Tag Archives | happiness

Maximize Your Happiness This Summer

My first big opportunity in the auto business came in the summer of 1986 when my father, determined to avoid the nepotism so prevalent in family-owned businesses, purchased a tiny Ford dealership in Honor, Michigan and commissioned my brother and me to run it by ourselves.

We were thrilled at the prospect of being among the youngest dealership owner/operators in the country. And since it was so small–we opened with seven employees–we personally connected with virtually every customer who walked through our doors, getting to know many of them like family over the years.

I recall one local couple in their early 60’s who purchased a new Ford pickup to haul their newly acquired travel trailer. The husband, having worked in a blue collar job all his life, would tell us how much he was looking forward to retirement. “The last few years have been miserable,” he said, “but when I retire and never have to work another day in my life, then I’ll finally be happy.”

But within four years after his retirement party, the happiness that this hard working man so looked forward to never came: he died of a heart attack.

The Illusion of Happiness

Stories like this are all too common; they illuminate a critical perspective of people who live well. Happiness is never a destination. The problem is, we’ve been taught our entire lives that it is–that if you work hard then you will be successful and only then, once you achieve some milestone in your life like getting married, becoming partner in your firm, or, in my customer’s case, retiring from your job, will you be happy.

by Dennis Ottink via Unsplash.com

In his revealing book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor shares some fascinating findings on the relationship between happiness and accomplishment:

“… New research in psychology and neuroscience shows that it works the other way around: We become more successful when we are happier and more positive. For example, doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19% faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”

Years ago, a friend emailed me a document titled, “The Way to Live” by an anonymous author. I think I’ve shared this simple yet profound treatise on living proactively with hundreds of people:

“We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough and we’ll be more content when they are. After that we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire. The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when?”

I think the reason this advice resonates so strongly with people is that it’s so intuitively true; at some point in our lives, we’ve all succumbed to this line of thinking.

Here’s the BIG IDEA: As we embrace the changes brought by the summer season, remember that the road to success doesn’t culminate in happiness… it begins with it.

What compromises are you making in the pursuit of maximizing your happiness? What would it mean to the quality of your life if your sense of well being wasn’t connected to any future outcome or circumstance, but to the joy of the journey?

This post has been adapted from my 2015 blog post.

Comments { 0 }

Leadership, Money & Happiness

This week, I’m sharing a post from my friend Bill Auxier, Ph.D. Bill helps leaders develop and understand their personal definition of leadership for greater personal and organizational success by utilizing what he has learned about leadership real world combined with what he has learned about leadership in the academic world. He’s a contributing author to the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Masters of Success, founder of the Dynamic Leadership Academy™ and author of his award winning, best-selling book, To Lead, Follow.

via Bill Auxier | http://billauxier.com/

We’ve all heard the expression that money can’t buy your love. I have a different take on that expression; money can’t buy you love, but neither can poverty. I always thought that regardless of whether I was happy or sad, it was better to have a few of the comforts that money can provide.

I have witnessed first-hand individuals moving up the ladder, achieving higher and higher leadership roles. Along with that came pay raises, therefor, more money. While not everyone is this way, I have seen some try to use that money to bring them happiness. One individual confided in me, right after he purchased a very expensive sports car, he thought it was pretty cool the first week or two, but in less than a month he was thinking about how he had wasted his money. The car wasn’t making him happy.

Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., a Harvard psychology professor and author of numerous books, wrote a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology where he claims that if money isn’t making you happy, you’re not spending it right. “Money is an opportunity for happiness, but it is an opportunity that people routinely squander because the things they think will make them happy often don’t.” The study concluded that there are ways money can be used to boost well-being and life satisfaction. First, money is best spent on experiences instead of material things. Second, those who spend money on others experience greater happiness then spending on themselves. Finally, spending money on numerous small pleasures increases happiness more than splurging on a few large ones.

Money can’t buy you love, but neither can poverty. Money can boost happiness if used in a happiness boosting way. This is important for leaders to know for themselves, but even more importantly, how they can pass this lesson along to others so they can buy a happiness boost instead of squandering their money AND their happiness.

Comments { 3 }

How Small Actions Create Massive Results

Author and leadership expert Henry Cloud shared a revealing story of how he overcame one of the most overwhelming challenges of his life–completing his doctoral dissertation–by watching an ant farm a friend had sent him. After setting up the glass container and pouring the ants in, he left for several days:

“…When I came back, something had happened. The sand between the panes of glass was beginning to take some sort of shape. It had been moved around into clumps, and little tunnels were beginning to form under the surface. But when you looked at any given ant, it carried just one little grain of sand. The activity of an individual ant seemed to have little impact. Nor was it apparent how any single grain had much to do with the big picture of what was forming. But the impact was happening, and the form was developing.”

Just a short time later, Dr. Cloud discovered an entire ant city, complete with an amazing network of tunnels. “It looked like a team of architects had been there for months,” he wrote,” with miniature bulldozers, trucks, and cranes.”

