If you want to be happy, BE
The experience of running cajobportal.com keeps making us meet myriad candidates with myriad situations.
We recently received the profile of a Mumbai based girl, brilliance at its peak – 5th Rank in School, 1st Rank in College, All India Rank rank holder in CA Final, articleship in a Big 4 firm and now working at a marquee consulting firm drawing a salary of ~30 lacs p.a. (mind you, with just 2 years of post-qualification experience). Everything pointing to an amazing career trajectory, except that she now desperately seeks to quit that job and is willing to settle for even Rs 15 lacs p.a. The reason – “She does not feel happy there”.
The Glass door employee feedback for another marquee consulting firm, a Day Zero Employer at premiere B-schools, reads
“If personal happiness is important to you, do not work here”
This was the trigger for us questioning people on what made them happy and they said
“When you report to work on Monday, especially after a particularly long weekend, and are dreading the day but find that your boss has taken an unexpected leave. Yes, that feeling is pure bliss”
“When you escape the bell curve, rating being “Far Exceeds Expectation” and draw home a fat bonus. Yes, that feeling is pure bliss”.
“When I see my kid completely engrossed into playing with his toys. Yes, that feeling is pure bliss”.
So we thought we would probe deeper into this elusive topic
Happiness is serious business the world over, even if there isn’t a yardstick to define this warm, fuzzy, serotonin-filled emotion. It has been an enigmatic term since centuries. Everyone from Buddhist monks to self help counsellors have shared their take on what it means to be happy. And the trigger for happiness in each would vary, from spending time with a kid to a puppy, a cup of coffee or a pill of Prozac, you likely crave for more of it.
Most people mistakenly assume that if they have the money, then they can do the things they want. They will finally be happy. We think that if we have a well-paying job, a house, a luxury car, and a family that happiness will somehow enters our lives. We spend what sometimes amounts to a lifetime chasing after happiness, only to find it never materializing in our lives.
A much–publicized 2011 report from the University of Texas at Austin found that money doesn’t always buy happiness, either. A boost in income does appear to trigger an elevation in mood, but only to a certain point—$75,000 a year to be exact, according to one recent study. People with lower incomes—particularly those at or below the poverty line—have more stress, but once financial worries ease, positive emotions plateau. After that, diminishing marginal utility of money sets in.
If the latest World Happiness Report is anything to go by, Indians are lagging behind (and how!) on the feel-good quotient.
The 4th World Happiness Report, based on individual responses to a global poll conducted by Gallup, awarded India the 118th Rank, where Denmark is 1 and our dear friend, Pakistan is at 92th.
Perhaps, we need to take a cue from countries like UAE, Bhutan, Ecuador and Venezuela, whose governments have already appointed Ministers of Happiness in their cabinets
Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar taught Harvard University’s most popular course (in the Spring of 2006): on how to be happy.
The course, PSY 1504 – Positive Psychology, focussed on the psychological aspects of a fulfilling and flourishing life. Topics include happiness, self-esteem, empathy, friendship, love, achievement, creativity, music, spirituality, and humor.”
During my MBA at IIM Ahmedabad, while we also competed with the best teams in the world on a Capstone Business Game Simulation, we also has the choice to undergo a courses like “ Inspired Leadership Through Personal Mastery” and “Managing & Creating Creativity” where we did Yognidra on the banks of the river Sabarmati and in Gir Forests. Idea was to probe into ourselves and figure out what makes us happy, get more resilient for setbacks in the turbulent journey post IIMA
Dr. Ben-Shahar argues in his book “Happier” that there are four basic archetypes of happiness decision making. These are the following:
- Hedonism. These people believe that they can sustain happiness by going from pleasurable activity to pleasurable activity with complete disregard for any future meaning or purpose.
- Rat Race. These people are on the opposite end of the spectrum: they postpone present happiness in order to be happy in the future. They believe that reaching a certain destination will lead to sustained happiness.
- Nihilism: These people believe that no matter what they do they will not be able to attain happiness. Basically, these are the ones that have lost all hope of being happy.
- Happiness. As stated previously, happiness requires that we live for both today and tomorrow. These are the people who engage in activities which they find meaningful and pleasurable today, which at the same time “feed” into a future that is also meaningful and pleasurable.
Dmitry Golubnichy set himself a challenge, deciding: “I will be a happy person, and for 100 days, I will try to appreciate the life that I have and I will find at least one little thing each and every day that will make me feel happy and grateful.”
He posted the #100HappyDays or #100DaysofHappiness challenge which has gone viral around the world.
The challenge reads
“71% of people tried to complete this challenge, but failed quoting lack of time as the main reason.”
That taking notice of what makes you happy and documenting it online, can help you improve mood, realise how lucky [you] are to have the life [you] have, become more optimistic and maybe, fall in love
On the pursuit of happiness? According to Nataly Kogan, co-founder and CEO of Happier, Inc., your search could end with a smiley-faced pancake.
In her TEDTalk, “How Pancakes Can Make You Happier and Change the World,” Kogan explains that the key to happiness lies in collecting the small, bright moments we experience on a daily basis. It’s the little things, she says, that will ultimately lead to feelings of joy.
In course of quite a tumultuous life, where she fled from the former Soviet Union at the age of 13 and then chased the “American dream to become happy. Really, really, really happy – by doing a lot, achieving a lot and making a lot of money.”
Eventually she realised that happiness was collecting “small, tiny, positive moments,” like the one she experienced when she whipped up a smiley-faced pancake for her daughter’s breakfast on a whim.
She encourages people to stop saying “I’ll be happy when…” and to start saying “I’m happier now because …
The Harvard Study of Adult Development , a 75 year long study of the lives of 724 threw a clear message – Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.
Let’s say you are lost in the woods for days, without food. Finally you come to a house, where you are offered food and water. Would you take whatever food you are given or would you stick to your preferences because you only eat organic? Of course not. But so it is with all of life: do you want to keep rejecting happiness because you’d rather stick to your own ideas of how happiness should look like? This may seem ridiculous at first, especially to the analytical mind that has been running your life so far. But as Yoda advises Luke in Star Wars, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” Be willing to unlearn your own conditioning because that is the only block to your happiness.
The idea that happiness must be pursued is in itself a block to experiencing happiness. If you must pursue something, then that implies that you don’t have it already and that you must expend great amounts of effort to get it. You must deserve it. This is the conditioning that we must unlearn
How we find happiness, it seems, may depend on where we look for it—and that isn’t necessarily under the plastic surgeon’s knife or in a million–dollar mansion.
So stop chasing happiness. Instead, turn it around. Decide right now that you will be happy.
It’s a fantastic reality check—you can’t always change the course of events, but you can always adapt your perception of it all.
Positive thinking is not an achievement: It’s a muscle you should train
Maybe what Leo Tolstoy said years ago actually makes a lot of sense –
“If you want to be happy, BE”