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WOOPAAH: Tangible Ideas to Work Happier, Live Better

Stella Grizont

Stella Grizont helps individuals and organizations find deeper fulfillment in their work. Her Work Happiness Method has inspired many to love their jobs again. WELCOA’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Sara Rauch, sits down with Stella to discuss piloting planes, how to survive a saber-toothed animal, and how to transform your happiness at work.

Intro:

Stella Grizont helps individuals and organizations find deeper fulfillment in their work. Her Work Happiness Method has inspired many to love their jobs again. WELCOA’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Sara Rauch, sits down with Stella to discuss piloting planes, how to survive a saber-toothed animal, and how to transform your happiness at work.

WOOPAAH:
Tangible Ideas to Work Happier, Live Better.
An Expert Interview with Stella Grizont

Sara Rauch  Thanks for joining me. We at WELCOA are excited about learning more about what you do. The first time that you and I chatted, I knew that we wanted to introduce you and your fantastic work to our members and the wellness industry in general.

Stella Grizont  Yes. The feeling is mutual. I was buzzing after we spoke. This is very exciting for me.

SR Let’s start with hearing a little more about the mission of—how do you pronounce it? I want to yell the name of your company like “WOOPAAH!”

SG  That’s the point. Everyone was like, “How did you come up with the name?“ I’m like, “I was on the beach in Jamaica just trying to think of how I could create a word where saying the name of my company makes people happy? That is how WOOPAAH was born.”

SR  It totally works. I actually just flung my arms into the air as I said it!

SG  I love it. It’s working.

SR  So what is the mission of WOOPAAH? What are you trying to achieve?

SG  It’s really simple.

It’s just to help people work happier and live better lives. To just be their most alive selves, which is to be really present, engaged, and awake to all of the possibilities that are available to you.

SR  Do you think people are happy at work? You work a lot with employees and employers. Are we in a crisis of meaning and purpose in our work today?

SG  Yeah. I think we’re having an epidemic around work dissatisfaction and disengagement. We know this from the research. Gallup reports that nearly 70 percent of American workers are unengaged at work. On a global level, it’s closer to 80 or 85 percent. People would rather be scrolling through Facebook than really giving their all to whatever it is they need to do.

If you just think back to the last time you were gathered with your family or friends when the topic of work comes up, most people around that table are going to be complaining about not really loving their boss, not feeling like they’re getting paid enough or not getting the respect they deserve. Most people are not feeling satisfied.

That doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be. In fact, that’s what my mission is. It is to help people transform that. But the problem is that we have not been taught the inner skills to know how to do that. We just end up complaining a lot.

Millennials want to feel purposeful at work. I mean, everyone wants to feel purposeful at work. The good news is that you don’t have to quit your job or go climb a mountain top or go to a yoga retreat in Mexico to find your purpose.

SR  When you first said, “They’re all just scrolling through Facebook…,” I thought that’s why employers should sit up straight and think about the happiness of their people! If people aren’t happy—if they aren’t finding purpose in their work—then they’re shrinking back, right? They are checking out, and they don’t have the skills they need to check back in.

SG  Yes! That is a tweetable moment right there. I love what you just said. Exactly. People are checking out. They don’t know how to check back in. They don’t know how to regulate their mind and their emotions and their focus to check back in. It’s like all of the forces are really set up against us unless we know how to do it.

SR  How do you think we got here? Do you think it was a slow progression? Or do you think you could go back in history and point to an exact reason why we as humans stopped finding as much meaning in our work?

SG  That’s a really good question. Before the Industrial Revolution when people worked the land and were craftspeople, there was a sense of reward in finishing something. There was a sense of mastery that you were developing—and a skill. You were noticed. You were getting immediate feedback because it was done. I think one of the challenges in our new economy is that a lot of our end products feel further and further away from us. Even if you work at an organization that manufactures something, you sometimes just get to own just one thousandth of that very long process. People feel further and further away from contributing to something.

It is also helpful to understand what’s happening with our minds and our attentions. As human beings, we have what’s called a negativity bias. A negativity bias means that our attention is like Velcro towards anything that’s bad, wrong, or threatening. Something like a bad headline in the news is a magnet to your attention. Also similarly, when it comes to recalling memories, our brain can recall negative memories much faster than positive ones.

