Why You Should Forget Working Hard or Smart

Why You Should Forget Working Hard or Smart

Stephan Wiedner

If given the choice, would you choose to work hard or to work smart? Provided you’re not a masochist, you would probably choose to work smart.

In our culture, that’s a common bit of advice, and most people see the wisdom. But, what if “hard” and “smart” aren’t the only ways to work? What if working these ways isn’t the most likely path to success?

Rather than working hard or smart, we need to turn our attention to working “happy.”

We used to assume that people were happy because they were successful, but research now shows it may be the other way around. People are actually successful because they’re happy.

Happiness Gets You Hired

A study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion determined that people who were happier were more likely to get a second interview. But why?

It’s simple: Happiness is contagious, feels good, and is memorable.

Think about the person on the other side of the table interviewing you. She or he needs to interview a bunch of people and, at the end of it, decipher who is the best candidate.

If you are happy during the interview, studies in emotional synchrony tell us that the interviewer will also feel moments of happiness with you. We also know that our brains are like great big computers with limited memory, so we tend to remember the peaks and valleys.

Therefore, when the time comes to choose the best candidate, the emotional impact you had on the interviewer will influence his or her decision-making, hopefully nudging it in your favor.

Above and Beyond

Once hired, happier people go above and beyond. They don’t do it because they have to. They don’t have some “master plan” to increase their opportunities by being happy and productive. They do it because they want to. Barbara Fredrickson has a theory about this called the Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions, which basically states that being happy leads to a broadened view of the world and a buildup of emotional resources. In layman’s terms, this means that being happy helps you deal with stressful situations, react positively to corporate changes, and be supportive of other colleagues and co-workers.

Unsurprisingly, these things also lead to getting noticed by your superiors, as well as success on the job.

Come on, Get Happy!

The Partridge Family had it right when they encouraged us all to get happy. Research shows that those with positive feelings do better and encounter more success.

So, how do you make that happen? Here are some happiness exercises to polish up on while you polish that résumé:

1. Do the “three things” exercise. At the end of each day, ask yourself, “What three good things happened today?” Jot them down, and explain why they happened. The “why” is important because it helps you analyze how you helped make these things happen.

2. Track your accomplishments. With a never-ending to-do list, even if you accomplish 22 things in a day, it can seem like you never move forward. After analyzing the diaries of thousands of knowledge workers, Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile discovered what she calls the Progress Principle.

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday,” says Amabile, “the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.”

An app like iDoneThis can help you track your “done” list and reclaim that sense of progress.

3. Take someone out to coffee. It’s perhaps surprising to learn that we are happier when we spend money on other people. By springing for a cup of coffee, you get the happiness boosts of giving to others and spending time with friends.

Sure, it’s a good idea to work hard and work smart. But don’t forget to work happy. Try these three little exercises and see for yourself.

Even if you don’t make measurable progress at work, you’ll at least feel good.

That’s what I’d call working awesome.


Stephan Wiedner creates accountability systems for solopreneurs. He is also the founder of Noomii.com, the largest directory of independent life and business coaches, and the editor of the Un-Self-Help Blog, a popular resource for research-based self-help that works. Connect with Stephan on Twitter and Google+.

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