In The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up, Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher make an interesting argument that "levity" is an extremely effective tool for helping people to work better. An atmosphere of light-heartedness, it turns out, helps people pay attention, eases tensions and enhances a feeling of connection.
When I read this, I thought, "Well, levity would be tough for me -- I'm not particularly funny, and I'm not particularly outgoing."
But what the authors mean by "levity" is really a sense of lightness. It's less about being funny and more about being able to have fun and see the humorous side of everyday situations -- especially difficult situations.
Ah, I thought, I'm trying! The ninth of my "12 commandments" is "Lighten up." When I posted sticky notes with key phrases all around my office and apartment, the one I put in the master bathroom read, "Tender and light-hearted."
Gostick and Christopher include a quiz about workplace levity. Looking at it, I realized that most of my workplaces included these elements, which I'm sure contributed to the positive experience I had everywhere (except for the summer I worked as a waitress at Dos Hombres Mexican restaurant, and zoikes, I did not like that job).
For example, I'd assumed that the atmosphere around the Supreme Court would be serious, thoughtful and grand. And it was. But in her chambers, Justice O'Connor incorporated several goofy aspects that made it a lot of fun, too. Each Halloween, she required her clerks to decorate elaborate pumpkins, and birthday celebrations were always a big deal, and she took the clerks on a yearly outing (we went fishing). And that sort of thing really did make a difference.
How does your workplace measure up? Take Gostick and Christopher's quiz:
New employees are made to feel welcome.
Meetings are positive and light.
We have fun activities at least once a month.
It's common to hear people laughing around here.
I can be myself at work.
We have a lot of celebrations for special events.
When brainstorming, we like to have fun.
My boss is usually optimistic and smiling.
Customers would call us fun to do business with.
I have a friend at work who makes me laugh.
We have a good time together.
Does your workplace have "levity," according to this quiz? Do you think it matters?
This is a great list for home, too. For my next book, Happier at Home, I tried several resolutions that were meant to try to bring more levity into my apartment. For instance, I tried to under-react to problems, and it really did help.
How about you? Have you found that an atmosphere of levity and good humor makes a difference to your workplace or home? Have you found any good strategies to keep things fun and light?
* It's fun to look around Laughing Squid, which "features interesting art, culture, and technology from around the web."
* Valentine's Day is next week. Give the gift of happiness! Well, you can't do that, but you can give The Happiness Project (can't resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller). Buy it for yourself, for your sweetheart, or for anyone who needs a good book to read.
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
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