The reason why is because—if you think back to our caveman and cavewoman roots—if you were in the middle of the wilderness all by yourself and there was a rustling in the bushes right behind you, if you chose to be very la-di-da and say, “Oh whatever, I’m sure it’s just a bird,” chances are very high, you would be eaten by some beast. Right?

SR  Right

SG  The people who were alert and present would have thought, “Oh, we had better get out of here. I am going to assume the worst. I am going to assume that rustling is some saber-toothed animal. I am going to run.” And those people ended up surviving. Then they passed on that genetic disposition and that way of thinking to us. It’s a good thing because it helps you survive, and to be alert to danger, or to be very wary of threats and uncertainties. It helps us survive in those types of moments. But when it comes to your sales presentation or when it comes to getting negative feedback at work, we don’t need to use those instincts. We need to change the way we think, and reprogram the way we choose our thoughts, and navigate our emotions in order to really flourish at work.

We have to be aware that we have this instinct, this negativity bias to focus on the bad stuff. But in order for us to really flourish, we need to override or know how to choose to redirect our attention, and to flourish.

Now, what I think has also happened over time is that we’re processing a lot more information at any one time. There’s a lot of stuff pulling our attention away. That also creates a level of anxiety.

I actually don’t have all the answers as to how we landed here. But I do know fundamentally that we have not educated ourselves enough on how to manage our mind. Only in the last 20 or so years has the scientific community really investigated how we can live a life worth living—that’s through the field of positive psychology, which is what my background is in. For 500 years philosophers, mystics, religious leaders, parents, teenagers, and poets have asked, “What does it mean to live a life worth living?”

SR  Sure, as a species, our survival never hinged on our ability to stop and appreciate a beautiful sunset, right? That wasn’t something that helped us survive.

SG  Yeah. Also not just to survive, but to thrive. In America, we have become so productivity-oriented. It has been one of our strengths and also one of our challenges. It has been at the cost of our relationships. We have put our sense of achievement over our sense of relationship. That is also why we’re experiencing this epidemic around purpose. Because ultimately, your sense of purpose comes from your desire to contribute to something bigger than yourself, which is tied to your relationships, and giving back to humankind, or to the world in some way. It’s your relationships that predict how happy you are.

SR  You use a lot of transformative language when you talk about your vision for work—moving from angst to engagement, and moving from boredom to excitement, and moving friction to peace, confusion to clarity. What really got you first interested in transforming people’s experiences at work?

SG  My own misery at work. I felt like I was in total angst for—I don’t know, the first ten years of my career. That’s probably true for a lot of people, or maybe not. I was an overachiever/workaholic. I derived a lot of my identity from my work. I knew I wanted to do something meaningful. I wanted to be passionate. I wanted to make a difference. I felt like I kept walking into a wall even though I thought I was in the right place.

Then, a few years later, I would be finding it more and more difficult to wake up in the morning. I would feel really exhausted. I would find myself as someone who used to give 150 percent giving 85 percent. That felt very alarming to me. Why was my motivation diminishing?

I asked myself what was going on, and I kept thinking, “It’s my job.” I left corporate America. Then, I went to go work for a startup. I was very passionate about that startup. Then, I found myself eight years later feeling resentful of that startup. Then I decided to start my own business thinking that will solve everything. Then I developed a severe Netflix addiction to the point where my thighs would get burned from my laptop because I was watching reruns of, like, Frasier.

But I finally owned my own business. There was no room for me to hide and blame my job.

Finally, I just realized, “Maybe it’s not my job. Maybe it’s me.”

I had all of the tools because I literally had a master’s in the Science of Happiness from the University of Pennsylvania. I had coached over 1,000 women in living their dream life at that point. I knew the tools, but I was still sitting there depressed and sabotaging myself. That’s when I had to crack the code. I had to take control. That’s essentially what I do now. I teach people how to take control of their own happiness at work. Because it’s easy for us to blame our jobs, our culture, our organizations, and, of course, they play a role. But the person that’s in the lead role is us. That’s why I’m so passionate now about the work that I do. The Work Happiness Method, which is my program where I teach these inner skills, teaches people how to take control because it doesn’t have to be this way. If we all could just learn these inner skills, maybe it would prevent people from hopping from job to job in search of meaning. It would save organizations so much money in retention, and recruitment and lost productivity. I think the world would be a better place if we were all happier where we spend the majority of our waking hours. It’s a triple win.

