Thursday, December 23, 2010

Structuring Happiness in 8 Steps (2)

STEP 5: Empower Broad-based Action and Remove Barriers

Unleash yourself to do your best to achieve your vision. To bring about the changes which will bring happiness, you might be required to do things which you have not done before (or are uncomfortable doing them). You have to move out of the comfort zone and develop ease for those activities. Work and acquire the necessary skills. Update yourself regularly on the required tools.

Remove as many barriers as possible which obstruct you from bringing about the change you want. These could be in the form of time consuming activities which are hardly of any consequence like watching television, purposeless surfing on the net, etc. If your network of friends or relationships do not support the changes you want change have an honest dialogue with them and if required change your interactions with them.

STEP 6: Generate Short-term Wins

If your plans for a change require significant and/or long term effort, short-term wins (related to your strategy to change) are essential. Short term wins must be both visible and unambiguous. These short-term achievements provide positive feedback, increase motivation and help build up momentum. They also provide feedback to help you fine tune your vision. Savouring success would make you eager for more in a more efficient way.

Short term achievements are usually the result of careful planning and effort. Although you may see changes as you implement your strategy to change you have to identify the achievement milestones.

STEP 7: Don't Let Up (Consolidate Gains and Produce More Change)

As you start savouring victory there might be a tendency to relax, celebrate and take a break. This may result in your losing critical momentum resulting into regression. Once regression sets in, rebuilding momentum is a daunting task.

Continue removing the undesired behaviours. At each victory instead of relaxing reinvigorate with more changes in accordance with your vision and let more activities reflect the changed behaviour.

STEP 8: Make Change Stick (Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture)

To prevent resistance from re-asserting itself, the new behaviours must be diligently practiced to make them natural to you. The new practices must grow deep roots in order to become firmly planted, spontaneous and strong enough to replace old patterns of behaving.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Structuring Happiness in 8 Steps

People know that to be happy they need to make some changes. However most people are unable to bring about this transformation. Some dont begin and some efforts lose steam after a decent start.

John P. Kotter is widely regarded as the foremost speaker on the topics of Leadership and Change. He is considered an authority on how the best organizations actually achieve successful transformations. Dr. Kotter outlines a 8 Step Process to help organizations succeed in an ever-changing world.

I think the steps described by him can be adapted to bring about personal transformation to achieve more happiness.

STEP 1: Create a Sense of Urgency

Examine the realities which affect your happiness. Identify the problems and the major opportunities which exist, to create a sense of urgency.

The sense of true urgency comes from a deep determination to win and not from an anxiety about losing. Whatever might be our reason to seek happiness, urgent action will be created by a gut-level determination to move, and win, now and not by feelings of contentment, anxiety, frustration, or anger.

STEP 2: Develop your Guiding Team

You have to recognize the fact that the availability of the right people is very important to the success of your program. It is possible that you may not find a person with all the required expertise. Get in touch and associate with people who have related skills which you want to develop to be happy. Share your intentions with them. They should have your trust and respect so that whenever you are slackening they can drive you to move towards the change you desire.

STEP 3: Develop a Change Vision and Strategy

Be as clear as possible how the future will be different from the past. The vision should make sense both to the mind and the heart. This vision will help you to make efforts in the right direction and go the extra mile when required.

Concurrently develop strategies which will help achieve your vision of changed behaviour, which will result in greater happiness. Obviously the vision should be flexible to incorporate new learnings and effects of a changed environment.

STEP 4: Communicate the Vision

You have to constantly and consistently communicate your vision (and strategies) to yourself and if you want to members of your guiding coalition. Use several methods to communicate to yourself (notes, pictures, clips etc). Keep the communication simple and vivid (it should create a vibrant picture).

One powerful way to communicate to yourself would be to consciously exhibit changed behaviour consistent with your vision.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting There

In his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith (same author who wrote about MOJO), defines 20 bad habits of leaders that hinders their further progress. Our previous experience with success may sometimes prevent us from thinking differently and cause us to resist change. He also mentions seven steps to change for the better. An elaborate review of the book can be read at The Simple Dollar.

Although I could identify with several points raised in the book, I felt that it would be difficult to remember and incorporate all the changes needed. I thought it would be useful to have a small statement which could summarize the key learning for me and serve as an easy reminder.

