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Iowa Employees: Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

David P. Lind BenchmarkI know, sounds kind of soft, doesn’t it? What does happiness have to do with the bottom line? Turns out, more than you may think.

According to a 2008 Gallup Healthways study, employees who are not satisfied with their lives tend to stay home from work about 1.25 more days a month (or work 15 days LESS a year). Now there’s a bottom-line impact you can measure.

On the other hand, employees who score high in happiness receive more kudos from customers and generate higher earnings for their employers.

Harvard researcher Shawn Achor addresses our ability to increase our happiness in the Jan/Feb 2012 Harvard Business Review article, “Positive Intelligence.”

It seems that we have things a bit backwards. Many of us believe that in order to have happiness, we first must experience success. “If I land that new client, I’ll be very happy,” we think. But after the newness of that success wears off, the happiness that results is temporary. 

Achor makes a strong case that we must “cultivate a positive mind-set” before having the successful outcomes we desire.

My takeaway is that we have the ability to cultivate our own habits that will eventually rewire our brains to view the world with more optimism … and happiness. In other words, happiness can become habitual. Sign me up!!!

For employers, the good news is that happy employees mean positive things for your organization—and your bottom line.

So what habits can we develop that will rewire our brains? Achor suggests pursuing any one of the following five positive exercises each day for three weeks:

  • Jot down three things you’re grateful for.
  • Write a positive message to someone in your social support network.
  • Meditate at your desk for two minutes.
  • Exercise for 10 minutes.
  • Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours (moleskin book, iPad Notes, etc.).

I would like to add one more “exercise” to this list.  Make it your mission on a frequent basis (daily or weekly) to find a way to help others…or at least demonstrate a random act of kindness. One small (but rewarding) example is to pay for the person behind you when buying coffee at a coffee shop (or your favorite place). You never know, you might impact that person’s day in a positive way…in addition to making your day more fulfilling by giving to others.

All of the above exercises sound easy to me! What about you? If being happy is contagious, why wait?

Iowa as Healthiest State…What a BHAG!

David P. Lind BenchmarkYup, making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation in five years is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal!

You know. The kind of visionary goal Jim Collins and Jerry Porras were thinking of when they coined that term in 1994*. Something so strategic and compelling that it’s a game changer.

For sure, the new Healthiest State Initiative is a BHAG. We are currently ranked 16 among all 50 states according to the 2011 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, so although we are above average, we’ve got a ways to go to take the top spot.

Can we get there?

Well, that depends on you, and me, and your employees—on all of us making a whole lot of small changes that add up.

That’s what The Blue Zones Project™ is about—helping us achieve this BHAG— community by community, business by business—helping us become more like those Blue Zone communities around the world, where people live longer, healthier, more productive lives.


  • All Iowa towns have the opportunity to become Blue Zones through a competitive application process.
  • Ten towns will be selected to receive direct access to national experts in transforming themselves into a Blue Zone Community™.
  • Businesses can adopt changes whether they’re in a Blue Zone or not.

As an Iowa employer, what’s in it for you?

  1. Healthy employees mean more productive (and happier) employees who will positively affect your organization now and into the future.
  2. Having healthy employees, both physically and mentally, is a competitive advantage.
  3. The bottom line—lower medical costs translate into lower insurance costs.

Sure, I know, it’s easy to be cynical about yet another healthy living initiative, especially one with such lofty goals. Really, you may be thinking, we can’t change our habits so much that we will become the healthiest state in the nation.

But the truth is, Iowa will be better off by pursuing such a BHAG. We can achieve it if we really want to!

*Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, written by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, 1994