast, vast majority of high performers are actually very calm. Being hectic (if not downright panicked) isn’t a hallmark of success; it’s a sign you’re making it difficult to reach your own peak level of performance.

That’s the message of a recent LinkedIn post from TalentSmart president Travis Bradberry. “TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90 percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control,” he writes.

In the post he not only lays out his company’s findings about the emotional state of super achievers as well as a round-up of recent research on stress, but also suggests some tips on how the rest of us can emulate their calm. Here are a few to get you started.

Gratitude

If you’re never satisfied, you’re never calm. A fact high performers have figured out, according to Bradberry. Top-tier talent may be strivers, but they also understand the importance of gratitude for what they already have, he contends.

“Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the ‘right’ thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23 percent. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being,” Bradberry reports. Another recent study found gratitude can also improve decision making by making us less impatient.

Disconnect

“Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even–gulp!–turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress,” Bradberry says.

High performers know that if you’re always on, you’re never at your best and unplug accordingly. Best-selling author Tim Ferriss, for example, recommends leaving your smartphone at home (or otherwise out of reach) at least one day a week.

Sleep

You probably know this one already, so come on, why aren’t you acting on it? “I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels,” insists Bradberry. Need more convincing? I could link to studies about the horrors of sleep deprivationall daywithoutbreaking a sweat, as well as posts from people you admire urging you to go to bed already!

Self-Talk

How you talk to yourself (in your head) matters. High flyers know this and nip negative self-talk in the bud. Bradberry suggests a way to follow their example and do just that: “The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that–thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things, your inner voice says, ‘It’s time to stop and write them down.’ Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.”

Breathe

“The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing,” writes Bradberry.

TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Ways to Become More Creative in the Next 10 Minutes

Creativity is developed; it's not a birthright

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published atInc.com.

By Larry Kim

Modern culture often labels creativity as natural gift. Artists get showered with praise and proclamations of “you’re so talented,” but truthfully, talent has little to do with it.

Creativity is a skill to be learned, practiced, and developed, just like any other. Juggling takes practice, as does surfing, coding, and driving a car. Creativity is no different. The more you make creativity part of your daily life, the more it will grow.

So how do you make creativity part of your daily life? Here are 9 suggestions–and guess what? You can get started on them all in the next 10 minutes.

1. Doodle Something

Although we may have been reprimanded in school to “stop doodling and pay attention,” it’s time to bring back the doodle. Doodling, contrary to popular opinion, does not demonstrate a lack of focus. In fact, doodling can help you stay present and engaged during an activity in which you might otherwise find your mind drifting.

Suni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, notes that some of the greatest thinkers–from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs–used doodling to jump-start creativity. Doodling can enhance recall and activate unique neurological pathways, leading to new insights and cognitive breakthroughs. Some companies even encourage doodling during meetings!

9 Ways to Become More Creative in the Next 10 Minutes

2. Sign Up for a Class in Something You’ve Never Done Before

Creativity flourishes when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and learn something new. Many communities offer evening adult education classes. These classes are often very casual, with plenty of beginner offerings. Try painting, pottery, or woodworking. How about learning a new language, picking up a new instrument, or taking a cooking class?

3. Create the Right Environment

The truth is that every single individual (yes, even you) can be creative. You simply require the right environment, stimulus, and support. Kids are awash with creative energy in part because they have not yet learned to fear the criticism of their peers or experienced embarrassment from failure. This is now why failure is lauded in adults–it reflects creative, risk-taking endeavors. Though not all creative ventures will work out, ultimately some will (and be very, very successful).

This is why Google goes to great lengths to provide employees with fun perks such as beach volleyball courts and free beer, a setup almost resembling an adult playground. The goal is to create an environment that lets employees feel relaxed and comfortable with vocalizing creative, even wacky, ideas. Businesses that value creativity need to do their best to foster a creative, safe space where unusual ideas are celebrated and where creativity is nurtured.

4. Pause the Brainstorming and Move Your Body

Though old-school business practice dictates group brainstorming as a powerful way to generate creativity, modern research has found that the group collective isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

Instead, try new approaches to creative problem solving. Go for a walk. Physically move your body and consider your project problem from different locations. Physical movement has been shown to have a positive affect on creative thinking, just as theater pros suggest practicing lines in different poses and positions to generate new character approaches.

