It’s true for us as people, and for the organizations we work for, too. When a leader’s beliefs are aligned with everything the organization says and does, even behind closed doors? I know it sounds kind of goofy and woo-woo, but that’s a happy company. Just aligning two isn’t enough. If only two of the three ingredients like these areas around the edge, if only two of the ingredients are mixed correctly, but we’re missing the third, like, if I do what I say, my actions and words are aligned, that gives us consistency. But is that happiness? It’s missing the belief ingredient.
Think of someone who consistently does what they say for a job or a relationship that they don’t believe in. Whatever it is that they’re feeling, I’m pretty sure happiness isn’t it. But is it unhappiness? Gandhi didn’t write down a recipe for that, but using the same ingredients I came up with this [unhappiness is when what you think, what you say or what you do are discordant] Unhappiness is : when what you think, what you say, or what you do are discordant.
So, where Gandhi’s happiness model looked kind of happy here, mine is a little less cheerful, bringing in the grays. Happiness required all three ingredients to be mixed together. But I’m more generous, all you need is two. Unhappiness spontaneously bakes itself, when one or more ingredients, your beliefs, words, actions won’t blend with the others. Unhappiness isn’t just the middle; it’s the three overlaps.
Like in that first example, when we do what we say, we are consistent, [words, – consistent, actions] but now, when we don’t do what we say, we’re unreliable [Gandhi’s Happiness Model: words, – unreliable, actions] And just like that, assuming Gandhi and I are right, we’re unhappy. We don’t need anything else. And if Professor Forgas was right, too, we can start picking out our superhero costumes, because all those benefits to our memory, our willpower, our persuasiveness, they’re all ours. Or they can be if we allow ourselves to feel that unhappiness instead of ignoring it or avoiding it.
And feeling unhappy? It goes against just about everything we’re taught. Our founding fathers granted us pursuit of happiness as an inalienable or was it unalienable? I can never remember, right. We turn that frown upside down. When there was a scandal, it’s not about unhappiness. When a company gets hit with a scandal, we change the name, change the logo, everything is fine.
We are a nation of “don’t worry, be happy” people. But behind the smiles, we’re not. Diagnosing unhappiness isn’t hard. You just have to know where to look. There are six basic categories of unhappiness. I’ll get to where they come from in a moment. For a long time, I believed that one of my own heroes had none of these qualities. He seemed specific, motivated, truthful. All the opposite of what you’re seeing behind me. And then he had all seven of his Tour de France wins taken away from him.
In the process he revealed himself to be profoundly unhappy, and he exhibited every one of the six types of unhappiness behind me. And then there’s, for corporations, AIG. Some blame them for single-handedly sparking the recession six years ago. In the aftermath, the CEO sat down in front of Congress and said, “I think the AIG name is so thoroughly wounded and disgraced, that we’re probably going to have to change it.” Seriously, the name was disgraced.
AIG leadership, they’re fine, but the name, that has to go. Changing the name doesn’t resolve the unhappiness. It just makes them look more unreliable, secretive, and uncommitted than we already thought. My own unhappiness is harder to spot. Trashing my Juilliard application and never telling anyone, that’s secrecy and disengagement going back 20 years for me, and in denial the whole time.
The impact of my unhappiness hasn’t been as sensational, thankfully, as Armstrong and AIG, but now, I’m no Pavarotti, but imagine if he decided to do something like I did and went into accounting instead of opera. The world wouldn’t have some of the most beautiful music ever recorded, and we’d never know. Just because our own unhappiness isn’t visible or sensational doesn’t mean that it’s okay to let it stay that way.
[Signs of Unhappiness: vague, unreliable, secretive, disengaged, deceitful, denial] The signs of unhappiness might look random, but they’re not. They’re pulled directly from the areas of discord in my unhappiness model.
[Linden’s Unhappiness Model] Unhappiness is our body’s way of telling us that something’s wrong. It’s like when we put a hand on that stove no one has to tell us to take it off if it’s hot. That’s what the pain is for. But for some reason we stopped listening, and it was trying to tell us something. And that’s bad because it’s telling us to stop or start doing something, and until we listen and we adapt, the pain isn’t going away.
One organization hired us to help them find a way to avoid government oversight. It was an interesting problem. Loosely, most of their customers were buying and using way too much product, which sounds like a good thing until that wasted product ends up all over the place. And the government has to clean it up. The organization had already invested huge amounts of money and effort in promoting consumer responsibility, but nothing changed.
My job was to find a solution that would change the buyer’s behavior. And so I did In front of a board overseeing tens of billions in annual revenues, I summarized the problem, then asked something like this: “In your company, who makes more money, the sales person who sells the most, or the one who only sells what the buyer actually needs?” The reason that consumer responsibility campaign failed was because the salespeople were paid to kill it. Acknowledging unhappiness forces us to confront a reality that we don’t want to see. Not only are we unhappy, we lack integrity, structural integrity. The things that we believe, the things we say and do, they fit together so poorly that under the slightest amount of pressure, they collapse.