I recently was watching a fairly guilty pleasure of mine- Tomorrowland. While the movie was generally not well loved by critics and it didn’t meet Disney’s expectations (it supposedly lost north of $100 million), I enjoy it and have found a number of great takeaways from the film. I’ll likely end up covering more of these in this blog but the first one I want to share with you is the parable of the wolf.
There are two wolves that are always fighting.
One is darkness and despair.
One is light and hope.
Which one wins?
The one you feed.
This story speaks a great deal about what it means to be a leader. Being a leader is hard. The pressure to perform is consistently high and that pressure only gets more intense.
Framing situations and challenges clearly matter. As a leader, which wolf are you feeding?
I have found when leading large projects, it is entirely impossible to control the day to day and allow my teams to do their best work. This means sometimes things go wrong, experiments fail, people lose their focus… and so on. It can be easy to feed the first wolf here, focusing on the downsides (be them sunk costs of the failed experiments, the lost productivity while someone’s focus wasn’t where it needed to be…). But what does that accomplish? How does this help your team be a happy, productive team, (which we know, matters)?
It does not. What this actually has the potential to do is to suck the life out of your team, turning them into the 85% of people who are unhappy at work.
As a leader, happiness is going to require a great deal of effort. In this paper by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Kennon M. Sheldon, and David Schkade, we see that happiness is very much up to us. About 50% of our happiness quota is due to genetics (what kind of personality do you have, what is your predisposition when looking at things… etc). 10% is about the circumstances that you are in. That leaves 40% of your happiness quota that is entirely up to you.
Further, their studies suggest that not only is happiness important in productivity but that it is an important factor in our success. Certainly finding success will help your circumstances but that is only a small part of what makes you happy. Having a happy disposition can engender success. You are more likely to actually get started on following your “pipe dreams” and pursuing what you are passionate about is only going to further your happiness.
This is only going to compound the success encountered because happiness and success are going to reinforce behaviors that brought you success. Being around a happy team is going to compound this even further- yet another reason to work to make sure your team is happy.
So what can you do to feed the right wolf?
One great technique to foster happiness is well documented but is one my amazing wife taught me. Focus on three things that you are grateful for each day. We do this daily when we ask each other what was a “sun” (or bright spot) in our day. This doesn’t need to be big and life-changing but it could be as simple as “there was an amazing sunrise this morning” or “I got a nice text from my mom today”. Focusing on the happy helps foster your continued happiness.
Another great thing for my wife and I is engaging in a physical activity, like golf, working out, running… anything that allows us to work hard at something else, break up the day and enjoy what we are doing. A bad day at a golf course can still be filled with incredible beauty in nature, a bad day at the gym can still involve some great conversation with friends.
Finally, take care of your mental health. We do a great deal to make sure we take care of ourselves physically but our mental health is also wildly important. This can include meditating, ensuring you are drinking plenty of water, eating the right foods, working out enough, doing nice things for other people… do what will make you happy.
So which wolf are you feeding? Let us know in the comments below