5. Start a Sketchbook

Sketching is a great way to preserve memories and make constructive use of time that might otherwise be spent fiddling on a phone. Buy a small, lightweight sketchbook that can easily fit in your bag. Start sketching whenever you have even a few spare minutes–draw the salt and pepper shaker on your table while waiting for your coffee, or the crumpled pile of newspaper on the subway.

Though you may be disappointed in your sketches at first, the more you draw, the better you’ll get. Don’t overanalyze your results–simply draw for the enjoyment of the process, not the end piece. Creativity seeps across activities, so sketching just a few minutes a day can result in a major boost of workplace creativity.

6. Keep Toys on Your Desk

Many creative design companies encourage employees to keep toys on their desks–from Legos and Lincoln Logs to Play-Doh and origami paper. Building something physically with your hands, as opposed to typing on a keyboard, can be just the creative jolt you need.

7. Engage in Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is a form of writing consisting of extremely short pieces. There are many flash fiction writing groups online in which members write 100-word stories based on a provided prompt. That’s right, just 100 words. No one can say that’s out of their league.

Have your own try at flash fiction writing. Join a community online, or start your own at work. No pressure, no need to share; it’s just a chance to get those creative juices flowing!

8. Try the 30 Circles Test

This great creative exercise comes from researcher Bob McKim, and is featured in Tim Brown’s TED talk Creativity and Play.

Take a piece of paper and draw 30 circles on the paper. Now, in one minute, adapt as many circles as you can into objects. For example, one circle could become a sun. Another could become a globe. How many can you do in a minute? (Take quantity over quality into consideration.)

The result: Most people have a hard time getting to 30, largely because we have a tendency as adults to self-edit. Kids are great at simply exploring possibilities without being self-critical, whereas adults have a harder time. Sometimes, even the desire to be original can be a form of self-editing. Don’t forget–good artists copy, great artists steal.

9. Role-play Away

Role-playing isn’t just for the geeks at Comic-Con (no judgment; we love you guys). Role-playing can help you develop new solutions to existing problems by putting yourself in the shoes of a client or customer.

Even if you’ve already made efforts to enter the client’s mindset, physically role-playing situations with co-workers can generate powerful revelations and project solutions. As children, role-playing is how our imaginations thrived, from baking mud pies and playing house to fighting off baddies and exploring the jungles in our own backyards. It’s time to bring back the power of play.

TIME Careers & Workplace

15 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Happier

The New Science of Happiness
Sophia Alexis—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Anyone can feel happier. It's easy. Science says so

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Jeff Hadden

Forget success. Forget fame. Forget fortune.

Happiness is something everyone wants, and wants to feel a lot more often–because where happiness is concerned, too much is never enough.

Unfortunately we all have a hereditary “happiness set point.” That means approximately 50% of our happiness is outside of our control. But that means 50% of our level of happiness is totally within our control.

So even if you’re genetically disposed to be somewhat gloomy, you can still do things to make yourself a lot happier. (Choosing not to do certain things will make you happier, too.)

So doesn’t it make sense to create habits and build a lifestyle that allows you to feel more satisfied and more fulfilled?

Check out this infographic on the science of happiness from Happify…and start making changes that will make you feel a lot happier.

TIME Careers & Workplace

41 Guaranteed Ways to Accomplish Great Things at Any Age

J.K. Rowling in London in 2012.
J.K. Rowling in London in 2012. Ben Pruchnie—Getty Images

Here are reasons to get out there and make it happen, no matter how young or old you are

By Lolly Daskal

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published atInc.com.

Many of us think that to be successful, you have to be at the right place, the right circumstance and the right age.

But we can learn from those who have come before us, who achieved at every age and in every circumstance of life:

At 5, Mozart was already competent on keyboard and violin.

At 6, Shirley Temple starred in “Bright Eyes.” (After her career as a child star ended, she became a diplomat.)

At 12, Anne Frank wrote her wartime diary.

At 13, Magnus Carlsen became the second-youngest grandmaster in the history of chess.

At 14, Nadia Comăneci became the first female gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic event.

At 15, years old Tenzin Gyatso was recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama.

At 17, Pele led Brazil to a World Cup victory.

At 19, Elvis Presley became a superstar and was later known as “The King”

At 20, John Lennon performed at his first concert as a Beatle.

At 22, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics.

At 23, Beethoven was already known as a piano virtuoso.

At 24, Isaac Newton wrote Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, setting the foundations for classical mechanics.

At 25, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile.

At 26, Albert Einstein wrote the theory of relativity.

At 28, Michelangelo created his sculptures David and The Pietà.

