Tag Archives: happiness

Three Good Things

[fr] Un truc que je fais pour cultiver mon optimisme (une chose qui contribue à rendre heureux, nous dit la recherche sur le bonheur): prendre quelques minutes le soir pour noter "trois bonnes choses" de la journée. Ça peut être des choses qui se sont bien passées, des choses que j'ai appréciées, des choses que j'ai faites ou qui simplement sont -- c'est égal. Juste l'occasion de braquer la torche sur des choses positives. Même dans une période extrêmement sombre, il y a du bon à trouver.

Cet exercice aide à se "brancher" sur un mode plus optimiste. En général, au bout de 2-3 jours je me sens déjà mieux! J'utilise Path pour faire ça, une application que j'adore parce qu'elle est faite pour partager avec ses proches, un petit nombre de personnes.

Traductions françaises des livres auxquels je fais référence -- ils sont tous bien, ne vous fiez pas aux titres un peu bof: Comment être heureux et le rester, La force de l'optimisme, L'intelligence émotionnelle. Bonne lecture!

Here’s something I do regularly that really quickly improves my mood — within a few days: take a moment each evening to make a note of “three good things” for the day. Things that went well. Positive things. Even in the shittiest times, you can find three things to look at positively.

I started doing it after reading The How of Happiness. One of the intentional activities that has been shown to make people happier is practicing optimism. Some time before, I head read Learned Optimism, which really changed the way I viewed the inner workings of my psyche. I had not realized that optimism was something you could train yourself into. And reasonably easily.

Making note of three good things during the day past is a way of tuning your brain into a “positive” mode. Positive attracts positive, negative attracts negative (that’s one thing I learned over a decade ago reading Emotional Intelligence: why it may make sense in certain gloomy times to just go watch a funny movie and laugh to “switch gears”).

You know when you start to spiral downwards, making a mental list of all the things that are going wrong today/in your life/this year? Well, you can do the same thing to go upwards. And all it may take is a few mindful minutes of your time to shine the light on good things.

I use Path for this. I love Path, though I’m connected to precious few people on it — scratch that, because I’m connected to few people. A dozen, maybe fifteen at the most. My good things are kind of private, not really blog or facebook material. Path works really well for this. And I have two-three Path friends who have started doing “three good things” too — I love reading those postings.

I usually do “three good things” for a while, then forget or drop off the wagon, and if I start feeling down or discouraged, I remember to get started again. And as I said, within a few days I’ve usually perked up.

This is one of the things I love about growing older: knowing yourself so much better. Fifteen or twenty years ago it would have taken me months to crawl out of what is now a slight dip that lasts a few days, a week at the most.

Have you tried this? Do you do anything similar?

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Posted in Personal, Psychology | Tagged Books, exercise, happiness, optimism, path, positive psychology, reading, three good things | 2 Comments

Delivering Happiness: A Book to Read on Running a Happy Profitable Business

I have just finished reading “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. It’s a much “lighter” read than “Here Comes Everybody”, though the lessons it delivers are just as profound. Whereas Clay Shirky’s book has points to make, supported by stories, Tony Hsieh’s is the story of Zappos and his own, making points along the way.

When I was working at Orange during the end of my studies, I used to say that if I ever ran a business, it would be unsustainable because my first priority would be to make it a good workplace, which cared about its employees. Zappos seems to have achieved that, and at the same time managed to be sustainable and profitable. It’s not a “despite that”, either. It’s pretty clear that what has allowed Zappos to survive and be profitable is it’s concern about treating people well — both outside its walls and in.

I see echoes of my quest over the last years in Tony’s interest in happiness. What makes us happy? How can we organise our lives and businesses to have more of that?

My distaste for much of the corporate world has all to do with the fact it values profit over people. The story of Zappos shows us it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to create a workplace where there is a higher purpose than profit, where profit is a means to preserving the culture and “tribe” of the company.