Acknowledge and offer significant inputs merrily.

Acknowledge: We have to acknowledge what colleagues are saying (16), acknowledge their contributions (10, 14, 17) and not claim credit that we don’t deserve (11). We also have to acknowledge when we make an error (12, 13, 15, 19).

Offer: We should ‘offer’ and not impose our ideas or standards (1,3).

Significant inputs: We should offer positive inputs which add significantly to the topic/matter rather than add our 2 cents to every discussion and on the other extreme we should not withhold valuable information (2, 8, 9).

Merrily: Our contributions should be based on a sense of joie de vivre and our interactions should have a sense of lightness. With a focus on the message (rather than the messenger), the use of destructive comments, negative qualifiers or the use of anger as a management tool is to be avoided (4, 5, 7, 18).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Money for Happiness

Money obviously provides an opportunity for happiness. Money allows you to choose and sample a wide range of experiences, from vacations at luxury locations to fine dining in pleasant company and luxury travel including space travel. It allows you to have more leisure time.

However the link between money and happiness is not strong. The wealthiest people aren’t the happiest people. Maybe the way that the money is used has the potential to influence an individual’s level of satisfaction and happiness.

The recent AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report, The Pursuit of Happiness, shows that although there are definite links between money and happiness, spending money wisely can bring greater contentment and make people happier.

According to the report, Australians with more money tend to be happier, while the least satisfied Australians are those on lower incomes. The median income for the two least satisfied groups was $15,000 and $22,000 dollars compared with $40,000 for those giving a higher rating for their level of happiness.

Interestingly, the relationship between happiness and money is also relative. The happier people tended to be those earning more than others in their peer group, while the more dissatisfied were earning less. This would mean that a person earning $70000 compared to his friends who earned $50000, would be happier than another person earning $90000 while his friends earned $115000.

The report mentions that particular types of wealth such as the family home, superannuation and savings are linked to greater happiness than other types of wealth. Spending money on home, home renovation or holidays is likely to provide more satisfaction than spending money on eating out, a new car or a new television. Having low or no credit card debt or no overdue bills is also likely to increase overall life satisfaction.

Factors like family and friends, health and work are significant contributors to happiness. The report shows younger and older generations are more satisfied than those that fall between. In their middle people experience an increase in their responsibilities, which can lead to stress. As people get older they have more leisure time and happiness increases. It is thus important to save for a comfortable retirement.

According to psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky we should be able to wring out rewarding experiences by the judicious use of money, so as to increase our happiness. The most effective empirically-supported ways include:

1. Spending money on activities that help us grow as a person (acquiring a new skill, investing in an entrepreneurial venture), strengthen our connections with others (meals with colleagues, car trips with friends), and contribute to our communities (donating to the needy).

2. Spending money on activities and experiences (trekking, watching concerts) rather than material possessions.

3. Spending money on many small pleasures (regular massages, weekly purchase of fresh flowers) rather than on one expensive item (a new car or a LED TV).

4. Spending on something that we work extremely hard to get and have to wait for (whether it’s a trip or a gadget) and enjoy the feeling of anticipation as we wait and hard-won accomplishment.

5. Taking time to value and savour the objects on which we have spent the money (the vacation, gadget, concert or the smiles of people we have helped).

6. Taking efforts to inject novelty, variety, and surprise in our buying activities.

7. Strive to compare less with others (e.g., focusing on how much fun the play was rather than on the luxury car our acquaintance drove to the venue in).

Monday, August 2, 2010


It is a general impression that due to technology we are well connected to others and socially interacting more. However, despite the advance of technology-supported interactions there is a reduction in the quantity and quality of social relationships. More and more people are reporting that they feel that they have no confidant and that they feel lonely.

Loneliness is not the same as solitude which some people prefer. Loneliness is not being alone but a subjective experience of isolation. People who are lonely feel that they are disliked, are often self-involved and lack empathy with others.

Besides the obvious mental component, loneliness also adversely effects physical health. The influence of loneliness on an individual’s health is comparable with well-established risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and obesity. Persistent loneliness affects the individual via a deleterious effect on stress hormones, immune function and cardiovascular function.

