Happier people, happier organizations

It seems like everyone wants to know the secret to happiness. We seek experts’ advice to guide us in the right direction. I attended a talk at the DPI Conference in May by Neil Pasricha, a bestselling Canadian author and TED speaker focused on positivity and simple pleasures as a foundation for a more productive and satisfying life. He flipped a common perception on its head: rather than working hard to be happy, it turns out that if we’re happy, we’ll do great work.

Neil struggled to find happiness just like the rest of us.  A divorce and loss of a close friend in a short period of time affected his ability to appreciate many things. He turned to writing a blog, titled 1000 Awesome Things, with posts about bubble wrap, snow days and the smell of a bakery. With the blog’s growth in popularity, Pasricha then published two best-selling books, as well as a children’s book. For the past 15 years, he has been developing leaders; creating global programs inside the world’s largest companies and speaking to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

His talk began with asking us if we knew what these numbers meant: 147, 150 and 295. Turns out, they are the average number of emails, times we check our phone and decisions we make each day. Scary, right? He gave us insight on how to focus on the decisions that matter in order to free up time and focus on being happier.

Secret #1: Change the way you approach your decision to be happy

Most people think that when you do great work, you’ll be successful and thus, happy. It’s the opposite; if you are happy, you will do great work and achieve success. 

Now, how exactly do we become happier? There are simple things that can be done every week that will lead to you being happier. Here are some options Pasricha advises to start over four weeks, then see how you feel:

  • Go on 3 walks per week (not in a mall)
  • Journal for 20 minutes at the end of your day
  • Commit to 5 acts of kindness (opening the door, staying late at work to help someone)
  • Meditate daily (Headspace is a free app with guided 10 minute sessions)
  • Express your gratitude 3 times a week (communicating it to someone you care about or writing them down)

Secret #2: Creating space (to solve problems)


Credit: Neil Pasricha

There is a 2×2 matrix that can help you classify your daily decisions, allowing you to file them based on time and importance and then choose to either automate, regulate, effectuate, or debate the decisions.

Here are some examples of decisions that fall under each category:

  • Automate: Daily meetings with staff
  • Regulate: The amount of calls made in a day
  • Effectuate: Planning for meetings
  • Debate: Solving problems and crises

The goal is to have the time necessary to focus on the important decisions in your life (debate section).

Secret #3: Turning biggest fears into successes

It’s all about perception. People typically spend a lot of time working up to taking action. Simply doing the action without thinking about it too much in advance gives you more confidence the next time you’re performing an ambitious task. If you’re jumping into action, you’re tricking your brain into thinking you have the confidence to do it, and you’ll feel ecstatic once you complete it with enthusiasm.

For example, instead of being hesitant about applying to a job, simply submit your resume and cover letter, and see what happens. Even if the job credentials seem frightening, you can present yourself as a suitable candidate.

There was a period in University where I was taking a full-time course load, working part-time and applying for a school abroad, while trying to maintain my GPA level before completing my Bachelor of Commerce degree. At night, after working and studying, it would be very difficult for me to turn off my brain. I stumbled upon Headspace and tried it. In those ten minutes, I let go of all of my frustrations. It helped change my view of daily frustrations and shed light on how I can be better to achieve my goals. It seems like 10 minutes is such a small part of our day, but when it comes to actually sitting still for 10 minutes, we rarely make that time.

Will you try any of the tips listed above? Let me know how they work for you.

Lisa is a consultant with over four years of experience with a focus on business process and service design. She has completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Marketing from the John Molson School of Business in Montreal, with a semester abroad at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.


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