WHAT makes people happy?

First, having a purpose - which means doing something in your life that has meaning for you, whether it is building a better company, raising happy children or helping to make the world a better place.

Second, having hope - which means you have something to look forward to. Even if your current circumstances are difficult, if you have hope that your effort will be rewarded and that things will improve, you can find happiness.

Happy people accept themselves as they are, so they have peace of mind.

And yes, last but not least, having someone to love.

It is your decision

Happiness is no accident - it is something we choose, says Mr Andrew Matthews, international speaker and author of motivation and personal development classics, Being Happy! and Follow Your Heart.

He says: "Happy people make a decision to be happy in spite of their problems.

"They concentrate on what they have - not on what is missing. They count their blessings. They take maximum responsibility for their life and for their mistakes. They don't blame others."

Most importantly, he points out, happy people are more flexible. "They are able to say, 'If my plane is early, I'm happy. If my plane is late, I'm happy.'

"Their state of mind is determined by their own thoughts, not by outside circumstances."

Sounds utopian? Not if you can relate this philosophy to the corporate environment. And human resource (HR) departments can help in cultivating a happy people culture.

Says Mr Matthews: "Encourage employees to develop life skills, not just work skills. Encourage healthy working relationships. Encourage honesty in the workplace, and encourage workers to speak openly. Make employees feel appreciated."

HR can help to build a culture of happy people by introducing principles based on the Being Happy philosophy, he says.

"This can include helping staff to understand how their beliefs affect their experience, how attitudes impact relationships and how communication within an organisation improves as a result of improving how we see things."

Being Happy is infectious

Often, employers wonder if the Being Happy philosophy works in the corporate environment and what its effects are.

Mr Matthews highlights the benefits: "Employees feel more fulfilled. They set personal and professional goals. They realise that they do their best not to please their boss, but to make themselves happier. They take responsibility and blame other people less. Companies retain their employees."

It works by providing employees, managers and executives with the choice and skills to experience work in a happier way, he adds.

However, he admits that though it sounds fairly simple and practical, there are challenges that employers have to deal with.

He says: "One challenge HR may face while introducing the Being Happy culture within an organisation is 'pushback' from those who don't understand the philosophy or value it.

"People tend to resist change. They say, 'I'm OK. It's my boss who needs to change.' Some say, 'There's nothing wrong with my attitude.'

"Many people postpone happiness. For example, they say, 'I'll be happy when I get a pay rise" or 'I'll be happy when that stupid secretary is transferred to another department.'

"Pushback can be resistance simply to the unknown."

If a HR practitioner experiences this when implementing the Being Happy philosophy, asking better questions will help identify the aspects of the process that are causing concern.

"Being Happy is not focused on fixing a short-term problem or issue. Being Happy is about living life and being excited about the life that we experience."

Attitude counts

It is all in the attitude, says Mr Matthews.

"I'll give you an example. Two women turn 50. Mary says, 'My life is over!'

"Julie says, 'My life has just begun.'

"Who will be happier? Who will be more successful?"

The laws of happiness and success are like the laws of gravity. They are the same for everyone.

If you continue to see yourself as successful and keep on producing quality work, you will succeed, he concludes.

"See yourself as happy, look for good things in life and the people around you, and you will become happier."

Author and international speaker Andrew Matthews will be making an exclusive presentation at the HR Summit on May 6 and 7. For more information, visit www.hrsummit.com.sg