Understanding happiness & its causes

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Last week I attended the 10th annual Happiness & Its Causes conference at Luna Park. It was a wonderful, life-affirming event attended by 2000 plus delegates and chocked with presentations and sound-bites from some of the brightest minds within Psychology (Barbara Fredrickson, Timothy Sharp, Robert Biswas-Diener, Paul Gilbert, Russ Harris), the Dalai Lama and some great talent including Ruby Wax, Ben Lee, Lior and Nigel Westlake. Over the past couple of decades, Psychologists have become increasingly interested in understanding what factors enable people to flourish in work and life more broadly (rather than merely focusing on what makes people sick). The field has come a remarkably long way in terms of its understanding of what factors contribute to a meaningful, rich and happy life.

What I found particularly powerful, though, was hearing the personal stories of overcoming adversity of some public and lesser-known personalities. It struck me that despite the significant knowledge that psychologists have amassed in this space, it appears that many people do not invest much time, energy and attention into the realm of happiness and well-being until they are jolted into it through life circumstances. It is not until we or someone close to us is confronted with adversity that we actually start to deeply contemplate what matters most to us.  Doing so at other times can often feel indulgent or less important amongst all the other competing and pressing demands and tasks on an ever-growing to-do list. There is, however, a growing body of research to suggest that the well-being of individual leaders is a strong predictor of follower well-being. And we know that happy employees are healthier, more productive, more creative and inspire greater customer loyalty. So, focusing on our own and our employees well-being is not only the right thing to do but it makes good commercial sense.

What if everyone invested more time and energy in understanding and pursuing a rich, full and engaged life? How can you start to tap into the resources and narratives you have within you now to build resilience, optimism and well-being? And what might be possible if we helped the children and teenagers in our lives to do the same?

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) have identified the following 5 ways to well-being:

  1. Connect
  2. Be active
  3. Take notice
  4. Keep Learning
  5. Give

Ask yourself:

  • What small things can I do today to strengthen an important relationship in my life?
  • How might I broaden my connections within my community?
  • Where are the opportunities in my daily life to be active? Perhaps, a walking meeting at work? A 7-minute work-out?
  • How can I bring a childlike curiosity to everyday experiences? What might I notice if I put down my smart phone more often?
  • What is one daily activity that I could really savour? My morning coffee or shower? Lunch or the ferry ride into work?
  • How can I continue to stretch my mind at work?
  • What small thing can I do for someone else?

So, what more could you be doing to improve your happiness today? Who can support you and/or hold you accountable?

At Optim, we are passionate about supporting senior executives as they work through these and related issues.  Please get in touch to learn how we might be able to help you thrive at work and in life.