Reading “Delivering Happiness” has moved me a step further towards understanding the importance of brands. For me, the word “brand has a distasteful ring to it, because I guess it’s so often associated with a certain type of marketing and hollow messages. Seeing brand as the external flip side of company culture actually makes perfect sense, and might help me develop some of my thinking about my own brand (I know I have one), the eclau brand, the Going Solo brand, etc. A brand doesn’t have to be artificial.

If you’re interested in an inspiring story of building a business based on trust, values, personality, growth, happiness, purpose, transparency, and authenticity, read this book. You won’t regret those few hours of your life. And buy an extra copy to leave lying around at work.

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Posted in Books, Corporate | Tagged auchalet, business, happiness, human business, zappos | Leave a comment

My Interest in Organisations and how Social Media Fits in

[fr] Ce qui m'intéresse dans ces histoires d'organisations, et le lien avec les médias sociaux (du coup, aussi des infos sur mon intérêt pour ceux-ci).

I found these thoughts about organisations at the beginning of Here Comes Everybody fascinating: organisations and how they disfunction are a long-standing interest of mine, dating back to when I was a student with a part-time job at Orange. My initial interest was of course function rather than dysfunction. How does one make things happen in an organisation? What are the processes? Who knows what? It was the organisation as system that I found interesting.

Quickly, though, I bumped my head against things like processes that nobody knew of and nobody was following. Or processes that were so cumbersome that people took shortcuts. Already at the time, it seems I displayed a “user-oriented” streak, because my first impulse was to try to figure out what was so broken about those processes that people found it more costly to follow them than come up with workarounds. Or try to understand how we could tweak the processes so that they were usable. In reaction to which one manager answered “no, people must follow the processes”. I didn’t know it then, but I guess that was when I took my first step towards the door that would lead me out of the corporate world.

More recently, and I think I haven’t yet got around to blogging this, I have remembered that my initial very “cluetrainy” interest for the internet and blogging and social media really has to do with improving how people can relate to each other, access information, and communicate. The revelation I had at Lift’06 (yes, the very first Lift conference!) while listening to Robert Scoble and Hugh McLeod about how this blogging thing I loved so much was relevant to business was that it pushed business to change and humanised it. Blogging and corpepeak don’t mix well, blogging is about putting people in contact, and about listening to what is being said to you. As the Cluetrain Manifesto can be summarised: it’s about how the internet changes the way organisations interact with people, both outside and inside the organisation.

That is what rocks my boat. Not marketing on Facebook or earning revenue from your blog.

Again and again, when I talk to clients who are trying to understand what social media does and how to introduce it in their organisation, we realise that social media is the little piece of string you start pulling which unravels everything, from corporate culture to sometimes even the business model of the organisation. You cannot show the human faces of a company that treats its employees like robots. You cannot be “authentic” if you’re out there to screw people. You cannot say you’re listening if you’re not willing to actually listen.

Of course, there is the question of scale. I’ll get back to that. Personal doesn’t scale. Radical transparency or authenticity doesn’t scale. But your average organisation is so far off in the other direction…

I’ve realised that my interest lies more with organisations and forms of collaboration and group effort than with social media per se, which I see first and foremost as a tool, a means to an end, something which has changed our culture and society. I find ROWE and Agile super interesting and want to learn more about them. I have a long-standing interest in freelancing and people who “do things differently”. I’m interested in understanding how we can work and be happy, both. I’m also realising that I have more community management skills than I take credit for.

In the pile of books I brought up with me to the chalet, next to “Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do” by my friend Euan Semple and books around freelancing there is “Delivering Happiness“, the story of Zappos, and “One From Many“, the story of VISA, the “chaordic organisation” — and “Rework” (37signals) has now joined the ranks of the “have read” books in my bookshelves.

