Hiking Through the Happiness Fog

Accountability Be Accountable Thought leadership Well-being

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Key Point: “Mood drives performance.” That’s the deep belief of Jim Moss, a Hall of Fame, gold medal-winning, pro athlete who in 2009 was suddenly rendered acutely paralyzed from a rare autoimmune disease. It is a well-documented story, recounted in numerous publications. With the possibility of living the rest of life in a vegetative state, Jim hacked his own healing, focused on being grateful and learning the science of mood and performance (neuroplasticity). He walked out of the hospital six weeks later. Inspired and profoundly motivated by this experience, Moss went on with his partner Jennifer to co-found Plasticity Labs. Their Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) is to give one billion people the tools to live a happier, healthier and high-performing life; to scale happiness globally, by building the first ever, mental health and happiness platform

So what is happiness? As Jennifer Moss, co-founder of Plasticity notes in a recent blog: “I still don’t know. But I believe it can be experienced. Like fog, it’s around us. We can see it. But, when we try to hold on to it – it slips through our fingers. Happiness is about a continued investment in building hope, efficacy, resilience, optimism (HERO), along with gratitude, mindfulness, and empathy. As we dig deeper into the ways we can build up more psychological fitness, we’ll analyze how to build up these traits in ourselves and inspire them in others. For many, happiness means the absence of negative emotions, but in the article, I wrote for Harvard Business Review, ‘Happiness Isn’t the Absence of Negative Emotions;’ I vehemently counteract the belief that being happy is only to feel joy, every minute, every day, all the time. I wrote the article to share my frustrations with the backlash on the Positive Psychology movement. After reading one too many articles about why happiness is harmful, I decided it was time to confront the naysayers. But what I believe about this brief history of happiness, is that it’s not about chasing pleasure, but rather, actively engaging in long-term, sustainable life goals that include daily investments in positive work, activities and relationships. However, I liken models to recipes – it’s subjective and rife with human variables built on strongly held biases, genetics and personal experience. Just like a recipe can’t guarantee your bread will rise, a happiness theory can’t guarantee you will be happy.”

So what? I work for a company that believes “good things happen when you pursue happiness.” It is an essential part of our purpose: To create happiness. So, I’m deeply interested in how the happiness science and research is evolving. I do like the way Jennifer Moss and Plasticity Labs are focusing on the HERO model; Hope, Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism; connected to gratitude, mindfulness, and empathy. Their view is that by concentrating on the traits of the model versus happiness itself, it results in the state of happiness being more present and accessible in our lives.

Character Moves:

1. Check out Plasticity Labs (note: I currently have no personal contacts or financial involvement with Plasticity Labs). I’m just very curious and supportive of their MTP; and perhaps you are too? They have great resources and research literature on happiness. And their research reinforces that measurably happy, high-performing workplace cultures earn up to 50 percent more revenue, and have the uppermost levels of both employee and customer satisfaction.

2. Happiness is elusive. We are very early days in the science, although in 425 B.C., the Greek philosopher, Socrates, famously made a statement about happiness: “Strive for honesty, be your best self and have emotional control.” Socrates was one of the first to openly debate that happiness is in our control. Of course, he was also sentenced to death for corrupting the youth with this belief. So the pursuit of happiness has its detractors. How genuinely happy are you? I’m honestly not sure how happy I truly am, and am working to better understand the meaning both as a noun and verb.

Happy Fog in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I wasn’t positive about this, but yup, one little Google search reveals that us Millennials know a whole lot about antidepressants. This Fortune article suggests we may be the “least stable generation on record.” Great! But it’s not hard to check Facebook and realize it’s a world where micro aggressions cause daily outrage, and some of our highest satisfaction comes from a “like” button after sharing topics that get us up in arms. Uh oh. (Meanwhile, it’s the safest, most free and best time to be alive in history) and we have things like Plasticity Labs to assist our happiness. It might be complicated, but in 2017 I think happiness has never been more achievable with the right mindset. As Jocko Willink would say, “get it.”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Well Doing Beats Well Being?

Be Accountable

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Key Point: I genuinely believe that as humans we are more accurately described as verbs rather than nouns. So what if we thought of happiness more as a process of flourishing rather than a state of being?

