Tag: happiness

The Gift of Happiness? The Single Surefire Way To Be Happy: Give

Checklists, Front foot, Improvement No Comments

It is already early November. Despite the unseasonably warm weather in the UK, we are firmly moving toward the festive season; though I spotted the first Christmas merchandise in the stores by late summer.

The holidays and the associated greeting cards are increasingly branded as time for those of all faiths, and none: “Happy Holidays!”

However, there is a common denominator that unifies all traditions. From the biblical exhortation that ‘it is more blessed to give than receive’ to the eastern emphasis on developing and practising compassion. Even the self-help industry chimes in agreement. In the happiness movement we hear that giving to others (of your time, money, skills) is the surest way of living a joyful life.

If you look around there are lists and lists of things to give up to discover a more contented life. However, when considering the most respected checklists for happy living the emphasis on serving others jumps out. Paradoxically possibly, we are told that when we give up the sole focus on trying to make ourselves happy and consider on what we can do for others, then that is the moment that we are most likely to discover joy for ourselves.

Do you want inspiration and encouragement to help in this gift focused stance?

The story of ‘Join Me’ from Danny Wallace and the associated global movement for RAOK – Random Acts of Kindness are entertaining reads.

And in mid-January a bunch of musicians are getting together in Cambridge to do a few things:
1. Remember how important mental well-being is, and how hard that can be for some to achieve, especially in the dark of mid-winter, a few weeks after the fun (and disappointments) of the festive holidays.
2. Put the spotlight on a number of good causes – charities that are looking for support.
3. Bring together a load of different people for a good time – and also ask, what can you give, this year, right now?

Interested? You would be very welcome. Have a look here.


NPO – the upside

Noble Purpose No Comments

Whilst there can be disillusionment and burnout and pain in Noble Purpose Organisations, I have had two conversations just this week that illustrate the potential, the upsides too.

One friend has recently joined a national mental health charity. She is hugely impressed with the systems and procedures so everyone knows what is expected of them. Some of the features she has experienced in other NPO jobs (eg ignored poor performance, erratic sickness leave) are clearly checked. She is happy, and reports her colleagues are, despite their pressured jobs.

I met someone else a couple of days ago. A nurse, nearing 60, working part time on a busy ward in a teaching hospital. She is independently wealthy and has many other interets, but is not planning to retire. Why? She loves the work and the patients (the purpose). And critically, I think, because she has fantastic colleagues on the same ward every time. They support each other to do the right thing in frequently trying circumstances.

This links to the “NPO A list” (see next time).

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The meaning of life is…a project

Personal productivity No Comments

Did you see this BBC report of a study claiming retirement can be bad for your health?

I am struck how many of my ancestors never made it to 60, after years of working in hazardous environments like coal mines, factories or agriculture (or battle fields). Now there is a new problem of finding meaning in later life it seems. But, if older people do paid work for longer then some ask “what about having enough jobs for younger people”?

Talking yesterday at a family event I was struck how far those there who were in their 70s

1) Loved not working – and wouldn’t want to go back to it!

2) But they had found many other things to keep them active (from making furniture, improving their golf handicap, learning Italian, going for longs walks, helping younger and older relatives etc). Many of these were seen as projects. By the way, I notice that those who are independently wealthy at a younger age tend to keep working – with many projects on the go (from new business start ups, learning to paint, writing a book, funding a restaurant etc.)

Much of this ‘project’ approach involves happiness ingredients (helping others, paid or unpaid, counting your blessings etc.) – as outlined in this previous blog

One colleague reflecting on the BBC article and the conversations about it notes that a fashionable question at the moment is ‘what makes us human?’ Maybe a good answer might be “Projects” (paid or unpaid, it probably doesn’t matter).

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What have the Romans done?

Reflect No Comments

The Olympics are over (with the Paralympics to come – which I am very excited to be going to see in the main stadium).

There were great performances from many countries.  Even before ‘Always look on the bright side’ in the closing ceremony, we couldn’t help recalling the opening ceremony and how it triggered memories of The Monty Python sketch from Life of Brian.

What have the Brits ever done for us…

Whilst it ignored imperialism, the ceremony claimed:

The industrial revolution

The welfare state

The World wide web (much to the surprise of the Americans)

Confident humour

Leading music

As Gary Lineker summed it up: “Barmy, bonkers, British, Bold – Bravo Mr Boyle”

Keeping all this in mind for what might be a difficult next 12 months, could be useful – celebrating what is good as a platform for hard times ahead for many, after the summer and the forthcoming buzz of the Paralympics.