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Posted in Connected Life, Does This Need a New Category?, My work, Personal | Tagged auchalet, cluetrain, communities, company culture, corporate culture, groups, happiness, human, My work, orange, organisations, people, Social Media and the Web | Leave a comment

The Trap of Happiness: Big Things and Small Things, Outside and In

[fr] La clé, pour être heureux, n'est pas dans les événements ou circonstances extérieurs, mais dans nos activités. En nous, et non au dehors de nous. Ce n'est pas très intuitif, d'où le piège. ("Quand ceci ou cela arrivera, alors je serai enfin heureuse.")

I realized today that many of the things I agonize over, the big things of life, are probably not worth spending so much energy on.

These big things of life — work, relationships, where to live — are just the measly circumstantial 10% component of our happiness (50% is due to our happiness “set point”, and the remaining 40% depends on certain intentional activities).

If I’m agonizing over whether to pursue a relationship or not, whether to keep my current line of work or change it, stay put or move to another continent, I’m doing so because at some level, I believe those decisions hold the fate of my happiness. But they don’t.

This is not to say that major life changes have no impact on how we feel. Of course they do. And of course bad decisions can lead to pain and anguish. But if things are going reasonably well and the drive is to be happier, the research presented in The How of Happiness (which I’ve already blogged about) tells us that these major changes will probably have way less long-term effect on how happy we are than certain more modest-looking intentional activities that have been show to reliably increase happiness.

Major events give us a “happiness high”, which is maybe one of the reasons we keep on looking to them as the solution to our lasting happiness. Hence the trap of happiness:

We think that big important things like being in a relationship, having a great job, having kids or living in our dream city are going to make us happy, when in fact it is small day-to-day activities that make use happy. So when we’re unhappy, we yearn for big changes and stay stuck on “if onlys” rather than doing something that will actually make us feel happier.

For me, there is an important corollary to this:

The key to our happiness is inside of us, and not in exterior events.

This is nothing new under the sun, but I think that today I have really understood it.

You see, in addition to agonizing over “big decisions”, I spend a lot of energy hoping or waiting for things to happen which I expect will make me feel happier. Things that are outside my control or depend on other people. Without getting into details, this energy sometimes pushes me down alleys where I do things which I know are doomed to failure, which I know are a bad idea (and I can even explain why), but I have a very hard time stopping myself from doing them.

And I have understood today that the way to fight these “dysfunctional” urges is to remember where they come from: they come from feelings of unhappiness that I’m trying to address in the wrong way. I’m trying to make big things happen outside of me, rather than certain small things that involve only me — the “happiness activities” or “intentional activities” Sonja Lyubomirsky describes in her book.

Not surprisingly, some of them are already part of my “toolkit” for making myself feel better. Before reading The How of Happiness, however, I think I just hadn’t measured how important they were. And now I have extra stuff to add to my happiness toolkit. Yay!

So I’m making a note: to fight my gosh-I-wish-I-wasn’t-heading-for-that-wall-again urges, pick an activity out of my happiness toolkit. And I’m putting “working on being happier through daily activities” above my big “existential issues” on the priority list.

I find it ironic, in a way, that something as important as how happy we are (I mean, a huge amount of what we do, we do because in some way we’re trying to be happy) can be influenced by so small and seemingly trivial things.

It does explain, though, how we can tumble from “happy” to “not happy” in just a few clicks, and climb back to “happy” by answering two e-mails and cleaning the bathroom sink.

It’s not rocket science.

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Posted in Books, Personal, Psychology | Tagged activities, breakthrough, control, happiness, happiness activities, helplessness, intentional activities, law, life, passivity, rule, the how of happiness, trap | 2 Comments

Variety is the Spice of Life

[fr] De l'importance de varier les choses que l'on fait pour être heureux, les façons dont on s'organise, et le type d'article qu'on publie sur son blog. La routine ne tue pas seulement le couple. Vous avez d'autres exemples?

I’m in India. I’m reading “The How of Happiness“. The two are completely unrelated aside from the fact they come together to give me the title of this article.