I was reading an article by Jag Bhalla in a Nov. Big Think article. The essence of this piece was that we might be better off thinking about “happiness” as something we DO; i.e. Do Happy by focusing on flourishing versus searching for the elusive state of BEING happy. The following are a couple of points stated by Bhalla that reinforces this idea:

” – Many need a new ‘happiness.’ The pursuit of which is more attuned to a key logic built into our biology (and which matches some mostly forgotten, old wisdom about flourishing). 

– Many now simply equate happiness with maximizing pleasure. But even hedonists once took pains to distinguish pleasure from happiness

– Daniel Kahneman (the ‘most important psychologist alive’) believes it’s logical to describe life as a series of moments each with a positive or negative feeling ‘value,’ and that we should evaluate experiences by summing those momentary values. He complains human brains are illogical for not working that way.

– ‘Positive psychologists’ like Csíkszentmihályi are less confused. He studies how an active state of ‘flow’ provides ‘optimal experience’ (noting we don’t ‘understand… happiness… any better than Aristotle)… ‘Flow’ arises from a skilled activity that takes enough concentration that we lose awareness of self and time. These autotelic (done for their own sake) pleasurably effortful activities are common in sports, music and the arts, but rare when we’re passive.  Similarly, Seligman distinguishes easy pleasures from effortful ‘satisfactions’ the longer-lasting rewards of ‘flow’).

– Nouns like ‘happiness’ and ‘well-being’ are too static. Verbs reflecting the required repeated effort seem more apt.  ‘Well-doing’ beats ‘well-being’ or ‘being happy,’ flourishing is a thing we do, not that we passively be.”

When I examine my life, I have personally felt most happy when I’ve been in a state of flow and part of something bigger than me. Belonging to a purpose and contributing by literally throwing myself into the experience has most often resulted in a feeling of personal gratification and happiness; however fleeting or lasting. Small examples include the flow I feel when writing, white boarding and creating big ideas with others, teaching a concept and seeing a room light up, etc. In those moments, time zooms by and I feel energized and fully alive.

I rarely wake up saying I want to be happy today. Instead, on most days I wake up excited to contribute and flourish and that ultimately delivers a feeling of happiness. Perhaps to most of you readers, this is so very obvious. But for a few of you, just maybe refocusing on finding where you can fully flourish is a more accessible route to happiness than the pursuit of happiness as an “end state” by itself? 

Character Moves:

  1. We owe it to ourselves to experience happiness through DOING what we are good at and like to do, contributing with meaning and purpose, with people we like to be around. We define BEING from DOING!
  1. It’s that simple, but we also know it’s that hard (even elusive). The personal courage needed is to “move,” to take action… To take the risk to put ourselves in a position to achieve those conditions. If not, how could we ever be happy more than not?

Flourishing in the Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Too true. I’ve been watching YouTube videos of a guy who often does a lot of housework in a barn on his property… Building furniture, killing wasps nests in his kids’ playhouse, always doing “something useful” and I think “man, that looks great.” Meanwhile, I’m sitting on my butt watching YouTube videos, accomplishing nothing, which isn’t bringing me any closer to doing my own handiwork. It’s an easy trap… We all need those days off on the couch, I guess, but I think we can all agree that accomplishing “to do” lists is much more satisfying.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

You and the Ice Cream ‘Man’

Be Abundant

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Key Point: What if we all thought of our jobs as if we were selling ice cream? I remember growing up as a kid and hearing the chimes of the ice cream truck. As the music came closer, every child scrambled home to beg for enough coin to buy a cone or other frozen delight before the truck left the area. Happiness was getting to the ice cream truck, fully out of breath but in time to make that big decision. In your mind’s eye can you visualize the happy smiles in line, arms and legs flailing in gleeful anticipation of that first bite?

“I love it as a career – it’s great seeing the kids so happy.” That’s a quote from Britain’s longest serving ice cream man. And according to the May 25 issue of the Mirror, he plans to carry on dishing out cones until he reaches the age of 99. Sandro Foldi, 86, got his first van 54 years ago and has sold over 1,350,000 ice creams. He also likes to talk to people… “It’s a very social job, and I’ve served customers who come from all over the world.”

Imagine loving something so much that doing it until the age of 99 is a treat. Maybe Sandro isn’t using the “retirement” word, because he is in the happiness business? And why would one retire from dishing out continuous cones of joy, while chatting up people everyday? Everybody who comes to see you wants to buy a little bit of bliss. How cool is that? 

