Happiness is difficult to define because it means so many things at once. It can describe the moment, after a long day, when you kick off your shoes and curl up on the couch with a bowl of ice cream, but it’s just as good a word for the overarching satisfaction that comes from living a life that is at once challenging and rewarding.
Because it applies to a range of moments, experiences and feelings, from the tiny to the momentous, pursuing it successfully is a complicated exercise. Yet it’s a vital one. “We all share the same wish and desire to live a life full of wellbeing,” says Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain (Hodder, 2013).
But where to start? Is chasing hedonic wellbeing – that instant surge of positive emotion we feel when we sit back on the coach with a big bowl of ice cream – a good strategy? Is the solution simply to increase our couch/ice-cream time?
Of course not. Most people accept that true happiness is more than a string of moment-to-moment pleasures—instead, it’s probably better described as a more constant state of “fulfillment” or “contentedness.”
This brings us to “eudaimonic wellbeing,” the fancy Greek term for happiness derived from the pursuit of a larger life purpose. Activities like volunteering, building a career or parenting often contribute to this type of wellbeing – while they rarely provide instant gratification (and can be stressful and challenging on a moment-to-moment, day-to-day basis) they help us feel connected, productive and purposeful on a long-term scale.
Related: (Video) Pursuing Happiness
It turns out, like most things in life, happiness is a balancing act. “Sometimes we’re successful at pursuing long term goals, and other times, we give into moment to moment appeal,” says Michael Steger, a psychology professor at Colorado State and co-author of Designing Positive Psychology: Taking Stock and Moving Forward (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Fortunately, according to Davidson, it’s also a skill that can be mastered. “We can practice certain mental habits that lead to enduring happiness, [such as] changing our relationship to emotionally significant events, so that we don’t run away from the negative challenges and crave the positive incentives,” he says.
“That’s something all of our research indicates can be learned.”
To bring yourself closer to happiness, try some of these strategies:
Eudaimonic wellbeing, on the other hand, often requires that we endure what’s uncomfortable (the pain we feel as we train for a marathon, say) or sacrifice instant gratification (passing on dessert) in pursuit of a greater good or goal.
Luckily, certain activities can activate both senses of wellbeing at once. “A lot of what we do is pretty blended between the two,” Steger says, and gives the example of working in an emergency room. Clearly, it’s easy to see how that could fulfill a sense of greater good and purpose, but for some people, it also feels good in the moment.
These are the types of activities we should actively seek out and if possible, shape into a profession. In other words, don’t pursue a career just because the end goal is fulfilling and rewarding.
To some extent, you need to enjoy the process: “That will help you when you run into challenges and stay motivated,” says Steger. “If you are pursuing a career that allows you to contribute to your family and community but you hate every minute of it, that’s going to be hard to sustain.”
Get curious. “One of our strongest motivators as humans is the desire to avoid situations that we think are going to be unpleasant; it’s powerfully reinforcing behaviour – you feel good because you reduce your anxiety, and in the short term that makes things easier,” Steger says.
Unfortunately, that impacts our eudaimonic wellbeing; shutting out everything that makes us nervous, uncomfortable or anxious limits the scope of our world to a suffocating degree.
“In the short term [avoiding discomfort] feels fine. It significantly reduces anxiety. But in the long term, we fail to discover potentially awesome new sources of excitement, enthusiasm and inspiration; we don’t meet new people. If all we do is avoid what is too hard, we end up leading restricted, uninspiring lives,” Steger says.
So how can we break the cycle? According to Steger, the best antidote is curiosity, anxiety’s productive cousin. The desire to learn more can be a strong enough motivator to push us past any initial feelings of discomfort that accompany the unfamiliar.
So cultivate your inner inquisitiveness, recommends Steger. When you have a question about something or someone, pursue it even if it makes you momentarily uncomfortable.
Change your mindset. This relates to Steger’s previous point. Often, when placed outside our comfort zone, the tendency is to interpret obstacles as failures, which results in a swift retreat back to what’s safe and familiar. (Again: not great for long term wellbeing).
Related: The Pursuit Of Happiness
To disrupt this pattern, Steger recommends redefining obstacles as opportunities. “Remember that a lot of wisdom comes from struggle,” he says; instead of equating uncertainty with failure, recognize that not having all the answers can be a learning opportunity; often, it’s a marker of personal growth.