Spice
Photo credit: Sunil Keezhangattu/Flickr

Don’t let the slightly corny title put you off as it did me, The How of Happiness is an excellent, solid, well-researched and practical book.

I don’t want to delve into the details of the book, but just share with you something that has fallen into place for me during the last week. It has to do with variety.

You see, in her book, Sonja Lyubomirsky doesn’t only go through the various things you can do to make yourself happier, or help you pick those that seem the best fit for you: she also insists on the necessity of varying the way you put them into practice.

The example that really made this point hit home for me was the one on “counting your blessings” (yes, corniness warning, directly from the author herself, but don’t let that stop you).

First, the test groups who were asked to write down the things they were thankful for 3 times a week ended up seeing less improvement in their happiness than those that were asked to do it only once a week. Doing it only once a week makes it more of an event and keeps boredom/immunisation at bay.

Second, even then, Sonja Lyubomirsky invites the reader to not do it in the same way every week. By writing, by conversation with a friend, upon certain occasions, about certain areas of your life, or in yet a different manner, so that it remains a meaningful practice. (Page 97, if you want to look it up directly.)

This immediately reminded me of a flash of insight I had one day walking in the mountains around my chalet. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I can see the road I was on and I remember the insight quite clearly.

Update: I found the article I wrote at the time, it was in 2009!

I was thinking of the different ways in which I had got organized, and how I seemed to become “immune” to a given method after some time had passed. The flash of insight was this: “maybe I just need to keep on finding new ways of getting organized.” I brushed off the idea, because it wasn’t comfortable, and wrote it down to the need to have different techniques for different contexts. For example, there are times when I’m more stressed than others. Times when I have more work than others. Times when I feel productive, and times when I need to kick myself down the two floors from the flat to the coworking space to get to work. Even my recent musings on freeform versus structured work go in that direction.

But in fact, I was right. Just like it’s important to vary “happiness activities/techniques” to prevent habituation (or worse, boredom), I think it’s important to vary one’s organization methods. Or at least, for me, it is. And it could well be because there is a “happiness” component for me in the act of getting organized. I like the feeling of being on top of things, of finding solutions to be productive despite my built-in procrastination engine, of learning how I function, of coming up with strategies to prioritize and get things done. And maybe — maybe — for me, trying to find one method that I can just stick to is a big mistake.

Another area I’ve recently connected “variety is the space of life” to is blogging. I’ve been hanging out with the communication team at Wildlife SOS these last days, volunteering a bit of my time and expertise to help them make better use of social media.

As I was inviting them to vary the type of article they publish on their blog (at the moment, almost all the stories are animal rescue stories), I realized that this was another example of this theme at work: “variety is the spice… of reader engagement?”

Even if as a reader, animal rescue stories are my favourites, I will actually enjoy them more if they stand out against other types of articles. And for another reader, the favourites might very well be “behind the scenes” articles or “get to know the team” ones.

By publishing only one type of “top post”, one turns it into the “average post”. Add a sprinkle of intermittent reward to the mix, and you’ll probably positively influence the way readers perceive your content. Isn’t it more exciting to head over to a blog which might or might not reward you with a new article, which might or might not be the type that moves you most?

Now think about relationships: don’t we say that routine is the biggest love-killer? Oh, some habits are nice — but you also want new stuff, changes from the habitual, different way of being together and relating to one another. Surprises. The unexpected. This is nothing new.

So, let me summarize. Variety is the spice of life. Not only should you flee excessive routine in your marriage or relationship, but also in the following areas:

  • activities that make you happy
  • how you get organized (work, and probably life too)
  • the kind of content you publish on your blog

Can you think of other areas where it’s a little counter-intuitive, but it actually turns out to be really important to add variety to the way you do things?

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Posted in Blogging, Books, Life Improvement | Tagged blog, book, content, happiness, india 2011, insight, organisation, routine, the how of happiness, variety | 10 Comments

Reboot9 — Alexander Kjerulf: Happiness

Here are my notes, unedited and possibly misleading, blah blah blah, of the Reboot9 conference.

Happiness (reboot talk page)

To be human is to be happier. No species has such a capacity to be happy (and unhappy!) as humans.

Has been helping make people happier at work.

Chief Happiness Officer

The Chief Happiness Officer

What is happiness? Let’s ask Google.

Happiness is the most important thing in life. 50% genetic (cf. twin studies). We have control over the other half. Pick something you really want. Ask “why?” a few times, and you’ll end up with “because that makes me happy”.

This proves we are here to be happy. Everything we want is because in some way, it will make us happy. Happiness is the most basic “why”.

Happy people:

  • have more friends
  • are healthier (better immune system)
  • live longer
  • suffer fewer depressions
  • are more successful.

Happiness is really easy. Epicurus: all you need to be happy is easy to get. Friendship, contemplation…

Martin Seligman: Happiness can be learned. Founder of positive psychology.

Happiness is…

  • not eternal (there will be bad days)
  • your responsibility
  • your choice (happiness does not depend on what happens to us… completely — it’s more about how we react to what happens to us, and what we choose to do about it)

Myths about happiness:

  • happy people are selfish — not so, happy people care more about others
  • happy people are complacent — nope, it feels good to do good
  • happiness is the absence of problems — nope, happy people in the world are not those who have no problems; Epicurus “The wise man is still happy amidst his torments”.

What makes us happy?

  1. Friends, family and marriage — Love, actually.
  2. Meaningful, enjoyable work
  3. Living a good life, according to values that make sense to you.

Biggest threats to happiness:

  • TV
  • consumerism

These are links, because TV drives a lot of the consumerism. Introduction of TV in Bhutan in the 90s. Life satisfaction fell, suicide and depression rates climbed, clothing changed to what teenagers wear in the US. The news is not good on TV.

Guess where we spend most of our time: in front of TV and in the jobs that give us the money to support the consumerism.

  1. sleep
  2. work
  3. TV

And TV is starting to overtake work. steph-note: don’t watch TV! throw it out! haven’t watched mine in 6 months, and much happier :-) .

Scary thing: average British working parent spends 19 minutes per day with kids.

We tend to not know what makes us happy. “I’ll be happy when…” We are goalaholics. Book: Goal-Free Living. Start by being happy, instead of “being happy when”.

The dangers of seeking happiness: two major things can go wrong.

  1. Emptiness

Nothing to strive for, suddenly life is all too easy. If I’m not happy there must be something wrong with me. One area of research has really been revolutionized by happiness: economics. They should run Britain based on making the British has happy as possible, rather than growth. In Bhutan: growth of national happiness. Denmark: happiest country on earth. There is a correlation between GNP and happiness, but… USA/Puerto Rico: same happiness, different GNP.

  1. Subversiveness

Happy people are the greatest danger to some of the structures that are holding us back. If you’re really happy, you don’t give a sht. You don’t fall for scare politics. *steph-note: yes! yes! You don’t fall for consumerism either (“you’ll be happier if you drive this SUV”). You don’t fall for the corporate crap either, or the self-help, the cults and the gurus, religion…

Simple things you can do to be happier:

  • gratitude visit
  • write down three good things about your day today
  • throw out your TV

Less simple things:

  • put happiness first in your life (career and consumerism second!)
  • know yourself (what makes you happy/unhappy?)
  • base your work on happiness

Wrap-up:

  1. we’re here to be happy
  2. happiness is easy
  3. we tend not to know what makes us happy
  4. happiness is subversive and that’s how we’re going to change the world.

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Posted in Stuff that doesn't fit | Tagged AlexanderKjerulf, Events, happiness, notes, reboot, reboot9, talk | 7 Comments