Choosing Happiness

Allow us to introduce to you The 16 Percent’s newest blogger—SGR’s own Heather Harrison. Heather Harrison joined SGR in December 2011 as a Training Facilitator and is currently the Development Manager. She has more than 10 years of experience working in state and local government. Her great passion for public service is apparent in everything she does. Her experience in a variety of public sector fields allows her to relate well to audiences of all types. A proud Texas A&M University graduate, Heather enjoys hearing and telling Aggie jokes and watching Aggie football. In her time at Texas A&M, Heather studied Geology, Geography and Political Science.

As a working mom, the best privilege of my working life so far has been taking my sons with me on a work trip to visit the Seattle area this past summer. Years ago, I read the short book about the Fish! Philosophy, and have attempted to live my life according to its instruction: Choose Your Attitude, Play, Be There, and Make Their Day. If you’ve attended any of my customer service level classes, you’ve likely heard me bring these tenets up. They’re so simple and practical!

pikeNaturally, on our trip, I dragged my boys, aged 7 and 9, to visit the Pike Place Fish Market, where we stood in a huge crowd waiting for someone else to buy fish so we could watch the employees play. We enjoyed their carefree fish slinging and singing, their generosity and kindness. Spencer even got a taste of his favorite food, crab.

After years of listening to co-workers and students complain about their insensitive bosses and unhappy work environments, it made more sense to me that the first Fish! Philosophy tenet is listed first. Choose Your Attitude. Your attitude (and behavior) is the only thing YOU can control, I tell those I coach. If you’re in an unhappy workplace, perhaps the reason you’re unhappy is you. Look within yourself for the solution, instead of looking outwardly for assigning blame for your unhappiness. Some other advice I’ve given (to myself included): stop gossiping, complaining, and whining. Just quit it! The more you talk about a “problem,” the bigger the problem becomes. Try not complaining for a full day, then a full week. See what it does in your life. If you’re around a person or a group who is negative, pull yourself away from them. If you cannot physically separate yourself from them—let’s say it’s co-workers who complain during meetings or a family member—then politely and professionally “listen” and think happy thoughts instead. Seriously, it works.

Another thing I advise is to “find the joy” in every day. Even in the worst situations, there is good. Got a boss who won’t stop micro-managing or a coworker who took credit for your work? Revel in that next customer interaction, and remember why you chose public service. Finally, limit the amount of news you watch every day; look for other sources of news. The nightly news and cable news are full of negativity, designed to get you to watch more. I’ve lived without cable (and thus, without constant news), and I’m happier and less bogged down with troubles that have nothing to do with me. There could also be benefit to limiting social media usage. Studies show that there is a link between higher Facebook usage and depression!

Revel in that next customer interaction, and remember why you chose public service.


Like Voltaire, I believe that the most important decision you make in your life—daily, hourly, in the moment, while facing adversity—is to be in a good mood. This takes the power and sting out of a situation, and returns the control, largely, to you. Choosing a good attitude allows for you to respond with better customer service and as a better supervisor or manager. Most importantly, though, it keeps your heart and mind healthy. It can even have physical effects on your body!

To me, there’s no other choice.

Next time, we’ll look at why choosing happiness is the key to your success. #choosehappiness

5 responses

  1. This reminds me of this quote from Andy Andrews’s book The Traveler’s Gift, “I do not sing because I am happy. I am happy because I sing.” Successful people and good leaders have actions they can take to change their attitude. It must be, more often than not, a matter of choice, and not circumstance. Though we do not have complete control of our attitude 100% of the time, leaders have the tools to replace a poor one with a better one, and make a habit of using them.

    “Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

    1. Very good points, Joseph. Thanks for your support of the 16% Blog.

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