As the Chief People Officer, my job is to make our organization “The Place to Work,” and it is a little like being the ice cream man. Everything my team and I try and do is to make the “people journey” better, work environment more nourishing, and work-life richer in every way. I feel like the company’s ice cream man. So Sandro, I get your vibe, man. I really do. (Although I am likely making people at work nervous regarding the “99-years-old” commitment part of the story, haha).

Character Moves:

  1. Find the “ice cream ‘man’” in yourself. Every job is different, and for many, it would be silly or trite to compare their responsibilities to the life of someone who serves frozen desserts from a van. However, almost all positions have some redeeming purpose that makes things better for others. Even people who work in tough areas like debt collections can help make peoples’ lives less miserable or give them hope. Our mission is to find ourselves in those roles and deliver as much happiness and good will as we can. It most often begins by simply acknowledging another’s presence. Being seen and heard by someone who genuinely cares is often even better than eating ice cream. We ALL can do that. 

Being the “ice cream man” in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Guys like Sandro have it figured out in a lot of ways that most of us probably don’t think about. If you click on the link, you’ll notice Sandro doesn’t look too shabby for 86. He’s wearing a slightly torn hat he’s probably put on with pride each day since the 60’s (but certainly doesn’t have to anymore), and in one of his quotes from the article; he says “everyone knows me around here.” You can imagine the relationships with all his distributors are as seamless as the ones he develops with his customers… His van probably hums along with a million stories earned from his decades of sales. He must notice something new every time he drives the same monotonous routes. As far as I’m concerned, if a man can tolerate listening to constant Ice Cream Truck music for 54 years, you know he doesn’t let a lot of nonsense get stuck in his head.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Watch Out for ‘Happy’ Guilt

Character Triangle

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Key Point: “Why am I not as happy as everyone tells me I should be?” That’s a self-reflective question I hear people I care about rhetorically ask from time to time. On a scale of one to 10, rate your personal happiness. That’s what about 500,000 people from across the globe were asked to do. The results are presented in the recently released World Happiness Report. This happens annually as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The release preceded UN World Happiness Day, and is the fourth such report by a group called the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (A multidisciplinary team of experts from academia, government, and the private sector). The assessment team ranked 156 countries on their happiness and well-being. 

In addition to the survey, a country’s happiness is measured in terms of a number of factors: GDP per capita, life expectancy—including the number of healthy years, social support in times of trouble, trust in the system (freedom from corporate or government corruption), the ability to make one’s own decisions, and overall generosity.  The majority of the topmost happiness positions were once again taken up by Scandinavian countries. The U.S. ranked 13th, Canada 6th, and UK 23rd.

At a personal level, the three most important aspects according to researchers are income, social support, and healthy years. Anyone who wants to cultivate a fulfilling life, according to the report, should invest in their education to earn a proper income, live a healthy lifestyle, and strengthen their relationships with friends, family, and their partner. However, the definition of personal “happiness” really involves a very unique definition. Daniel Kahneman, highly regarded as one of the most knowledgeable academics on the matter concludes:  “The word happiness does not have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does.” My conclusion: Yes there are trends and conditions that provide a base for happiness. However, whether you or I are happy is very unique, a personal condition and subject to self-interpretation. No judgment by any one else qualifies. We are the sole determinants.

What we do know is that in much of the western world, depression and stress related diseases are on the rise. Even though Canada ranks as the sixth happiest country in the world, it has a very high rate of suicide compared to the rest of the planet. And the province I reside in, Alberta, has the highest rate in Canada. Mental wellness is something we all need to invest in, so I want to share a great summary of actions (backed by good science) that each of us can apply to our betterment. As a system of connected actions, they will certainly contribute to our well being and perhaps even to our assessment of personal happiness . 

Character Moves:

  1. Find someone you can talk to. Someone you really connect with, trust, and feel safe around. I’m a big fan of working with a coach. A coach will help you move forward versus keeping you stuck in your current story.
  2. It is so important to eat healthy. Avoid sugar and processed food. And take your vitamins.
  3. Go for a brisk 45-minute walk, 4-5 times/week. According to research it has been known to have more positive effects on the mind and combat depression better than the strongest anti-depressant.
  4. Do three gratitude’s per day, and record them. Do this for a minimum of 21 days.
  5. Meditate
  6. Do something creative; paint, sing, dance, play an instrument, create something.
  7. Dream; imagine yourself doing something that lights you up.
  8. Stick to the facts of what’s happening. Don’t start creating a story around the facts. A wondering mind is a dangerous mind. Stay in the moment.
  9. Find your inner flow. Find activities that put you in the moment and allow you to lose track of time.
  10. Choose carefully when selecting those you spend time with. Decide to be around people who complete you and inspire you to be better.
  11. Get proper sleep.
  12. Plan something to look forward to.
  13. Volunteer. Give to others.