At 29, Alexander the Great had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world.

At 30, J.K. Rowling finished the manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

At 31, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

At 32, Oprah Winfrey launched her first talk show.

At 33, Edmund Hillary became one of the first two people confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest.

At 34, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

At 35, Marie Curie (along with her husband, Pierre Curie) was awarded Nobel Prize in Physics.

At 36, Wilbur Wright, together with his brother Orville, built the world’s first successful airplane.

At 37, Vincent Van Gogh died virtually unknown after creating the paintings that would later establish him as a major artist.

At 38, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

At 40, Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

At 41, Christopher Columbus made landfall in the Americas.

At 42, Rosa Parks refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat.

At 43, John F. Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States.

At 45, Henry Ford manufactured the first Model T automobile.

At 46, Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games.

At 50, Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species.

At 51, Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.

At 52, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th president Of the United States.

At 53, Ray Kroc bought the McDonalds franchise, which then comprised eight restaurants.

At 54, Theodore Geisel wrote The Cat in the Hat under the pen name Dr. Seuss.

At 57, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III successfully crash-landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River with no fatalities.

At 61, Colonel Harland Sanders granted the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

At 62, J.R.R. Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings.

At 69, Ronald Reagan became the 40th president of the United States (and the oldest to date).

At 70, Jack LaLanne–handcuffed and shackled–towed 70 rowboats for a mile against strong winds and currents.

At 75, Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa.

More from Inc:

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TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Brilliant Qualities You May Not Know You Have

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Paul Bradbury—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Build on these personal traits to become more effective


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Larry Kim

What does it take to be a great leader?

Once upon a time, birth order and socioeconomic status were considered powerful determinants in who would successfully climb the ladder.

Lately, though, the focus has shifted to personal qualities.

Guiding vision, passion, and integrity are well known leadership traits. But there are lesser known leadership traits, as well–in fact, some historically have been perceived as weaknesses.

These hidden traits can be developed and nurtured to help further your career and your role as a leader, at work, in your community, or in life in general.

See if you just might have some or all of these personal qualities that lend well to leadership:

1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is incredibly important in any workplace environment and helps you to manage conflict and relationships. However, it’s become even more important as businesses compete to better understand the needs of their customers. People don’t want to be analyzed and marketed to–they want brands to understand what they want and need. Empathetic leaders function better within the company, but can also use this trait to power the business, as well.

2. Optimism

You might think of optimism as the quality of one being hopeful, but it also indicates confidence in successful outcomes. Of course, blind optimism isn’t a good thing, but optimistic leaders can inspire and motivate teams.

3. Forgiveness

No one enjoys the boss who lords every mistake they’ve ever made over their head. There is real power in allowing employees to take calculated risks, but they have to know it’s not going to be held against them later. Doing so kills creativity and motivation–it causes people to think twice before bringing a new idea to the table, or experimenting with a new process or product. Learn how to forgive mistakes to nurture creativity and inspiration and your team will pay you back ten-fold.

4. Altruism

Altruism means you care about the welfare of others. In business, this means you want the people around you to do better, feel better, and perform better. You are not an island. You don’t need to take all of the credit for yourself. You understand that building up the people around you makes you all look better. This is an incredible leadership quality, but not one you might traditionally associate with power or strength.

5. Eloquence

The ability to speak and write persuasively has gained importance in the age of digital communications. People expect leaders to communicate and they want to be “wowed.” An eloquent speech can close a deal. An eloquent memo to staff can quell fears, dampen dissent, or inspire people to reach new heights. Practice your writing and speaking to become a more effective, persuasive leader.

6. Discernment

Discernment is the ability to judge well, whether in relation to people, situations, or business decisions. If you are discerning, you take the time to understand a problem and walk your way around various solutions to find just the right one. You don’t jump head first into every opportunity, but think critically and find the best option.

7. Modesty

No one likes to hear how awesome someone else is all the time–especially when it comes from that person. Let your work speak for itself; don’t fall into the trap of being the one who blows your horn the loudest. Confidence is a great trait, but must be tempered with modesty.

These qualities can be powerful tools for entrepreneurs and aspiring leaders who are willing to put the time and effort into developing them.

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The 8 Best Industries for Starting a Business

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7 Things Well-Liked People Always Do

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Simple Steps to Loving Your Job—Any Job

Guy in an office
Eric Audras—Brand X/Getty Images

Loving work is not a pipe dream. It's actually pretty easy to achieve


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Laura Garnett

The reality is clear–people aren’t maximizing their true potential at work. In the New York Times article “Why You Hate Your Job,” Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, and Christine Porath, associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and a consultant to the Energy Project, lay out the case for why so many people struggle to find joy in their jobs.