At the very least, it’s a sign that your life became less boring.
“My background is to try and understand what kinds of experiences make peoples’ lives feel meaningful,” says Steger. “And safety rarely comes up.”
Practice mindfulness. Davidson is a strong proponent of neuroplasticity, the belief that the brain is shaped by experience and training. We’re capable, he says, of creating happier brains by practicing meditation and mindfulness every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
“It’s extraordinary how little of one’s daily life is spent actually monitoring what’s going on in one’s own mind and body,” Davidson says. In his view, mindfulness is the best method for stopping the anxiety spiral that can result from a feverish focus on the future or the past.
It’s not about dismissing negative thoughts, he says, but changing your relationship with them so they don’t hijack or ensnare you.
Bottom line: Because life happens one moment at a time, pursuing any long term eudaimonic goal really only works if you also derive some energy from the pursuit itself, says Steger. Otherwise, no matter how important or noble the end-result, the process is simply too abstract to call happiness.
7 Reasons Why Keeping The Job You Have Might Be Your Smartest Career Move
Leaving your comfort zone is not automatically a brilliant idea.
With U.S. unemployment coming in at a healthy low of 4.10 percent last quarter, and better-than-average employment figures across the globe, job seekers have new choices. “Get a new job!” may be at the top of many resolution lists, but before you push “send” on that employment application, you might want to take a few things into consideration:
1. Finding a new job is not as simple as it appears
The number of people looking to ditch their current jobs and find other employment was estimated by some to be as high as 50 percent in 2017 (although our DecisionWise employee survey results show that figure to be less than 20 percent). Whether it’s 20 percent or 50 percent of the world’s population on the job prowl, competition may be steeper than one might think.
Now, further complicate this with the notion that millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce in 2020. In the competition for the perfect job, there is a high degree of likelihood that your job-hunting competitor may be very similar to you when it comes to skills, experience or education. And, while you’re actively searching for that ideal job, you may not be giving your current role the attention it (and your employer) deserves.
2. You will be starting over
While the possibilities of that new job and compensation package may be enticing, that move may be financially taxing. Many companies have benefits policies that do not kick in for a period of time.
The paid time off and vacation time you’ve previously earned won’t transfer across companies. In many areas, you will be starting over.
3. Job switching is stressful
Workplace adjustments like changes to a different line of work, changes in work hours or location or new work responsibilities can significantly impact personal health. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale ranks a change in employment as one of the most significant when it comes to life’s stressors. When the average workweek for many of us is 45-55 hours, some of us spend as many as half our waking hours at the office. That’s a significant chunk of one’s life to disrupt.
4. You’ll be the newbie
Remember those new employees that you were asked to train – all of those questions and mistakes? Well, now that’s you! For the first three months of employment, you’re more of a liability than an asset, regardless of how valuable you think you are. Mastery takes time. Yet, mastery has repeatedly been shown as one of the key factors in job engagement. Institutional knowledge that comes through tenure is highly valued by most organisations.
Are you ready to spend a good part of 2018 as an apprentice again, acting as the learner rather than the expert? Many employees tie a sense of self-identity and worth to the expertise, title and necessity of their job. That change may have more of a psychological impact than you realise.
5. Relationships take time
A new job means a new team, new customers and a new boss or subordinates. Connection to others around you continues to show up as a primary factor in employee engagement, not to mention the ability to get things done. All that effort to build relationships in your current job won’t be transferred to your new role.
Additionally, trust typically must be earned over time, and that absence of trust may impede your short-term effectiveness. Relationships and trust take time to build. Remember, you will likely be starting over.
6. Growth often involves pain
When professional growth opportunities are absent in an organisation, you get stagnation, boredom and attrition. Those who remain in growth-impaired environments are operating on autopilot. They aren’t mentally present; their minds are not on their work. Errors happen and quality drops. Indifference sets in when work becomes routine. While a no-stress job seems ideal to some, challenges and growth are key components of employee engagement.
Growth most often occurs when we are stretched beyond our comfort zone. Yet, when some people run up against challenges, they take the easy way out by looking outside the organisation. Consequently, they never grow because the grass is always greener elsewhere. Which brings up the next point.
7. Maybe the problem is you
In 2017, employee engagement firm DecisionWise analysed more than 24 million employee survey responses gathered over three years. When it came to disengagement, the findings weren’t completely surprising: fully disengaged employees rarely turned the engagement corner. According to the study, if I’m disengaged in my current job, I’m likely to disengage in my future job.
Why are you thinking of making the switch? Is it the working conditions? Compensation? Bad boss? These are valid reasons. However, often it’s not just this job; it has become a pattern. What’s the common denominator here? Are most team members always doing less work than you do? Are all companies made up of tyrants? Will the people at your new job really value you more than those at your current job? Or, maybe… just possibly…is the problem, you? Look in the mirror. As they say, “wherever you go, there you are.”
Before you rush out to fulfill that job-change resolution in 2018, consider the above. Maybe that switch isn’t what you want after all.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Business Travel Is Alive And Paying Off
The rise of conference calls and video conferencing systems like Skype and Google Hangouts may seem like the end of face-to-face business encounters, but experts don’t agree.
A number of business leaders and industrial psychologists reckon that there’s no substitute for meeting someone in person, especially at critical junctures in a business relationship, like introducing yourself or closing a deal.
So how do you make business travel easier and worth your while? Dawn Weir, Head of kulula work, suggests the following:
Maximise the business benefits
Business travel can benefit the individual traveller and their business, whether it’s a small enterprise or a multinational conglomerate. kulula work for example, guarantees you the best fares of the day on kulula.com and British Airways (operated by Comair), and you won’t pay booking or flight change fees — only the difference in fare and the airport taxes. You can now also earn and redeem Avios loyalty points whilst flying with kulula.com. Not only will earning more Avios graduate you to higher tiers where you can, for example, get cabin upgrades and access to business lounges, but you can also use the points to, say, take your family on a business and leisure holiday
Get rid of unnecessary paperwork that can weigh you down and store your boarding pass on your smartphone wallet app when you check in 24 hours ahead of departure.
Take a breather
Airport lounges provide a haven from the hubbub of departure lounges, but not all are equal by any means. The best ones have space for some work, fast WiFi, a good selection of food, a decent wine list, and facilities to shower and freshen up. The Slow Lounges at a number of South African airports have these facilities. There’s even one at the Radisson Blu Hotel opposite the Sandton Gautrain station, SLOW in the City that provides boardrooms, lounges, and can arrange for quiet areas to do media interviews. A new lounge called SLOW XS, has also opened at Lanseria International Airport and has, among its many attractions, wine tastings offered by local drinks specialists Winesense.
Add some colour
Many business travellers will go to great lengths to ensure they only travel with cabin luggage, but if you do have to check luggage into the hold, take a moment to familiarise yourself with bag-drop arrangements and any restrictions on the size of cabin luggage. Also, many travellers find it helpful to mark their luggage with a brightly-coloured tag of some sort that makes it readily recognisable on the conveyor.
Stash it all
So, you have your boarding pass on your smartphone and you’ve stashed keys, wallet and change in your carry-on baggage, to save you time passing through the metal-detectors at the security checkpoint. If you’re travelling internationally, you may have opted to wear slip-on shoes and to pack your belt in your carry-on luggage to avoid having to take them off and put them back on again at security. We’ve all stood behind fellow travellers who arrive at the checkpoint with coins and keys in every pocket, and electronic devices in the bottom of a suitcase. There’s not much you can do about that, but you can make your own passage through the metal-detectors easier.
Related: Kulula: Erik Venter and Gidon Novick
Remember to rest
Many business travellers tend to put in more working hours when away from the office and home. Rather than thinking that every mail in your inbox must be answered immediately, get some work-life balance by taking a walk or a run, or just a nap.
To make sure you are on time — every time — comfortable, refreshed, organised and stress-free when you seal your next deal, use kulula work to take care of your travel arrangements. Our team includes professionals dedicated to your account who will assess your business travel needs so that you have a healthy combination of work and play, on your road to success.
