It may seem obvious to state that the happier we are within our lives overall, the higher our Wellbeing levels will automatically be. But how does happiness affect us day to day, both professionally and personally, and how can we bring this into client conversations?
A study by the University of Warwick discovered that happy employees are up to 12% more productive when their working environment is warm, friendly and welcoming. They tend to also be in better overall health, enjoy harmonious working relationships and through this added sense of security are far more beneficial to their employers. How? Because they work harder and are less likely to leave?
According to Action for Happiness, it appears that as a society we have become financially richer but not necessarily any happier. But what does happiness really mean? We often think we’ll be happier “when” we own something materially aspirational, or “if” we’re able to achieve something we view as success rather than paying attention to the things that make us feel happy in the here and now. Feeling genuinely happy can boost our immune systems to optimise our general health and can even reduce our chances of dying by 35%. Happier children and young adults are predicted to attain higher future incomes and, pertinently, are likely to save more and have a tighter control on our finances – an important aspect when we’re talking to clients about their future financial goals.
So can we proactively change our sense of happiness? It can take 21 days to form a habit and 90 days to make a permanent lifestyle change, so by repeating behaviours that make us smile we can influence ourselves to live more happily. This can be achieved through changes in our thoughts and behaviour. Small actions over a prolonged period of time really do help to make a difference.
So how can we use these principles when talking to clients? Evidence-based ideas to boost happiness include doing things for others and giving our time, energy and money for causes we believe in; having goals to look forward to; continuing to learn new things; connecting with others and feeling we are a part of something bigger, all of which provides a greater sense of meaning to how we live and the actions we take. These are all areas to talk to clients about. If you’re facing challenges with this, recommend (and follow!) the principle of practising gratitude through the daily recording of all the good things that happen each day – this can help to train our brains to feel happier.
Could clients choose to give more to other people, whether their own family, or a more philanthropic approach? Making a positive difference to other’s lives, even remotely, can boost our levels of happiness. Everyone will have their own individual sources of “meaning” in their lives that don’t necessarily cost a large amount financially but can have a far greater impact than buying another materialistic object, where the initial gratification fades very quickly. Our brains are trained to feel happiness in the here and now, with larger challenges or meaningful experiences being those we tend to remember longer term.
We can develop higher quality relationship with clients through how we respond when they have good news to tell us. The more enthusiastic we are in our responses, the deeper the bond will be within the client/adviser relationship, helping it to last longer and be more mutually beneficial. It is also true to say that the more behavioural changes we can make for our own happiness, the better equipped we will be to steer our clients towards using their money to become more fulfilled and not just wealthier.
(Sources – Vanessa King’s (Action for Happiness) presentation at the IFW Annual Conference 2021)