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All the difference a day (and many years) makes

Plan No Comments

In a briefing in 2009  we took a long view of human history – well 100 years anyhow.

This week we have been thinking of a 30 year time frame: due to an event celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the BBC microcomputer and the massive changes that piece of kit heralded and a health care project that is looking three decades into the future.

We have stopped and thought about how the world has changed since 1982. ‘The Lion Sleeps tonight’ was number 1 in the UK this day thirty years ago, and in the time from then to today we have seen the collapse of the singles music market, whilst computing has moved rapidly to stylised phones with the ability to play music (as the technology for listening to music has cantered through CD and mp3 to streaming). In UK health care, spending has rocketed and HIV and many cancers are long term conditions.

It is easy to take the perspective of the ‘boiled frog’ and miss the many sings of change going on around us. In the FT this weekend, Simon Kuper lists a number of reasons to be cheerful  from growing GDP per person, increasing life expectancy and lowering fertility. And if you don’t like that, in The Sun Jeremy Clarkson challenges those who have been saying 1976 was the best time to be a child- he reckons today is best with Adele, iPods and better hay fever tablets (over Showaddywaddy, cassette tapes and boxes of tissues).

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Planes, Trains etc = Happy Thanksgiving

Front foot, Reflect No Comments

At this time of economic anxiety and woe, there are still, in the words of Ian Dury, reasons to be cheerful.

Recalling the seminal John Candy and Steve Martin film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, yesterday, on Thanksgiving eve, I travelled back from a client event and in just over 10 hours travelled by

– Taxi

– Train

– Underground

– Plane (two)

– Bus

– Car

I needed to manage a tram and ferry to travel by pretty much every sort of public transport!

The reason to be cheerful?  

Unlike the film, how smoothly everything went – other than one escalator and one lift failure.  I even managed to board an earlier plane for my second leg from Frankfurt airport.

It is easy to forget just how much goes right in the modern world, for those of us with more than minimal resources and who live in stable, developed counties.

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Signs and wonders?

Reflect No Comments

When away recently, we were amazed at the volcanic landscape around Spain’s highest mountain top.

It got us thinking about the classic 7 wonders of the world  and the competition to be the 8th.

In a summer of depressing defining moments in UK public life – what with the news around the global economy, media hacking and riots – what have you seen recently that has dazzled and delighted you…that has encouraged and filled you with wonder?

We start most of our web surveys with a question probing what is going well or giving hope. 

As ‘first things are fateful’ , where will you put your attention this autumn?

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Where do you put your attention?

Do, Reflect No Comments

If we create what we talk about, should you start your day with an argumentative media source?

Or with laughter and love?

Really, we have a choice…

An interesting interview from the guardian picks up the caution of starting the day with BBC Today programme and the power of Twitter.

Well, at least as long as it has only one mode of operation: argument.

A US-based collaboration provides an option for seeing the media as “an agent of world benefit”.

If you love news, why not skim read a number arguing different points of view – but do it lightly, and only for a while.

All this links to what we ‘feed’ to our heads and hearts during the day – and the power of positive thinking (see our think piece from a few years ago).

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Achieving the change

Do No Comments

Two and a bit weeks into the new year…do any of these sayings help? All draw inspiration from positive psychology.

“Motivation follows action”

“First you make your habits, then your habits make you”

“Fake it till you make it!”

“Put our behaviours where we want them, then our mind and heart will catch up”

“First hands, then head and heart”

Finally, from Ghandi…”be the change you wish to see in the world” (but that is possibly another story).

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Thanks giving

Reflect No Comments

It is the night before Thanksgiving (OK, this is written in London, but hang on in there)…

Getting a mini-cab in London…the car arrives.  A Prius with tinted windows – and well cared for.  The nicest mini-cab I have seen.

The driver is friendly.  Happy.

In conversation he shares his story…in 2001, he travels illegally from Afghanistan to Sangatte.  He climbs under a lorry and hangs on as it loads on and off Le Tunnel.  He shudders now to think of what would have happened if the lorry had been waved on to the M20 instead of being inspected by Customs and Excise.  He asks for asylum, and years later it is granted.  He now loves to travel – in and out of England on Eurostar – upstairs!  He loves the UK – he is so grateful for his chance.  He doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t appreciate what we have.  He wants to settle down and become fully English – living in the country, with a local wife.

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