Beat the Happiness Lottery

“Have a great day, Love Ya!” Sound familiar?  I bet this is the most common ending to many a telephone call with family. I use it so often I sometimes forget I am talking to a colleague instead of a family member and add “Love Ya” to the end of my telephone call. Oops!

But doesn’t everyone start their day expecting it to be great? Apparently not!
According to The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt we know that:

•    We are born with a biological predisposition, or brain set-point, for happiness
•    Life has a lot of happiness potholes
•    Happiness doesn’t just come from within

The obvious question – in the cortical lottery, what if your set-point dictates below average happiness? Good News! You are not doomed to be unhappy. You can take action to make yourself happier.

Diagnose Yourself
‘Authentic Happiness’ is the homepage of Dr. Martin Seligman’s website, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Go to to develop insights into yourself and the world around you through scientifically tested questionnaires.  Were you born to be an optimist or are you going to have to work at it?

Improve Your Mental Hygiene
Are you one of those folks who obsess over things? You don’t seem to have a quiet mind? Not us managers! Did you score low on the various happiness and optimism measures?  Cognitive therapy, exercise and meditation will all help to change your thoughts to the positive – or at least stop you from ruminating.

 Improve Your Relatedness
Jonathan Haidt’s research showed that we need others to be happy. “We were made for love, friendships and family, and when we spend a lot of time alone, or free ourselves from the “constraints” of relationships; it is generally bad for us.” This also applies to our relationships with our employees.

He suggests:
•    Ask yourself the “deathbed” question: On your deathbed, will you wish you had spent more time at the office, or with your friends and family?
•    Work on your most valued relationships. Just emailing them doesn’t count!
•    Create a group of friends who does things together.
•    If you don’t have a dog, and you are not getting your recommended daily allowance of relatedness, get one.

Improve Your Work
Most of us don’t have the luxury of choosing “the” perfect job. But we can all take steps to make it more satisfying and ourselves more appreciative and happy while doing it. Is your work just a job, a career, or a calling?

•    If it is just a paycheck, re-frame it in your own mind
•    Take your top 5 strengths and use at least one every day on the job for personal gratification and self-improvement

Improve Your Connection to Something Beyond Yourself
Our lives are made fuller as a contributing member of a larger community
•    Consider joining an organization that allows your participation to have purpose.
•    Volunteer with work that takes you out of yourself and makes you feel vital.

I love the statement “Wherever You Go, There You Are” coined by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He says we have to stop constantly wishing we were somewhere else. Do you ever think that if you were on vacation, in a different job or had different circumstances, that somehow you would be happier?  I do sometimes.

Not true. We have to focus on being in the present – trying new things, meeting new people, being more peaceful with what we have right now to truly be happier.

You know that happiness and meaning come from getting the relationship right between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself.  Work at it and the benefits will be smiles and a contented nature all the time. Imagine what that would feel like!

By Debra Koenig, President of B2A Consulting | 30 years of experience as a business executive with leadership and consulting skills in Fortune 500 and private equity portfolio companies.


4 responses to “Beat the Happiness Lottery

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  2. Happiness comes to them who opens their door for small treats that life provides to them. So be happy and live longer!

  3. Pingback: How to be happy? Choose to be happy! « Happinessguru's Blog

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