This story illustrates one of the most powerful principles in nature: small, seemingly insignificant actions repeated consistently over time create massive results. Ever since I read Jeff Olson’s powerful book, The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness, I’ve seen this principle work in my life and in the lives of others.

The Myth of the Quantum Leap

Dr. Cloud’s story stands in stark contrast to our American culture that has become obsessed with the overnight success, magic bullet, big break, miracle cure, the killer app—whatever you call it. We feed ourselves on stories of people who win the lottery, lose 80 pounds in twelve weeks, and who go from lounge singer to American Idol winner overnight.

And so just like them, we want to earn more, do more, and be more–right now. But for the overwhelming majority of us, that’s a recipe for failure, disillusionment, and cynicism.

Little things over time create big results

Imagine if, on New Years’ Day, I handed you a stack of 16 books with a challenge to read all of them by the end of the year. Chances are, you would either laugh at me or tell me to get serious.

But what if, on January 1st, you committed to reading just 15 pages a day, which, depending on the content, might take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Allowing for two weeks off, by year end, you would have read 5,250 pages. And since the average book on Amazon.com is approximately 325 pages, you would have complete all 16 books and even started on a 17th book.

That’s the power of the Slight Edge.

It’s one of the most ubiquitous laws of nature–a force that God set in motion when He created the universe that applies to every aspect of your life. Small actions, compounded daily, really do create big results. Don’t fall for the trap of instant wins and big bets. Act like an ant: harness the power of the Slight Edge and watch your results soar.

I will have more to share on this in upcoming posts–stay tuned!

What are some habits–some simple, repeatable disciplines compounded daily–that, if you initiated, would fundamentally impact your future?

Comments { 2 }

Change Your Definition of Happiness — Change Your Life

How’s this for a 30,000 foot question:

“What is happiness?”

by Austin Schmid | unsplash

While cultural nuances have shaped peoples’ view of happiness for generations, in contemporary societies, happiness has one overarching condition: personal pleasure.

But according to author and Positive Psychology expert Shawn Achor, the ancient Greeks looked at happiness much differently. They defined it as:

“The joy you feel moving toward your potential.”

As Shawn explained in a recent podcast interview, this view alters the meaning of the pursuit of happiness; specifically, it underscores the immense difference between joy (or happiness) and pleasure. For example:

  • Pleasure is a temporary feeling within the brain that causes you to want more of an activity, such as eating ice cream or watching a favorite TV show.
  • Joy, on the other hand, can be experienced even when life isn’t pleasurable. Think of running a marathon, for example. Your body can be screaming with pain and fatigue while the joy of reaching a personal milestone propels you to endure.
  • Unlike pleasure, joy isn’t momentary; it can be experienced over sustained periods of time. Far from a fleeting feeling, joy is a transformative emotion that inspires people to live beyond themselves.

As Shawn explains in his fascinating book, The Happiness Advantage, while growing up in Waco, Texas, where he assumed he would spend the rest of his life, he decided to apply to Harvard “on a dare.” To him, Harvard was a mythical place “where mothers joke about their kids going when they grow up.” Never expecting to get accepted, to his dismay, he got in–and his experiences as both an undergrad and graduate student shaped his understanding of how the human brain processes experiences. He writes:

“Many of my students saw Harvard as a privilege, but others quickly lost sight of that reality and focused only on the workload, the competition, the stress. They fretted incessantly about their future, despite the fact that they were earning a degree that would open many doors. They felt overwhelmed by every small setback instead of energized by the possibilities in front of them. And after watching enough of those students struggle to make their way through, something dawned on me. Not only were these students the ones who seem most susceptible to stress and depression, they were the ones whose grades and academic performance were suffering the most.”

Contrast this experience with a month-long trip he took to South Africa a few years later. During a stop in Soweto, where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once lived, he visited a school in a poverty-ridden shantytown with dirt streets, no electricity, and scarce running water. Addressing a student assembly, Shawn asked, “Who here likes to do schoolwork?” To his surprise, nearly all of them responded with smiling enthusiasm. Accustomed to American kids hating school, he asked his guide why these kids “seemed so weird.” He was told, “They see schoolwork as an incredible privilege, one that many of their parents did not have.”

In other words, instead of having to go to school, these kids viewed it as getting to go to school.

Shawn’s encounter explains why, according to research by the Conference Board, only 45% of American workers surveyed were happy at their jobs, depression rates today are ten times higher than they were in 1960, and the mean onset of depression is now under 15 years of age.

Statistics like these, in the most materially prosperous culture in history, underscore the Positive Psychology movement’s findings on the impact of re-framing one’s view of happiness. What Shawn Achor and others have discovered in countless observations of people living in what we would consider desperate situations while finding deep meaning and authentic happiness was brilliantly expressed in a recent TED talk delivered by the author:

“It’s not reality that shapes us; it’s the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes reality. And if we can change the lens not only can we change your happiness, we can change outcomes–on business, education, etc.”

What are the lenses you use to view your reality? What would it mean to the quality of your life to redefine your view on happiness from momentary circumstantial pleasure to the thrill of progressing, no matter how slowly, toward your potential? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comments { 4 }