SR  You said, we want to blame our cultures. We want to blame work, but this is really an individual thing that we have to learn how to do. What led you to take that approach where you are tackling the problem at the individual level as opposed to at the worksite level?

SG  I have tried to tackle things from an organizational level. There are lots of amazing heroes doing that who do that really well. First of all, I just always felt energized by helping people learn how to take control on an individual basis and turn their lives around. For me that’s just where my energy goes. I think everyone has a special gift in this world, and a talent, and has something to offer. If you help an individual recognize their agency and their power within their own lives, it has cascading benefits.

Of course it is important to make sure leaders and leadership are transparent, and to create positive work cultures and safe conditions for people to work. All of that is so important, and I’m not discounting that. But I want to teach people how to handle themselves because, no matter where they go in their lives, there they are. If we can teach them how to handle their own minds, and their own joy, then literally the world is a different place.

SR  What outcomes at the employee level and at the individual level are you looking for? After engaging with the methods you teach, what changes can people expect to see in their work lives and at the organization level?

SG  On the individual level, what we see over and over again is skyrocketing results in terms of engagement, confidence and overall job satisfaction. We also see great outcomes in terms of purpose and clarity around, “What’s my piece in this puzzle?” I’ve had a client whose executive presence transformed because he was showing up. He found his voice, he was showing up in a different way, and I learned by corresponding with his manager that his whole executive presence just changed.

The problem is that people can be sitting there feeling like they’re not recognized. They’re not appreciated. Or, they’re not getting what they deserve. But they’re sitting there quiet. They don’t even realize that they could ask for some things. Or they don’t know how to ask. Or they’re not asking effectively.

When you teach people this core inner skill, you see people really plugging into their strengths at work. That creates much better outcomes in terms of production and in terms of creative output. This isn’t just what I see happening in the work that we do; it also mirrors the research that talks about how, when people are happier and more engaged at work, their productivity is on average thirty percent higher. Their creativity is three times greater than those who are not engaged. They’re 40 percent more likely to get a raise. I also see a lot of people making more money.

I had a client who is an HR professional. Talk about having the tools; she had all of the tools. But she was arriving to work crying in the parking lot before she’d step into the office. She thought she was going to quit. Three weeks later she wrote me an e-mail literally saying, “OMG.” in the subject line. Then she said, “A friend of mine just asked me how work was going? I responded, I love my job. I couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth.” Her whole reality had transformed. Seventy percent of people feel unengaged at work, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the power to shift our reality. Everyone has that capacity. Everyone has that power. It’s just that you need to learn some skills to override those mental thought patterns that we all have as human beings.

SR  Tell me more about the Work Happiness Method. How do you teach people the skills you are describing?

SG  It’s an eight-week process. The assumption going in is that everyone is very busy. It’s delivered once a week and just enough so that it never feels overwhelming or like a burden. It’s designed very intentionally to build on each lesson each week. The lessons themselves are between 25 and 40 minutes and you have some homework and practice. The practice part is the most important because this isn’t just another book for you to read. This is not just another training for you to sit in. It’s for you to apply in your life. That’s what makes the difference.

SR  Right

SG  In the first week, it’s all about learning how to control your thoughts and your emotions so that you are focusing your attention and elevating your experience, elevating your mood and really making sure that you are seeing clearly. When we have high negative emotions, it actually changes our vision. I work on getting people’s energy into a higher place first and foremost. I teach them how to take control of their own mood. I don’t want to say that feeling negative emotions is bad, not at all. It’s just that you want to know how to manage them instead of having them manage you.

For an easy exercise to help you articulate your vision, check out: workhappinessmethod.com/vision.

In the second week, I teach people how to create a vision for themselves. A lot of times we do visioning all wrong, but the right kind of visioning is the crux of all of us figuring out how to be happier. It’s creating a vision and doing it in a way that supports us being most alive.

The problem with vision work today is that you think about, “What do I want to achieve in five years’ time?“ That sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to think. The problem with thinking about your future in that way is that you could very well check off all of the boxes and achieve everything, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to feel good about it. That you’re going to feel satisfied with your life.

Your vision should not be focused on what you want to do so much as it should be focused on how you want to be. It’s about the conditions of my life that I’m cultivating.