 This is a list from Karen Judge, health and happiness coach and founder of A Happier Mind.

 Live Well (even Happy) in The Triangle 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I don’t know many truly unhappy Millennials, but I’d say our career content comes from a sense of comfort, excitement and future security. Are we making enough money to be comfortable? Does our routine still motivate us? Does my current position have room for growth? If I could always answer those questions with confidence, my work happiness will likely sustain. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

TOGETHER NOW: Love People & Use Things vs. Love Things & Use People

Character Triangle

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Key Point: Love people and apply the power of TOGETHER. This principle may be so obvious that we are missing fully optimizing the “happiness opportunity” right in front of us. It is accessible and inclusive versus unattainable and exclusive. 

The 30th president of the United States Calvin Coolidge, and Mrs. Coolidge were touring a poultry farm. The first lady noticed that there were very few roosters, and asked how so many eggs could be fertilized. The farmer told her that the virile roosters did their jobs over and over again each day. “Perhaps you could point that out to Mr. Coolidge,” she told him. The president, hearing the remark, asked whether the rooster serviced the same hen each time. No, the farmer told him — there were many hens for each rooster. “Perhaps you could point that out to Mrs. Coolidge,” said the President.

This amusing and perhaps even embellished story is apparently the genesis of something actually called “The Coolidge Effect,” the idea that more and variety (in this case sex) somehow leads to more happiness (moral considerations not withstanding). The research actually proves the opposite. For more on this and other research, please read a wonderful article in the New York Times on what drives happiness and unhappiness. The punch line is that obsessively chasing fame, money and hedonism of all excess leads to unhappiness. This of course has been the wisdom often cited through the ages, and contemporary research validates what the wise have concluded. Nevertheless, it is a constant battle for most of us to keep our egos and priorities in check.

As Arthur C. Brooks so eloquently states in the article: “It requires a deep skepticism of our own basic desires. Of course you are driven to seek admiration, splendor and physical license. But giving in to these impulses will bring unhappiness. You have a responsibility to yourself to stay in the battle. The day you declare a truce is the day you become unhappier.”

Digging for “happiness insight” in a completely different vein, I found another compelling piece of research. This is from a superb HBR blog:

“David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, has identified relatedness — feelings of trust, connection, and belonging—as one of the five primary categories of social pleasures and pains (along with status, certainty, autonomy, and fairness). Rock’s research shows that the performance and engagement of employees who experience relatedness threats or failures will almost certainly suffer. And in other research, the feeling of working together has indeed been shown to predict greater motivation, particularly intrinsic motivation, that magical elixir of interest, enjoyment, and engagement that brings with it the very best performance.” 

We are hard wired to work TOGETHER and connect. This does not mean working side by side, or having lots of meetings, etc. It means actively working together like the joy many of us find preparing a meal in the kitchen TOGETHER. When one takes a step back and honestly examines how organizations work, lots of people are around each other but how much do they really do TOGETHER?

Character Moves: 

  1. The simple principle of loving people and using things versus loving things and using people is a great reminder. Pursuing the value you bring to others each day will help you (and me) stay on the tight track. The counter intuitive irony is that focusing on giving and creating value as a purpose gives most of us the “things we need.”
  2. Examine your TOGETHER quotient and consider increasing it at work and other parts of your daily life. Going to Starbucks, plugged in besides a bunch of other people on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or texting doesn’t count. Around is not together. TOGETHER means connecting hands, mind, and heart where we matter to each other’s success. 

More TOGETHER in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Finding this balance is definitely tricky. I feel I’m personally trying to move a million miles an hour, and find ways to earn greater success in all elements of my life… Technically almost everything I do can be attributed to the idea of ME getting more for myself… I’d like to look for more opportunities to work TOGETHER while still obtaining my goals, even though that doesn’t always seem practical or possible. It’s that whole “(excess) MAY not buy you happiness, but having none of it will certainly buy you misery” mentality… Fortunately, reminders about the value and importance of working TOGETHER helps me rethink how I can do more of that now, and still keep moving forward in a better way. 

– Garrett 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis