Why this blog?

Because wherever you are, you can have more happiness and for more of the time than you ever imagined. 'Do more of what you like, and less of what you don't!' (c) Richard Walker, 2009. And because happiness is often misunderstood. "Do you live to work, or do you work to live?" I reckon happy people do both at the same time. Make the decision now to tenaciously seek out what feels good – and find ways of doing more of it - rather than settle for “not bad.” There's a big difference. And when it comes to making changes, that's what I specialise in at abetterlife-uk.com and http://hertscollegeofhypnosisandnlp.co.uk

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Friday, April 11, 2014

What are you doing with your life?

How is your life? Is it perfect? Probably not. But is there nothing that you can change? You see, most people if you ask, will say that no, it is not perfect, BUT… and then list their reasons why it has to be the way it is. “No-one’s life is perfect”; “You have to pay the bills” etc. But are these valid reason for changing nothing?
The trouble is, these reasons can become your “alibis” for not taking any serious action.  The better question to first ask is, “Am I willing to make happiness a bigger part of my life?” If not, ok, leave things as they are. You will get what others throw at you.
In my last article I presented a draft happiness checklist; my first attempt to put some of the findings of my own research into a simple format, as a starting point for improving happiness. Following that. I was joined in a discussion on the LinkedIn Group “NLP in the Workplace” (http://goo.gl/6i9VJA ) about success and happiness at work. One contributor advised  "Having as much fun as possible while still keeping your job?” While noting that “Fun” is an individual thing, and wondered if “personally rewarding” might be a better term.
I thought, you know, for most of us that’s got to be the “first base to head for, before contemplating anything drastic. So I proposed three stages, or levels of effort, that we should go through towards improving your happiness:
Stage One: Have as much fun as possible while still keeping your current job. You can expand this to include your current relationship/ family/ circumstances. Get curious and explore. Only you can know what “fun” is for you; you may call it pleasure, or personal reward, or something else.
Stage two: Do more of what you like, and less of what you don't.  This takes more effort, and I suggest it requires that you gather data on what actually makes you feel happy, as opposed to what you think should make you happy. More of that in a later article. It’s also the stuff of my upcoming short on-line training course.

Stage Three: Do what you enjoy and find a way to get paid for it. This is relatively rare, and admittedly more hardcore, but increasingly catching on. Especially in the early and post-retirement folks, but also in youngsters. I’ll talk more about this maybe in a future article. It’s definitely in my upcoming on-line training.

So for now, think about how you can have more fun doing what you already do. Any ideas you have, please share them - we’d all love to get any great ideas (legal, and decent please.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Quite Different Happiness Checklist