Then of course, you need to set goals. But it has to come from this examined place. Otherwise, you’re going to achieve stuff and potentially be disappointed. Or you’re not even going to achieve it because it ends up you don’t really care about that anyway.

Once you have your vision, then what becomes evident are your values, which is what we tackle in week three. I describe values as the guardrails to guide your decision-making and your behavior so that you are moving towards your vision. If you’re not aware of your values and if you’re not consciously aligning your actions and decisions with your values, then you’re actually unconsciously aligning your actions and decisions with someone else’s values. When that happens, we feel icky. We feel in conflict with ourselves. Something doesn’t feel right. We don’t know what it is. It creates a lot of confusion and distractions.

But in order for you to take control and really know what engages you, you have to know what that looks like for yourself. What’s that unique formula for you? What’s that roadmap? I call this inner skill the truth organizer. It’s about organizing all that you know about yourself and articulating it in such a way that you can make use out of it. Because a lot of people will tell me, “I already know my values.” I’m like, “Okay. Well, do you know if you’re expressing them on a daily basis? Do you know how to measure them? Are you actually thinking about them throughout your day as you’re coming up against a big decision or even a minor decision?”

Because if you’re staying in that lane, then suddenly you feel more energy. You feel more happiness. You feel more satisfied with yourself. You recognize that you have a sense of control where maybe you felt out of control before.

SR  In my experience, getting to that place where we are out of control has a way of sneaking up on you. We aren’t aware that we are getting off the rails; we just make a series of small decisions that are counter to our core values, and then all of a sudden we feel far away from ourselves or we feel a sense of meaninglessness. That can happen very quietly if we don’t have the skills to recognize it.

SG  That was so beautifully said. Imagine a pilot flying a plane. They’re just a few degrees off when they start their flight, but then instead of landing in London, suddenly they’re—I don’t know, in Hong Kong. It is easy to end up in a very different place. You’re inevitably going to fall off track, but if you know what your core values are, at least you know how to get back on the path.

SR  Great analogy. I am actually learning to fly airplanes as a hobby right now, just because it’s always something I have wanted to do. The first lesson, and not an easy one at that, is how to maintain a heading.

SG  Right! After you learn what your coordinates are, then you have to learn how to stay in the right lane or maintain a heading. Once you learn that, then it becomes evident to you how to set appropriate boundaries. I teach people how to set healthy boundaries so that they can take care of themselves and set themselves up for success. At that point, they’ll have all of the resources they need to go and live that vision.

Then after that, in week five, we talk about how to deal with fear. How to embrace uncertainty. Because whenever you start to take off and really start to grow, or you’re doing something maybe you’ve never done before, it can trigger fear, right? That’s our natural instinct. We want to stay safe. We want to survive. Our mind doesn’t like change uncertainty.

SR  Right

SG 

I teach material on the science of resilience. How to face fear. How to manage times of uncertainty and big change so that you can stay the course. That’s one of my favorite things to teach.

Then once you have all of this clarity, what are you going to do about it? How do you start taking action and making the most out of where you are now? Thinking about your roles, responsibilities, your strengths and your values, how can you expand where you are now to activate you and to make sure you’re contributing your best self?

The next piece is what I call conversation courage. This is the inner skill where I teach people how to ask for what they need. Many times when I speak to people who are struggling, they believe that asking for what they need makes them a confrontational person, which they see as a negative attribute. Oftentimes people are afraid that asking for what they want will make others see them as unfit for their role, or weak, or unable to handle the pressures of the job. These beliefs are great excuses for why not to speak up. I totally acknowledge that it can be a huge risk to speak up. But after doing all of this work, you will essentially have a different energy.

You will have the skills to master difficult conversations. It’s not about the words you say, which is what we end up obsessing about. What do I say? It is really about your energy. How will I be? I teach people not only to develop the courage, but to be effective in those conversations. When you are managing your energy and your thoughts, you have a brand-new set of inner skills and will be a different human being.

Then, finally the last step is to answer the question, now what? Now you are able to think bigger when you think about your future and set goals based on all of the information you have gathered about yourself.

It’s just really beautiful what happens when people recognize their own power. It’s a triple win. It’s not just a double win for the organization and for the person. But it’s also a win for that person’s universe, like their family, their kids, and their community. Because when you are spending most of your waking life in a place where you don’t feel engaged, your energy is zapped. Getting to a better place is a win for everybody.

