The Celebration Mindset Pt. 3 – Celebrate Happiness…The Right Way

Originally published here for the Institute of Organizational Mindfulness (IOM).

For both your own fulfillment, and the people you serve, what’s a better service trait than the love of making others happy?

Well, the first mistake you can make with this is a tendency towards “outcome-orientation”: the frustration from things not turning out how you expect. Maybe you feel disappointed when you put so much energy into a customer’s happiness and they still seem miserable and unsatisfied. Let yourself off the hook: “happiness” doesn’t always look the way you want it to. Maybe “a little less anxious” is the biggest upgrade you can offer someone at the time.

The feelings of others need to be understood are their choice, not yours. Moments where your customers are completely ecstatic are also freely chosen by them and not “created” by you. Attempting to take ownership of them will entangle you with responsibility for how others feel. You’ll puff with pride when they’re happy and sag with failure when they’re not and neither points on that rollercoaster ride are correct or healthy to indulge.

Truly, it’s great to love co-creating happiness. If only more people took joy in these things. But it’s worth observing the possibilities that can be created when this quality becomes broader. The most complete way to become a steward of happiness is a little more challenging because it involves asking yourself this: “Can I find joy in the happiness of others that I had nothing to do with?”

And to continue raising the stakes, what if someone is happy because they have something that you want? In Buddhism, this is known as Mudita (sympathetic joy) and is considered one of the hardest qualities to develop – harder even than remaining calm in the face of hostility.

Start to notice the subtle and unexpected ways that jealousy and envy impact how you work. You never know when the happiness of others can make you feel lacking in some way. Maybe you feel more “lowly” when we serve people that seem to have the money and lifestyle we want. Maybe a coworker received praise from customers and management.

This view of happiness as a scarce resource happens from a lack mentality (“if someone else experiences happiness then that potentially takes away from my share”). The true service mentality is abundant – the sense that there’s plenty of happiness to go around. Not only that, but an abundance mentality knows that the happiness of others can actually elevate your own – after all, happiness co-creates happiness.

So this is not to say that you’ve failed at service because you experience envy, or even just irritation at the happiness of others. This just means you’re human and you have an opportunity to develop the capacity to celebrate happiness in general rather than the happiness you think you can take ownership of. This will not only take the service relationships you can form to the next level, but also make it a lot more fulfilling.