How do we know if we’re happy? How can we bring more awareness into our lives so we can pay attention to when we’re happiest, and why?
A couple of seminars over the last two weeks have been focusing my mind in this area. The first was a seminar run by Dr. Kevin Money from Henley Business School, in which he laid out the three criteria thought to lead to overall happiness. These 3 criteria are based on pioneering research into Positive Psychology in business conducted in the UK, and in association with the University of Pennsylvania (www.authentichappiness.com).
1. ‘Stuff’. That’s right – stuff! In other words, anything that makes you happy. If having a home cinema system, top of the range Porsche and every techno-gadget makes you happy then that’s cool. Conversely, if watching a beautiful sunset, traveling to the end of the earth or having fresh flowers every week makes you happy, that’s cool too. It’s all about values – if you can align ‘stuff’ with what you value then you’re one third of the way towards being happy.
2. Continual Learning & Flow. Research shows that people who continually stretch themselves most often find themselves in a state of ‘flow’ – when what you’re doing feels effortless, you feel ‘alive’ and buzzing, when time ‘flies by’. Dr. Money defined the state of ‘flow’ as being “a match between your strengths and the demand of the situation”. So – this means you need to know what your strengths are (do you? really?), and then find out where they can be of most service.
3. Meaning and Purpose. This is where what you’re doing is fulfilling a purpose that’s bigger than yourself. So it’s not just about working to have your ‘stuff’. It’s about connecting to some larger purpose. This is what gives people meaning in their work-lives.
One important thing – it’s not about any one of the above leading to happiness, but a balance between all three. It’s not ‘either… or’, it’s ‘and… and’.
Final thoughts: Research shows that you’ll be happier if you make what you’re good at excellent, than trying to develop new skills that don’t come naturally to you. Rely on other people to fill the gaps of what you’re not so good at.
And, write down 3 good things that had happen at the end of every day, and WHY they were good; people who did this were happier over a 3 – 6 month period.
Next week – Insights from Dr. Robert Holden, Director of The Happiness Project – what does happiness and success mean to you?