SR  That leads me to think about what we stand to lose if we don’t start investing in people by teaching them skills to master their own minds and really improve their experience at work?

SG  I was getting chills as you were saying that. We’re losing a lot of dollars from an organizational perspective. We are losing a lot of productivity. We are losing a lot of creativity. Organizations lose an average of 28,000 dollars per employee per year in lost productivity when an employee is disengaged. From an employee perspective, they’re losing out on missed promotions. They’re losing out on their time. Because if you’re not engaged at work, you’re not working effectively. You either have to work more hours to do what you have to do or you have to work your weekends and nights. That means you’re losing time with your family. Then, your health takes a hit. We know eight out of ten doctor visits are due to stress at work. I think the numbers are helpful for us. Because that always helps us make a case for investment. But, I think the biggest cost—we can’t put a number on. It’s our well-being. It’s our lives.

Thankfully there’s a lot of good research that shows the numbers, in terms of what organizations are losing in lost productivity. Also, how much it costs to replace people who do end up leaving; or to hire and training new people.

I think a lot of organizations are putting the pressure on themselves to engage or to make people happy. But what I’m saying is you don’t have to do all of that. You just have to teach them to do it for themselves.

SR  What do you think is the most impactful thing that a reader or listener could do to boost their own happiness or the happiness of the employees they work with?

SG  The first thing I would suggest is the vision generator, which is that exercise I referenced before. That’s going to help you remember things that maybe you have forgotten or set your focus on what it is that you want to move towards. Being happy and engaged at work is not just about avoiding the stuff that you don’t want, which is what most of us tend to do. It’s about moving towards something positive. I want to help you articulate that so that you can then take action from there.

The second thing is very simple – practice gratitude. I’m sure everyone who is listening knows this already. But are you doing it? At the end of the day, just simply write down three things you’re grateful for. You can get so creative with this exercise. You could start your meetings off like this. This is how I start my meetings off with my team. What’s something you’re grateful for? Or, what’s something you want to celebrate? Or, what’s something that you’re energized about or looking forward to? It really creates a high level of positivity.

If you happen to live with a partner, or a spouse, or even with your kids, you can ask them and talk about, “What are you grateful for today?” Then, you share.

I call gratitude the gateway emotion.

If you’re in a crummy mood, or things aren’t going your way, what gratitude does is open the door. It gets you on an upward spiral.

SR  Everyone wants to experience what you are talking about and feel a stronger sense of purpose and feel like their life and work are meaningful. I’m curious. What is on the horizon? Do you see the transformation coming? How close do you think we are to creating more happy, positive, and purposeful workplaces?

SG  I think we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. But I think things could change rather quickly. I think it just depends on how quickly we can teach people to do this inner work. Really that’s the basis of everything. Because if we have people who are more in control of their thoughts and their emotions, who feel purposeful and engaged and like they are contributing in a big way—if we have enough of that—we are going to create this exponential effect and things could happen quickly.

SR  Thank you for doing such inspiring work to help people rewire themselves so they can thrive more. Thank you for helping us really get a better sense for the possibility of achieving more happiness. Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our audience that we didn’t get a chance to cover?

SG  I just want people to know that they’re perfect as they are. They have everything they need. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s just about learning a new skillset. That’s all.

For more information about Stella Grizont and the Work Happiness Method for you or your organization as a whole, check out: workhappinessmethod.com.
Stella Grizont, MAPP

Stella Grizont, MAPP

As a speaker and executive coach, Stella Grizont works with over achievers who are seeking deeper career fulfillment and with organizations who are dedicated to elevating the well-being of their employees.

In the last 12 years, Stella has coached over 1,300 individuals in 17 countries. Some of Stella’s corporate clients include Google, Johnson & Johnson, VMWare, and Genentech. Her unique approach to being happier and more engaged on the job has been featured on MNSBC, The Today Show, ABC, Entrepreneur, and Vanity Fair. She regularly contributes to Forbes and Thomson Reuters.

Stella studied Economics at Columbia University’s Barnard College. She was also one of the first 150 people to earn a Masters in the Applied Positive Psychology (aka the science of happiness) from the University of Pennsylvania.

She now lives in New Jersey with her husband and toddler, who continue to teach her what life is all about.

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