I contend that people feel caught between the struggle of being “successful” and loving work, not believing that the two can be one. As I’ve seen in my work with executives across the country, they can.

All too often, people feel as though their emotional sacrifice of joy is rationalized by the fact that they are able to support a family or a lifestyle that is viewed as “successful.” Being viewed as a success, regardless of how you feel, ends up being another, more-often used metric for fulfillment. When your neighbors and family see you as successful despite your empty feeling, it makes it easier to endure.

Loving work is seen as an ideal that few can achieve, but those who do are the ones who have truly won the lottery of life. You experience something that goes beyond anything material that you can acquire; you feel fulfilled, challenged and engaged. The problem is that loving work has been treated as something that is a byproduct of being successful, not a necessary steppingstone. Too often, people forge the path for financial success thinking that the result will provide fulfillment. Loving work has not been viewed as a critical component of success; it’s just a “nice to have.” The reality is that loving work is not something that you can wish for or dream up. It requires hard work, commitment, and strategy.

Notwithstanding, loving work is not as much a pipe dream as winning the lottery–it’s something far easier to achieve. Here are three specific ways to get there:

1. Decide that you will make loving what you do and being engaged a focus–and be willing to make changes accordingly.

We all naturally want to love our work. In fact, according to the world-renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. … The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” Which is why, as humans, we are most engaged when we have found a sweet spot of challenge.

However, we are the ones who need to take responsibility for creating the conditions for this to occur, not wait for it to happen. This switch from thinking about work from a reactive perspective to a proactive one is one of the key components to creating fulfilling jobs. Generally the proactivity occurs while job hunting or pitching for a project, but once the work begins, you go into reactive mode. Which explains the dip in engagement from job acquisition to day-to-day operating. Loving work is a commitment that requires active day-to-day prioritization. It has to move from a wish-list item to a priority.

2. Know your talent and purpose, and make them key components of your job.

Loving your job requires that you utilize what you’re best at (your talent), and the result of your work gives you fulfillment (purpose). You need to first know this about yourself, then value these things and know how to use them day to day in your working life. How do you do this? Pay attention to when you are excited and when you feel fulfilled or get support if you can’t figure it out on your own. Your talent is not what you do. It’s how you do what you do: How you think, how you most often problem solve, your go-to way of processing information. And your purpose is not as lofty as it sounds. It’s the type of impact that gives you fulfillment. I have found that if you are able to identify a core challenge you have had in your life and then help others with this challenge, you can introduce fulfillment into your job in an instant.

Howard Schultz of Starbucks is a great example of this. His desire to help individuals have health insurance at work as a result of his parents’ working blue-collar jobs without health benefits is the backbone of the company’s mission: “Our mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” The key is taking these two aspects of yourself and being strategic with how you use them as cornerstones of your job.

3. Be willing to innovate your habits and your lifestyle to accommodate your well-being.

Not being engaged at work is a hard habit to break. According to Gallup’s engagement survey, 71 percent of Americans aren’t engaged at work. Lack of engagement speaks to lack of challenge. Once you commit to loving work and using your talent and purpose as guiding principles, then changing your habits is the next step. Take, for example, continuing to accept and do projects that don’t challenge you. In the extreme example, it may mean getting a new job. But before you do that, communicate to your organization why this project is not right for you. Build a case for the work that would keep you highly motivated and challenged. Find someone else who would benefit from doing the work that is not a good fit for you. Make an effort to create the opportunity you are seeking to be engaged in. Being engaged and challenged should be added as a key business objective that has action items and goals.

If you don’t have the autonomy to do this, then it may be that you are in the wrong job. If you are not challenged and feeling engaged, start a job search and figure out what will change this experience for you. Job hunting when you are clear on your desire for loving work along with your talent and purpose is a game changer. It fine-tunes your focus so that finding that perfect opportunity is easier.

The bottom line? Loving your job is a skill and a practice. As with all practices, it can seem daunting at first. However, once you get a taste of work that fills you up rather than breaks you down, you will never want to go back to your old ways.

More from Inc:

The 8 Best Industries for Starting a Business

If This Guy Made $1M Wearing T-shirts and Selling his Name, What’s Holding You Back?

The Top 5 Reasons Small Businesses Fail

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7 Things Well-Liked People Always Do

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