Studies have shown that both introverts as well as extroverts are likely to get a mood boost from bonding with other people. Thus when feeling blue, the primary urge for isolation is to be avoided while connecting to family or friends is quite desirable.

If you feel like making a difference, the first small step is to reach out and reach out a lot. Reaching out can be a simple gesture of acknowledging another person’s presence by a smile or a greeting. When trying to connect don’t think how useful the other person is going to be, instead think about the value you are going to provide through the interaction.

As you prepare to think of all the warm or smart things you are going to say to drive away your neighbour’s loneliness, you might need to be reminded that some people need a listener.

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB, 2010 Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316 [Full Text]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Questioning for Happiness

We indulge in several activities during the day without a deliberate thought regarding the satisfaction we obtain from performing the particular task. Although Marshall Goldsmith recommends the use of Mojo Scorecard for rating important activities, he mentions two simple yet significant questions to be posed after the completion of any activity.

1. How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from this activity?
2. How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in this activity?

Once the practice of asking these two questions becomes a habit; as an obvious consequence you would start asking the questions, even before initiating an activity. You could imagine yourself in the future having completed the activity and addressing the two questions. You may thus find yourself avoiding a senseless TV program to perform an activity which brings you more satisfaction.

The knowledge that you will evaluate activities against these two simple questions will make you more mindful towards the activity and you will tend to build in and experience more happiness and meaning in each activity. There might be a meeting which is unavoidable but isn’t purposeful for you. Having asked the questions beforehand, you could prepare yourself to make the task more meaningful. You could read more beforehand and ask clarifying questions thus gaining more insight. You could even bring in tasks which could be completed during the duration. Of course, it would be prudent not to start typing in a mail, when the boss is speaking.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happily Interviewed

You got the qualification, you got the right experience and you are confident about flooring the interviewer. As you look into the mirror and set the tie right by a micro- millimeter (so meticulous!), allow asking yourself if you are going to make the interviewer happy and if your ingratiation skills are honed. I know they don’t have a class for that at college.

Every candidate knows that he has to convince the decision-maker (the interviewer) that he or she is the best candidate for the position. They carry the impression that the recruiter will base his decision on the knowledge, skills, abilities and experience of the candidate. That’s also what the recruiters will tell everyone. However studies have shown that interviewers are unconsciously influenced by the pleasantness and social skills of an applicant.

Ingratiation is a strategic attempt to get someone to like you. The major tactics for ingratiation are (1) other-enhancement, (2) opinion conformity, (3) rendering favours and (4) self-presentation.

1. Other-enhancement means flattery. A person attempts to praise the qualities/achievements of the other person. Flattery is effective (more so at a sub-conscious level) and even you are inclined to be influenced by it.

2. Opinion conformity is conforming to the opinions of the target person. An individual expresses values, beliefs, or opinions that are known to be held (or can reasonably be assumed to be held) by the target person. It is believed that people like those with apparently similar values.

3. Rendering favors. A person tries to ingratiate himself or herself to the decision-maker by rendering favors over and above the call of duty.

4. Self-presentation is to present one's own attributes or to behave in a manner that the other would approve and like.

Following are some ingratiation items used by applicants:

1. I praised the organization.
2. I complimented the interviewer or organization.
3. I discussed non-job-related topics about which the recruiter and I share similar opinions.
4. I discussed interests I shared in common with the recruiter.
5. I found out what kind of person the organization was seeking and explained how I fit in.
6. I indicated my interest in the position and the company.
7. I indicated my enthusiasm for working for this organization.
8. I smiled a lot or used other friendly non-verbal behaviors.
9. I maintained eye contact with the interviewer.

Sounds easy to comprehend? There is a catch. Under the circumstances, the motive for ingratiation is quite obvious and the other person may see through the act. The skill is that one should be able to ingratiate without being obvious about it. The art is to do it and yet not be apparent about it. For example, conformity with the other’s opinion can be preceded by sufficient resistance.

Of course, there should be some fit between the qualifications and what the recruiter is looking for. If you have an advanced diploma in belly dancing and were even voted the most popular senior at college, you probably wouldn’t be selected at Google for the post of chief technology officer.