After a recent presentation of my developing ideas on Happiness, a colleague asked me, “have I thought of creating a happiness checklist?” It seemed such a good idea. But then, there are many neat little “Sunday Newspaper”, “coffee table” guides and “ten points to happiness” checklists out there, which you read one day and forget the next. For sure you may find some valuable little nuggets of advice in them, but I want to offer something more. After all, I have studied Happiness for many tens of thousands of hours, over some fifteen years. In fact, my PhD dissertation is on a new understanding and model of happiness, the Physics of Happiness, and so feel I have something new to say.
How to put all that work into a simple checklist without losing its meaning, or diluting it to the trivial? Maybe it’s not possible. However, I have made a tentative start.
Let’s begin by asking “What is happiness?” Keeping to basics, I’m going to define it as a positive feeling. Now ask yourself, is there a difference between happy times and a happy life? Some might answer that a happy life has more happy moments, and by and large that appears to be true. Social psychologists use the terms “positive affect”, or happy feeling, and “life satisfaction,” which incorporates some mental self-assessment or judgement. Because there is no objective “happiness meter” they use questionnaires to measure either or both of these as a “subjective well-being” rating, or SWB.
Ok, what is my simplified recipe for improving and developing happiness over time, or SWB? Well, if you really want me to cut to the bottom line, without all the details, explanations and exceptions, here are my headline points:
      Be honest; are you really willing to commit to happiness? If not, then this advice is not for you. You’d be better off with the nice simple stuff that they trot out in the Sunday newspaper supplements.
     Take your happiness pulse; gather some data. For one week, keep an hourly “journal” of what you are doing and how happy (or not) you feel doing it, on a simple 0 to 10 scale.
     Review your results; is this good enough for you?
     What kind of things do you like/dislike? How can you arrange to do more of the kind of things that you do like, and less of the kind of things you don’t?
     Consequences check; before doing anything, ask “what will the consequences of this be?” Make this a habit.
     Momentary pleasure vs. happiness check; ask “will this give me momentary pleasure or happiness?” (Look back from after the event, in terms of the consequences.)
     Don’t get full of yourself; When you have a happy feeling about something – explore what went well and learn.
     Mistakes are lessons; negative emotions – explore what you need to learn from this or to do differently.
     Get over yourself; accept that you are not like others - and they are not like you!
     Check your feelings, not your head; life is not a rational experience.  Happiness is not the goal or point of life, it is a pointer in life – an inner guide indicating which way to go next. This might either lead to self-learning or to improving your circumstances, and the journey may get bumpy.
     Don’t pursue happiness; even though you will benefit and grow from experience. It’s rather like trying to step on your shadow – it will always elude you. The ultimate end point of cultivating sustainable happiness, which you may never attain, is to arrive at the point where you fully know by experience that your happiness is not influenced by circumstances, It is a way of being and doing, in total harmony with all parts of yourself.

Some cautionary remarks 
Momentary happiness  Don’t assume that instant gratification - momentary happiness -  will necessarily lead to long term happiness…no matter how much of it. Because your momentary actions have consequence, and these consequences will be your next meal, if you follow my drift. So you would do well to work back from possible consequences, if you want to set up more future happiness, and a happy life.
Don’t trust your brain  If only it were straightforward to assess future consequences, and how these will influence our happiness. Happiness author Daniel Gilbert (Stumbling on Happiness) made a very good case for how we just can’t rely on our brains to get it right; to even remotely well imagine the future, or evaluate how happy it will have us feel.
This sets a real challenge, doesn’t it? I have been pondering this, drawing on my experience of working with clients in my one to one personal change and therapy work, and on my research for my PhD dissertation on happiness, and I think I have some answers. Obviously it will take a lot more pace and time to get down to that level of practical detail, but I am just about ready to share it. The best way I can think of sharing this is in the form of teaching and coaching steps, available to access immediately on-line. Watch this space for the announcement of my all-new Happiness Training. Certainly get my latest happiness Blog posts by signing up for email updates at the top of the right hand column of this Blog. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What in the World is Happiness Day?

Speaking at a special meeting of the UN General Assembly on "Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm" (July 2012), Sec Gen Ban Ki-moon stated that the world “needs a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.” 
The meeting took place in in Bhutan, which placed Gross National Happiness above Gross National Product since the early 1970s. 
The result was UN resolution 66/281 which proclaimed 20 March the International Day of Happiness, to mark the relevance of happiness and well-being as goals and aspirations for all people and calling for these to be incorporated into public policy objectives. 
The United Nations invites Member States,  international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities. 
What can you do to help make life a little more human, at work, with customers, with the public and, yes, even those cold-caller salespeople? Happiness doesn't just "happen" to you; it starts with a decision by you, to make it important in your life and for the people around you. Your children are watching you.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Staying Calm - stressful job survivors

How do people with very stressful jobs stay calm and keep happy? Here are some real-life examples, from an original set of interviews by Anita Chardhuri recently published in a Guardian newspaper article.

Football Manager
Chris Wilder, manager is struggling Northampton Town FC, describes the pressure and responsibility : the chairman and directors, as well as the supporters, players performance, personal problems, fitness and injuries. So many things are outside of your control, and you need to be clear on that.  His aim is to stay calm so that he can make good decisions, and his main strategy is to “be careful about who I listen to and what I read,” especially local papers, facebook, twitter, forums etc.