The following is exclusively available when your next business trip is booked via kulula work:
- Best fares of the day on kulula.com and British Airways (operated by Comair)
- Flexible flight changes (only the difference in fare and taxes will apply)
- No booking fees
- Competitive car hire rates with Europcar and Avis
- Great hotel rates with Protea Hotels and City Lodge Hotel Group
- Invoicing and reporting
- Account management
- Access to our qualified Corporate Reservations team. *
* Legal stuff applies
Managing Your Schedule Like A Boss: Tips The Experts Never Tell You
Time management is at the top of the short list of reasons why some people succeed and most don’t.
Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, once said, “Never let anyone own your schedule.”
I don’t know about you, but I love that quote. It’s so simple, yet true. After all being deliberate with your time is one of the best ways to have a happy life in the business world. Of course, try as hard as you can, that’s not always the reality. Life is kind of known for throwing a monkey wrench into your plans every now and then.
But, it’s still possible to manage your schedule like a boss by following these can’t-beat tips.
Create a routine
Next up you need to create, and stick, to a routine.
Start by blocking times for specific activities, such as checking emails, exercise and spending time with your family. You can then convert your calendar into a series of blocks for you to place activities in the prepared spaces. If something isn’t planned and placed into a block, don’t do it.
Keep in mind that your routine will probably change throughout the year. But, it’s better to have a plan that changes than no plan at all. For example, if you’re launching a start-up, then you should block times for activities like customer discovery, coding and hiring. Next year you may have to block out times for marketing, growing your business and customer service.
Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week
“This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going,” write Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival on Entrepreneur.
“You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.”
Add time buffers to manage your schedule
Have you missed a couple of deadlines because you jumped from project to project? It’s probably because your didn’t add time buffers. A buffer is something like this:
You just landed a new client for your freelance business. They assign you a deadline to complete the task. Instead of entering their exact deadline, your put your own deadline that’s 24-48 earlier. Those hours are the buffer.
Why’s that such a big deal? When you have a buffer, and something happens that you can’t control, you still have those 24-48 hours to meet the deadline.
Schedule your calendar like a to-do-list
If you have things on your schedule that have to be done, I personally like scheduling out time on my calendar for them. Much like a meeting, they have a set and scheduled time for this task to be accomplished.
For some people like myself, this includes blocking out time for working out, eating, walks and other important activities in my life. If I don’t make time for them, other things will always get in the way. I find that when I block out those times on my schedule, I’m much more proactive as well as I feel better about myself.
Use batching and time-blocking
In my early days of freelancing I multitasked like it was going out of style. I eventually realised that doing more than one thing at a time is ineffective and stressful. I was stressed beyond endurance because, as research now shows, the human brain isn’t capable of multitasking.
A study conducted by Microsoft Research, shows that switching from task to task is less productive than staying on the same task, or the same types of tasks, over a block of time. That’s why batching is so awesome.
Batching is basically where you find similar tasks and then lump them all together to make a task-batch. You then sit down, set a timer, and focus only on those similar tasks. For example, setting aside 6 am to 7 am to check emails and then 8 am to 10 am to write blog posts.
Another strategy that you should try is using time-blocks. When you have outside meetings, block two and a half days per week for those meetings. Only attend those outside meetings during those time-blocks. To make blocking more effective, color-code your calendar so that you can visually glance at your calendar.
Chandler Bolt wrote a great book, The Productive Person, that you should read if you want to learn more about time-blocking.
Optimise time for different meeting types
To be honest, 30-minute meetings and 10-minute calls are ideal. A 10-minute phone call with a prospective client is more than enough for me to know what their needs are and if we click. Better yet, Google Hangout or Skype can be used to see the person instead of just hearing them.
If you have a remote team, you can host a virtual meeting via Zoom,RingCentral Business, Zoho Meeting, Join.me or GoToMeeting.
Here are some suggestions on the types of meetings that you might want to book and schedule:
- 45-minute meeting that’s outside of the office. Allow 15 minutes for travel and 30 minutes for the meeting over coffee.
- 30-minute weekly staff meeting.
- 30-minute meeting in the office to get to know colleagues or catch up.
- 15-minute daily standup if you’re a start-up or leading an engineering team.
- 10-minute phone call to offer someone advice.
Whatever meetings you decide to hold a meeting, you should group them into blocks. If you think that a particular meeting needs more or less time, then you can adjust the block accordingly.
Still, just remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. “Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results,” say Mathews, Debolt, and Percival.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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