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Design Your Happiness

Design Your Happiness

On July 1st Mind Gym hosted an evening with Prof. Paul Dolan to understand his philosophy on creating our own happiness and discuss his best-selling book Happiness by Design. Attended by more than 50 business people, Paul began his talk by distinguishing ‘stories’ from ‘experiences’:

We say “I love working in media land”, “I love living in London” but don’t talk about the day to day experiences that make us happy. We create a narrative, or story, around what we do and who we are based on what’s expected of us. Most of what we do moment to moment is habit, an automatic process driven by situation and context, and most of us live in stories or narratives about the things that make us happy.

So how can we design a happier life? Here are Dolan’s 10 suggestions:

Decide to change what you do. Most of what we do simply comes about rather than being thought about. Make the decision to take action to create a happier life.

Distinguish between your evaluation (story or narrative) of happiness and your real experiences of happiness.
Listen to your own feedback. Does what I’m doing actually make me feel good? Then organise your life in ways that make it more likely you’ll do the things that make you happy rather than the stuff that doesn’t.

Do sweat the small stuff. It’s in the small stuff you will find happiness.

Don’t get distracted. Distraction is the thief of happiness because we are nearly always happier when we’re paying attention to what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with. Pay attention to the moment and experience you’re in. (This might require you to turn your phone off.)

Think about time. Time is the scarcest resource we have because we can’t get it back. Lost happiness is lost forever. It’s not like money – you can’t make yourself miserable today to be happy tomorrow like you can save today to spend tomorrow. If you’re miserable today, you’re miserable today.

Find the right balance (for you) between pleasure and purpose. Generally, happy lives are ones that contain a good balance of things we find fun and things we find fulfilling.

….but be aware that something which feels painful today, if it’s worthwhile, can still make you happy.
Stop doing the things that bring you neither pleasure nor purpose. And discount the stories you tell yourself about what you should be doing.

Seek purpose at work. Make it easy for yourself (and others) to do work that’s worthwhile. There’s nothing worse than going to work to do something that feels like a waste of time.

Stop agonising about whether your life ‘has meaning’. Purpose shouldn’t be an evaluation it should be an experience, like pleasure. Look for meaning and purpose in what you do moment to moment.

And some final thoughts….

Can money make you happy?

Poverty makes us miserable. And the first bit of money makes us quite a lot happier. But more and more of it doesn’t make you progressively happier. Research shows that beyond $75,000 there are no returns to income for happiness. Earning $75m makes you no happier than earning $75,000 would.

There’s this great, big story about success, status and wealth but we sacrifice day to day happiness for it. Our desire for a narrative about our achievement ignores the steps we take to get there.

Why you shouldn’t climb Everest.

People make an enormous effort and risk death to get to the top, but then spend no time experiencing their achievement on the summit, because a) there’s no oxygen and b) the worst bit – the descent – is yet to come. They get to the bottom saying ‘I’m never doing that again’ but a few months later, that’s exactly what they do.

That is living in a narrative of the achievement but ignoring the actual moments.

Older people are happier.

The good news is that we tend to get happier as we get older. Older people start making fewer unhelpful comparisons with others and use their time in ways more likely to make them happy, such as spending time with people they like, listening to music, going outdoors and helping others. Helping other people is one of the most selfish things we can do because we derive an enormous amount of pleasure from it.

Source: MINDGYM

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