The risk is, as he found “In the past, I have taken things personally … You have to stay focused and believe in what you're doing,” without being too shut off. He says he learnt to “discuss only really massive things with my family and try to leave everything else at the front door.”
Headteacher
Jan Shadick is head teacher at Lambeth Academy, an inner London comprehensive is strongly motivated by her own experiences of how “a school can make a huge difference to the lives of young people. I
feel a personal responsibility … some of our students have traditionally not achieved well or have faced challenges in their lives, so we need to make sure they're as supported as possible.”
Ofsted had ranked her school as "requiring improvement" when she took over. “Nothing can prepare you for being responsible for it all.” They had systems for dealing with antisocial behaviour,  but on arriving “I introduced a policy for both adults and children of always remaining calm and non-confrontational. The minute you shout, people don't listen to you.”  Another key move she made was to always be visible  so that anyone can bring a niggle to my attention immediately; “It's when things fester that they create most stress. So I'm at the school gate at the start and end of every day.”
She is also very organized, and makes sure is prepared for the next day. Like football manager Chris learned, she sticks to a rule that “I do my work at work ..I won't take it home.”  “I try to make sure I have at least five minutes a day to pause for reflection. And I run.” She finds that her problems seem to get solved when she is running. You might say it’s another form of meditation.
ACAS ConciliatorPater Harword works at ACAS – the arbitration and conciliation service, and deals with big national disputes, like the tube strikes and  the fuel tanker driver disputes.
He says that “People training to be a conciliator often say they want to learn how to avoid conflict. But you're not actually avoiding conflict – occasionally you're creating it and then managing it.” The stress arises from the external pressure; “The key to remaining calm is to remember that if there's anger in the room, it's not about me. It's not personal. Stress is created when [you feel you] aren't in control.” He also finds calm by gardening. “It's like meditation for me.”
DiverSam Archer installs underwater gas and oil wells. “The whole job involves stress, from getting in a helicopter to fly out to a ship 300km north of Shetland, to getting on the dive ship itself. There's the pre-saturation medical, and then I go into a 2.5m x 7m chamber for a month.”  Basically it’s a diving bell, shared with 11 other divers, that's lowered to near the sea bed. “Then two of you get out of a little hole in the bell and you're "locked out", as we call it, for six hours in the pitch black and off to do your work with all sorts of marine life.”.
He explains that arguments are out, and that you have to be tolerant because of the close space that you share.  “You also need to accept the fact that if it goes wrong, you're probably not going to get out alive.” And fatal accidents do occur.
His strategy is to create his own space, and watching DVD programme box like Game Of Thrones and Breaking Bad, and reading. “Being knackered also helps restore calm.”
When not working, “I make a big effort to enjoy every day” and enjoys swimming and surfing to unwind. 
A&E consultant
Dr Simon Eccles is a consultant in the Accident and Emergency departments at Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals, London. The two mains stresses are where  someone seriously unwell but not responding to treatment, and other is simply peak busy periods. “On weekends, we're seeing twice as many patients and it can be awful, really tense. The worst is when someone dies under difficult circumstances. 
He gives the example of a car accident; “trying to explain to the remaining relatives that the child had died and that the mother was critically unwell.There's a moment as you walk in the room when everybody looks up and all you can see is hope… [but] your job, sadly, is to explain to them that it isn't.” It never gets any easier. “You go home and you hug your family that bit harder.” 
His best antidote “is to have people around you with whom you can share the stresses of the day.” He also made a big decisions to help make his life calmer, by moving closer to work. “My commute is a 12-minute walk from home” which reduces his long hours and gives him more time with his young family.
“The stress in A&E is about me not having control,” which he makes up for by immersing himself in a hobby over which he has total control - restoring classic cars. “The other thing that helps restore calm is going to the pub after a shift and chatting and laughing about some of the daft things that have happened during the day. They probably seem weird to people on the outside, but it helps to reorganise the brain.”