Neil Pasricha, the author of the Happiness Equation spoke at my husband’s 10 year business school reunion. I was so inspired i found myself referencing him constantly for days.
Neil framed his presentation about happiness with a few key points
1. we want happiness more than anything (‘how to be… ‘happy’ is the first drop down in a Google search)
2.we don’t have it (a 50 year longitudinal study shows we’re no happier than 50 years ago)
3.we can influence how happy we are (50% genetic, 10% circumstance, 40% intentional actions)
Scientific studies also verify that happy people are more successful and on average live 10 years longer(!).
9 Steps to a Happier Life
1 Be happy First. Five ways to prime yourself for happiness
1. A 20 minute nature walk
2. Journal for 20 minutes about a positive experience
3. Gratitude list x 5
4. Meditate for 20 minutes
5. Perform a Random Act of Kindness
2. Do It for You. Figure out a way to frame an experience so you are doing it for yourself, not because you ‘should’ or because you ‘have to’. I’ve been working closely with a difficult colleague at work recently and found that framing it as my practice for dealing with challenging personalities kept me from getting too frustrated (most of the time).
3. Love what we have (we have already won the lottery). This isn’t easy. We live in a Culture of More and are bombarded by thousands of advertisements everyday wanting us to feel we are lacking in some way. Over the last year or so i’ve made a daily practice of writing down three things I’m grateful for with my morning coffee (today’s list * my daughter’s squishy toddler legs *curling up with my book last night * my morning work routine). Before i buy anything new i have also made a habit of reviewing what i already have. It’s anecdotal but i’m certain these two things combined have made me feel more content with what i have. ‘Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants’.
4. Define Your reason for waking up in the morning (& never retire). I’m still thinking about this one. Do i have a single reason for waking up in the morning? At this stage it feels like a combination of spending time with my family, continuing to read and learn and grow and figuring out a way to spread the joy of learning in some way…
5. Value your time (by the hour). We all have the same 156 hours in a week. It’s up to us how we allocate those hours within our own limitations and boundaries. Other people may earn more than us but if that comes in the form of a 70 hour work week and constant availability on email, per hour that’s not a very good return.
6. Create Space. The average person makes 295 decisions a day, which is literally the hardest thing for our brain to do. Take away un-important decisions to leave space and time for the ones that matter most. Automate low-importance decisions (i’ve effectively created a work uniform for myself and most weeks have the same five salads on rotation for lunch). Regulate things that are important and don’t take much time (eg give your spouse a kiss on the way out every morning). Effectuate tasks that are high time but low importance (Neil gives the example of a ‘Home Fix Day’ ie keeping a list of necessary home fixes and dedicating one day a month to doing them.) This leaves time and space to Debate high important & high time decisions (how to educate your kids etc)
7. Just Do it. ‘It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting.’ Smile even if you don’t feel happy. Start things before you feel 100% confident. Take a small first step. Fake it until you become it.
8. Be You. Happiness is when what you think, what you say & what you do are in harmony. Two of Neil’s tests that really resonated with me: Saturday Morning Test: what do you do on a Saturday morning when you have no plans? find a way to build more of this into your life. And the Bench Test: find a way to test a new situation, as it would be, and see if it feels right for YOU.
9. Don’t take advice. Make time to listen to your ‘gut’. Build in time for quiet reflection, whether its going for a run or a long bike ride, praying, walking, swimming, meditating, journaling or staring out of the window with a cup of tea.
Neil also points out that it’s also important not to expect to be happy all of the time. It’s not negative feelings themselves that are bad, it’s that we think we shouldn’t have them that gets us all tied up in knots.
Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything