“Happiness is a skill”. This is the conclusion offered by Eiji Han Shumizu when asked about his lessons from the making of the documentary Happy. That happiness is a skill also implies that some people are better at it that others, and more importantly: It is trainable.
“Happiness is a skill”
– Eiji Han Shumizu, producer of the Happy movie
The same uplifting conclusion can easily be made when watching the award winning film. The Happy movie premiered in 2013 following a six-year journey round the world by Eiji Shumizu and colleagues. The moves is a collection of their best and most insightful findings, and this viewer found it fascinating from start to finish. In the editing the producers used the time-honored technique of mixing expert interviews with real-life stories from common folk around the world. The faces of those profiled in this manner serve beautifully to exemplify the scientific finding, of which there are many.
On the scientific side of things, the movie stands on solid ground. A host of the worlds’ leading researchers from positive psychology were interviewed for the movie, including:
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, father of Flow and author of the book by the same name
- Ed Diener, author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth
- Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness
- Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness
Next to these figures of authority, His Holyness The Dalai Lama makes an entrance, along with a large selection of common folk from around the world. We meet the happy residents of the small Japanese island of Okinawa (home to the worlds’ biggest concentration of centennials), the vibrant and close-knit Blanchard family from the american south, the single mom from the danish co-housing community, the dirt-poor but happy rickshaw driver from Bangladesh and many others.
I met the man with the idea to the movie, producer Eiji Shumizu, at a seminar on happiness. The location: His island home on Bali, Indonesia. Here I got the chance to ask about his motivation to undertake the project as well as what lessions he himself took from traveling the world in search of happiness. See the interview in the clip below.
I highly recommend the movie, and it is suitable for viewing in a range of situations. At workplaces it is fitting for a socialt event and debate, and families will find if thought provoking and an inspiration for actively creating an even better family life.
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So, it’s monday around the corner, a day that many people dread, or at least view with some regret. A day where most people again have to get up early, and a busy change from a calm sunday. If you’re like me, Saturday nights’ party can still be felt, and that second Sunday would really come in handy right now…
My mondays are, however, always great days, and just as energizing and fun any Friday. I thought I’d put together a recipe for getting the off to a good start of the week, so you can happy at work right from Day One. It’s quite simple really – maybe that’s why I usually manage to follow this advice myself :o)
Our expectations are of huge importance to our levels of happyness at work as well as in life in general. The great news from the field of psychology is that boosting expectations is quite easy and effective. Simply giving attention to the things we can to look forward to can improve our mood and wellbeing. So try answering this simple question:
- What do I have to look forward to this week?
Try to name at least three different things for both work and at home. Positive expectations at work can be in relation to upcoming deadlines, exiting events, replies you are waiting for, places to go, or people to interact with. For me, I look forward to launching a facebookpage to go with this site, giving three talks on happiness at work as well as two quiet days alone, with time to work on the next book. Privately, I look forward to a tournament wargame on Monday, we’re having friends over for my homemade deluxe Paella Tuesday night, and Saturday brings the party of the month. Find your 3+3 things now.
Ambitions and goals for the week
I’m not a fan of long to-do lists, since I feel they drain my energy and only make it clear that work is never done. What works better for me is defining, usually on Sunday or Monday, which important tasks I will, as a minimum, get done the coming week. Usually it’s two or three things of huge importance that I promise myself I will get done.
Having these in mind helps me prioritize my time when the bucket-load of other stuff to do invariable shows up. Email, calls, snail-mail and meetings all add to the weeks load, but my first priorities remain the same. For this week, it’s relocating the website to a new domain (yay, HappyWays here we come!) and writing a page a day on the book project Ways to be Happy at Work. The post My Positivity List, from my free eBook is an example of what to book project is about. 82 tips are now done, 18 to go, so one a day is huge progress. What are your top priorities this week?
The success review
On Friday, look back at the week and note what the major achievements were. How did it go with the top priorities, and what other great results, progress or experiences stand out? Counting your blessings is an absolute classic from Positive Psychology, with measurable impact on your levels of happiness.
The daily repeat
Each day, I do a quick daily version, almost on auto pilot:
- What do I look forward to today?
- What is to one or two things that I absolutely will get done today? (I ask this before I check my mail for otherpeople’s priorities)
- At the end of the workday I count my blessings by asking, specifically: What were three good things today? Things I’m happy about, grateful for, or proud of? It makes for great dinertime conversations, as opposed to the classic pasttime of complaining about your day.
Let’s all have a great week!
Ever been in a meeting where the most pressing thought was something like I’ll never get back that hour of my life…? Then you have witnessed firsthand the sad truth, that a lot of meeting are a waste of time, effort and sheer human potential. It’s time to cut back, reclaim your worklife and be more happy at work.
The incremental way to happier meetings
There are many ways of tweaking your meetings so the cost on your soul is reduced. Here’s a few tried and tested methods:
- No table, no chairs. Doing a meeting standing in a small circle
- Schedule short meetings, 20 minutes max
- Set a timer or a buzzer, and stop the meeting when it goes of
- Start in a positive way, with good news. This has been shown by psychologists to increase productivity in meetings
- Invite fewer people – and no tourists. All those that just need to “bee in the loop” can be told after any relevant, specific decisions have been made.
- Make attendance voluntary. If people believe their current work is more important, they’re right. Do more to make them understand why this is important too, if that is even true.
The full monty: Kill a meeting
How long does a one hour meeting take? One hour? If there are 6 people in the meeting, it actually 6 hours spent, and with time to get to and from the meeting, and getting back to what you were working on, it’s more like 8 hours. That’s a full workday just because 6 people needed to get a detailed status, discuss endlessly over some problem or were just trying to look good. Meeting with customers are often like that: A show of keeping up appearances and seeming genuine, without much deep insight being shared or solutions designed. Smile and wave, keeping it cute and cuddly.
Skip your next meeting. If it’s your meeting, then give everyone their time back, so they can get some work done. If the meetings is someone else’s, then simply turn down the offer to attend (mental note: it’s always just an offer), and go get some work done. Later you can ask someone if there’s something you need to know after the meeting. Often it can be said if very few sentences, and that’s the scary part.