To borrow from Aristotle, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life—the whole aim and end of human existence.”
For author and entrepreneur Tia Graham happiness is the secret sauce to thriving in business and life.
After she had her second daughter and returned to work as director of sales and marketing at The London West Hollywood Hotel, she was not happy. “I was attempting to balance my executive career, motherhood, marriage, friendships, physical health, family, and all else. I felt as if I were failing at all of it,” says Graham. “I was stressed, overwhelmed, full of guilt, angry, sad and felt stuck.”
While Graham, like many others, had painful and challenging moments in her life before going back to when she was a child, at this moment when she was returning to work, she was particularly unhappy. “I thought that maybe it would be my new normal,” she shares. “I have always been a very positive and optimistic person and have made choices to increase my happiness and well-being. But this thought terrified me.”
Being miserable impacted every part of Graham’s personal and professional life. At this low point she began researching happiness and the science of happiness. She turned to Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD who taught the popular Positive Psychology course at Harvard University. Graham received a certificate in Happiness Studies and Teaching Happiness Ben-Shahar’s Happiness Studies Academy. She became certified in neuroscience from The Neuroscience School and is now a speaker and coach at the annual World Happiness Summit.
“My neuroscience and positive psychology research gave me the scientific knowledge on why happiness is vital,” says Graham. “Happiness affects our longevity, relationships, motivation, career and parenting success, creativity, productivity, and more. It connects to everything.”
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To that end, four years ago Graham made a big career pivot and founded her company Arrive At Happy. With a mission is to inspire transformation through the science of happiness and neuroscience, Graham partners with organizations and leaders to grow their business through a happy, joyful culture.
This month Graham debuted her book, Be a Happy Leader: Stop Feeling Overwhelmed, Thrive Personally, and Achieve Killer Business Results. The book delves into the struggle of feeling overwhelmed and stressed. It offers doable strategies on how to find consistent joy while keeping motivated.
“The truth is that our happiness and creating a happy life is an inside job,” says Graham. “Human connection is the number one predictor of happiness, but there is so much more to it like being resilient, having a healthy relationship with difficult emotions, living with gratitude, learning and growing constantly and giving and helping others. It takes effort and making the ongoing choice to choose to be happy.”
Jeryl Brunner: Can you share more how money doesn’t make you happy?
Tia Graham: Research shows that wealthy people are happier than less wealthy people. But the degree is a lot smaller than most people would think. A lot of very wealthy people are miserable. Money alone cannot make you happy. What money affords are more choices and time affluence. How you spend your money also contributes to your well-being, like spending on others or experiences rather than material possessions. There is an interesting phenomenon called “The Hedonic Treadmill” from Dr. Martin Seligman. His research shows that once we make a decent living and have all our needs met, a new car or expensive handbag, for example, will give us a “happy high” for just three to four months. And then we go back to our resting level of happiness.
Brunner: You write that there are misconceptions about what makes us happy. What are some of those myths?
Graham: One myth is that if you are famous, you will be happier. Another is that when you acquire new material possessions, you will be happier. The research shows that, on average, fame makes us less happy. Another myth is that if you are successful and have a great title, that will make you happy. Another one could be that if you find the love of your life, you will be happy.
Brunner: What inspired you to write Be A Happy Leader?
Graham: I worked as a director of sales and marketing in the luxury hotel industry for 14 years in Hawaii, New York City, Istanbul, and Los Angeles. During that time, I was exposed to motivational and fantastic leaders. I also experienced the exact opposite. I was thrown into a leadership position at 26 years old and always saw leadership as an honor and a big responsibility. I prided myself on being a very positive, supportive, and collaborative leader and created connected, loyal, and successful sales teams.
Over the past five years running my company, Arrive At Happy, I have become certified in positive psychology and applied neuroscience. I created an eight-step methodology to be a happy leader combining my experience and research. A tremendous amount of proven, practical tools exists that all people can use immediately. I knew that I would not be able to reach every person around the world with my talks and leadership programs. My goal is to motivate and educate as many people as possible.