Higgins CA, Judge TA. The effect of applicant influence tactics on recruiter perceptions of fit and hiring recommendations: a field study. J Appl Psychol. 2004;89:622-32. [PDF]

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mojo and Satisfaction

Marshall Goldsmith is a professor, management consultant and executive coach. He is the author of acclaimed management-related literature. His new book, MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back When You Lose It, focuses on one attribute that all successful people share. He calls it Mojo.

His operational definition of Mojo is: that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts on the inside and radiates to the outside. The use of the word ‘now’ in the definition is interesting. It denotes that people with a positive Mojo love what they are doing when they are doing it. They are finding happiness and meaning in the present. He uses the word ‘Nojo’ to describe the opposite of Mojo.

While performing any activity we have two forms of associated Mojo; Professional Mojo and Personal Mojo.

Professional Mojo is a measure of the qualities that we need to bring to an activity in order to do it well and includes (1) motivation, (2) knowledge, (3) ability, (4) confidence and (5) authenticity. Personal Mojo is a measure of the benefits we may receive from a particular activity and includes (1) happiness, (2) reward, (3) meaning, (4) learning and (5) gratitude. The terms are individually delineated and the author’s guide is available here.

Marshall Goldsmith suggests rating your different important activities on each of the ten aspects on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. Using the Mojo Scorecard for a few days will allow observation of patterns. One will be able to identify areas of strong Mojo and areas of weakness. In fact, exploring the qualities in the scorecard for any endeavor makes the performance of the activity better and makes it appear more meaningful.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Seventh Key: Live for Enlightenment

Author Deepak Chopra says that the desire for happiness is only the beginning of a journey that reaches for higher fulfillment. The description has mystical components. The deeper desire is to achieve the original energy state of ecstasy and to experience the freedom that comes with complete awakening.

Enlightenment is the most aware state of existence; one that of complete awakening. It has to be considered a natural state of being. A glimpse into this state may be experienced during peak moments like while immersed in nature or an art form. These moments provide an experience of profound peace, love and joy.

We experience the world through our consciousness. Ordinary waking consciousness has components of fear and isolation. Progressive expansion of soul consciousness is recommended, which is safe, warm and welcoming.

How can you tell when you are making progress? By referring to the following indicators:

1. Your life flows with effortless spontaneity.
2. Love is becoming the motivating factor in your life.
3. You are discovering hidden sources of creativity and imagination.
4. You are accepting higher guidance.
5. Your choices benefit you and all those around you.

When you are on the right path, your ego begins to dissolve. You will then progress to cosmic consciousness, which means you are fully aware even when you are physically sleeping. Then one arrives at divine consciousness, when everything in the world is perceived as light. At the final stage one arrives at unity consciousness, where one ceases to see divisions and separations, as every moment and experience is a part of the ever-folding cosmos.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sixth Key: See The World In Yourself

Your perception of reality changes according to your state of consciousness. Your consciousness creates the reflection of your inner and outer reality. If your consciousness vibrates at the level of love, then you will experience love both inside and in the outer world. A conscious change in the reality to realize more joy requires you to go deep within and transform your inner core.

The highest level of consciousness is pure being which may manifest as spontaneity, wonder, joy and playfulness.

Pure being leads to the highest level of feeling. Four values which constitute the high level of feeling include: (1) Loving kindness (2)Compassion (3) Joy at the success of others and (4) Equanimity, peace.

The highest level of feeling creates the highest level of thinking and doing. At the highest level of thinking is a constant flow of creativity accompanied by feelings of joy and compassion. At the highest level of doing, your actions extend beyond personal advancement and reach to benefit everything around you.

The first step to take is to be mindful. Awareness of breath is one of the initial recommended practices of mindfulness.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fifth Key: Focus On The Present

We often need reasons to be happy. We find the reasons by remembering the past or anticipating the future (The same process works when we find reasons for worry/anxiety). Happiness without reason is referred to as bliss. Moving neither forward nor backwards, makes bliss available. You become free from the constant loop of thought, evaluation and analysis. The silent state of being is the home of bliss.

As an initial step you must cultivate a new sense of awareness and practice mindfulness in your daily activities. You must be aware of what is and not overshadow it with what was or what could be. Slowly a realization develops that there is fullness in every present moment.

