Stuart R. Levine, Chairman and CEO, Stuart Levine & Associates LLC

As this year concludes, we have all endured disruptions in our personal and professional lives. In anticipation of a new year, it’s appropriate to think about what we’ve learned and how best to respond and prepare ourselves for the continuation of economic volatility and challenges to the human spirit.

We all make conscious decisions every minute, hour and day. Choosing to be grateful will make you happier. Focusing on what’s good in our lives will make us stronger by attracting more productive relationships that will result in greater learning opportunities. In January 2004, my second book, The Six Fundamentals of Success, was published by Random House. One of the chapters, The power of nice, is as valid today as it was then. One senior executive called “the niceness factor” the single most important component in his firm’s success. It helped to cement relationships both inside and outside of the organization.

A business colleague of mine was reflecting on the past year and shared that she knew her tone was “off-putting.”  As we lean into the new year, there is a moment for salvation where reflections like this should give birth to evaluations of how better to engage members, clients and peers.

The title of an article recently published in, one of Massachusetts General Hospital’s publications, was entitled, “Be Nice.”  Unfortunately, the thrust of the article with supporting data, showed that acts of rudeness are on the rise in healthcare. Condescending doctors to nurses and pervasive incivility was leading to compromised performance, patient safety and outcomes. The conclusion of the article was that a move towards greater civility can not only impact the workplace, but our mental well-being.

Rudeness, selfishness, moodiness, and emotional behavior, lead to judgmental thinking which creates toxic environments. Whether its eye rolling, demeaning comments, gossip or lack of cooperation, this behavior creates a climate of disrespect. Research has shown that rude behavior spreads like a virus. Social media platforms support it and can fuel it. Recent polls show that incivility has risen to crisis levels, where three out of four employees report experiencing rudeness on the job at least once a week.

Avoiding toxic people, whose energy is negative and disruptive, will help to keep you focused on your mission and control your own destiny   When Jean-Paul Sartre created his philosophical play, No Exit, in 1944, he understood that “hell is other people” if our relationships with them are bad. Choosing happiness is a choice we can all make. Being nice doesn’t mean you’re weak or unable to get results. It doesn’t mean you can’t make tough decisions. It does mean, however, that you can say hello to people and ask about how a colleague’s family is doing and be fair when things go wrong. Being nice to work colleagues, members, and customers alike, helps to build up a reservoir of goodwill that can serve you well into the future. Not only this, but it makes work a more pleasant experience. Being nice, draws people to you. Being nice is dramatically underrated.

Despite the technological revolution, the business world and the world at large revolves around relationships. A conscious decision to be successful and live a happy, purposeful life, requires an understanding that we all need help from others. No one can do it alone. Family, friends, colleagues, employers and customers, all have the potential to enrich your life. Whether it’s having enough face time which truly counts, setting up a “relationships radar screen” or recognizing that what goes around, comes around, we all can work on strengthening our base of relationships. Choosing wisely who to focus on is key.

So, as we approach this new year, let’s take a breath more often. This serves to rejuvenate the soul and spirit. Getting to a higher ground through new habits takes work. When feeling assaulted or disrespected, think twice. It’s not always about you. There is science behind feeling gratitude which is proven. And don’t forget to find laughter, which not only diffuses tension, but provides much needed perspective on what’s truly important in life. Joy, love and happiness are frankly what most of us are seeking ultimately; and, this won’t be achieved through negativity, anger and entitlement.

Medicine has proven that every cell in your body, about one hundred trillion of them, is eavesdropping on what you think, say and do, according to Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi in their book Super Genes. We all control our own destiny for choosing happiness. The earth’s 2.8-billion-year-old genetic legacy is in our hands. The human brain is the last frontier in medicine. As humanity continues to evolve, what we can control is our actions. Make each one count. That’s all we have.