The empowering ability to separate the moment from the situation then develops. The still point in midst of the endless transformations is identified.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fourth Key: Give Up Being Right

An enormous amount of energy becomes available once you give up the need to be right.

If your sole identity is about being right, then you are always under the threat of being proven wrong or having your authority taken away from you.

You must realize that you see the world as you are. Others see the world as they are, too. This insight is tremendously liberating because it makes you realize that there can exist an equality of viewpoints. You express your point of view, but give up the need to defend it. When the need to be right fades, grievances and resentments decrease and so do anger and hostility.

A beautiful exercise is recommended by Deepak Chopra. Everyday ask “What can love do? Show me. I am ready.” Say it out loud. Remember this statement for the rest of the day and be open to how life will reveal its answers to you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Third Key: Eliminate Toxic Emotions

Lack of joy and peace in day to day life is indicative of the presence of some contamination in body or mind. To regain our inner peace we need to we need to first get rid of our toxic conditioning.

There are 7 steps to get rid of the inner toxins at the spiritual level:

Take responsibility for your present response: When you take responsibility, you empower yourself. You do not depend on another person to make you happy, nor do you give another person the power to make you unhappy.

Witness what you are feeling: On experiencing a toxic emotion, increase your awareness and note where in the body the toxic emotion is residing (e.g. stomach, neck, shoulders, etc). Focus completely on the physical sensation. This increases the ability to be a silent, observing witness and without giving power to the negative emotion.

Label your feeling: Give a simple name to the sensation in your body (e.g. fear, anger, shame, guilt, jealousy.)

Express what you feel: This is a powerful step. Write down how a particular emotion makes you feel. Then, write it from the other person’s point of view. Next, write it from a third-person perspective as though you are a neutral journalist covering the event. After writing from the three perspectives, write down the current state of your feelings.

Going through the three perspectives expands awareness which is quite useful, because as a primary response most of us contract to our own single narrow view.

Share what you feel: Share your writing, or convey what you are comfortable sharing with a trusted loved one. However, use the three points of view and dont make a case for your own point of view. This will help further diffuse the negative emotions.

Release the toxic feeling through ritual: The toxic emotions can then be released by burning your writing or emitting your toxic emotions into a rock, and throwing the rock into a body of water or telling your burdens to a worry doll. You can make up one release method on your own too.

Celebrate the release and move on: The release, the freedom from toxicity is honoured through shared joy and gratitude. This can be symbolic and simple like decorating your room.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Second Key: Find True Self-esteem

Happiness comes from self-awareness and self-knowledge of your true self.

Most people confuse their self-image with their true self. This can become a source of unhappiness as people commonly base their self-image on external factors (object-referral) such as people, events, situations and physical objects.

The opposite of object-referral, is self-referral, which is turning within yourself to be everything that you need to be at this present moment. The true self is found at a level of existence that is independent of the good and bad opinion of others. When working from the true self, a person discovers inner peace and a sense of self-worth within his own being.

To bring about the positive change the most important precursor is awareness. You have to become aware of your motivations. You have to become aware of when you were acting out of ego and when from your true self.

To increase awareness, one interesting and powerful exercise is to recapitulate (in about 5 minutes) the whole day like a movie and watch it as a neutral, non-judgmental observer. This helps to identify the motivations and behaviour patterns.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Ultimate Happiness Prescription

In his book ‘The Ultimate Happiness Prescription’ Deepak Chopra talks about certain practices in daily life which result in joy and fulfillment. He writes about seven keys which according to him would lead to self-knowledge and enlightenment.

First Key: Be Aware of Your Body

A person experiences happiness when the body is in a natural state. By listening to the body and responding with awareness a person can tap into infinite possibilities and experience naturally peace, harmony and joy.

A very interesting activity has been mentioned while discussing this topic. Allocate time (about 20 minutes) to yourself when not feeling rushed, relax and simply tell your body that it can do whatever it wants. Whatever your body wants to do, allow it to do it without any restriction. You may feel the need to emit a deep sigh, remember a specific memory, feel tense in a certain area, feel relaxed in another area or even burst into tears or feel a deep sense of relief. These signals indicate that the body needs space to heal and refresh itself. An opposite effect will be produced if the body is in a natural state.